The yearlong budget battle in Springfield ended last month with a truce, as legislative leaders and Governor Rauner agreed to a six-month stopgap budget. Left on the table, unfortunately, are all of the governor’s suggested reforms, including lawsuit reform.
That is a shame, because the continuing failure of our legislators to pass common sense lawsuit reforms is costing Illinois badly-needed jobs.
For far too long, Illinois has been a magnet for personal injury lawyers and plaintiffs from all over the country who clog our courts with junk lawsuits that have nothing to do with Illinois, all in the hopes of striking it rich playing our state’s plaintiff-friendly lawsuit lottery.
According to the recently released 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey, conducted by Harris Poll, Illinois ranks near the bottom of the nation in terms of its lawsuit environment – 48th worst of the 50 states. More than 75 percent of the business leaders surveyed by Harris Poll for this report said lawsuit climate is a “significant factor” in determining where to expand and grow.
Companies look to locate or expand their businesses where the legal system is fair. We should not be surprised that Illinois is losing employers to states like Wisconsin that have passed lawsuit reforms in recent years to make their civil justice systems more fair.
Voters will have an opportunity this fall to weigh in on our legislators’ continuing failure to pass lawsuit reforms that will restore fairness to our courts. But there will be individuals on the ballot this November who have even more power than legislators to stop personal injury lawyers from abusing our courts.
Judges have the power to sanction personal injury lawyers who game the system and file frivolous lawsuits in Illinois courts that have no real connection to Illinois. But in many cases, judges receive the vast majority of their campaign contributions from these same personal injury lawyers, who have essentially turned Illinois courts into their own personal – and profitable – playgrounds.
Judges who create a more balanced litigation climate can help reduce lawsuits and create jobs. That is why it is so important to vote in the upcoming judicial elections this November. It is also important to know which judges and judicial candidates are taking the majority of their campaign contributions from personal injury lawyers.
Judicial races often do not enjoy the same level of interest and scrutiny as other races, but the outcomes of these races have as much if not more impact on our daily lives. Who is serving on the bench matters. Electing good judges who apply doctrines of common sense and fairness will make Illinois less of a magnet for lawsuits, and in turn, much more of a magnet for jobs.
Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) is a grassroots watchdog group of concerned citizens, community leaders and small business people dedicated to educating the public about the widespread costs of lawsuit abuse. I-LAW has more than 20,000 supporters throughout Illinois. Anyone interested in becoming a supporter of I-LAW or learning more about stopping lawsuit abuse in Illinois can visit www.ILLawsuitAbuseWatch.org.