Politicians are responding to a recent attack ad against
Republican candidates for Illinois' Fifth District Appellate Court started by the political
action committee Fair Courts Now, which is funded primarily by asbestos attorneys who practice in Madison County.
State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said voters can
draw their own conclusions about who is putting up the money and why.
“It’s basically a small group of trial lawyers and firms
that deal with class-action lawsuits, and also some asbestos firms,”
Luechtefeld told the Record. “Why do they spend that kind of money -- $1 million – why would you
spend that kind of money on an appellate judge race?”
Fair Courts Now, established on Oct. 11, raised $1 million
and spent $750,000 on print and TV ads against Republican candidates Justice
James “Randy” Moore and Circuit Court Judge John Barberis. Trial lawyers appear
to make up the majority of donors to the fund. The committee is an entirely independent
entity that operates separately from the Democratic candidate's campaign
Democratic candidate Judge Brad Bleyer said he was not
involved in the Fair Courts Now attack ads, and said he’s worked hard to
promote his campaign in a positive manner.
“I did not solicit or request any outside advertising,” he
said on Oct. 31.
Barberis said he did not believe his
opponent was behind the negative ads.
“I know Brad doesn’t have anything to do with this, so there’s no blame
whatsoever,” he told the Illinois Association of Defense Trial Council’s
appellate judge candidate’s forum on Oct. 25. “I don’t feel any animosity or
any concern Brad orchestrated or had anything to do with this, because I know
Brad is a good guy and wouldn’t have done that.”
Luechtefeld said trial lawyers and law firms have vested
interests in who is elected to the bench. He said lawyers know that cases are
going to go in front of certain judges, and know how those judges generally
feel about those cases.
“Certainly those firms know, they know they’re going to have
cases in front of that court,” he said. “And you have to ask yourself, why is
it worth that kind of money to get a certain judge on that court? I think they
look at it as an investment because they know they’re going to have cases in
front of that court.”
He added that he considers all those running for the court to be good people.
He suspects, however, that trial lawyers are hoping to get an edge by electing
someone more amenable to their big cases that can rake in money for their firms.
What’s shocked him is the amount of money raised by the Fair
Courts Now political action committee. He said for a judicial race such as
this, $1 million is a huge amount of money.
“There’s no doubt there’s a reason for it,” he said. “People
have to draw their own conclusions.”