Results of recent judicial elections in southern Illinois demonstrate that voters don't want personal injury attorneys "ruling the court system," according to a legal reform advocate.
Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch executive director Travis Akin pointed to Fifth District Appellate Court races in which Judges John Barberis and James "Randy" Moore were targets of a last minute $1 million attack funded by local asbestos attorneys. But, in spite of negative advertising and mass robo calls, Republicans Barberis and Moore defeated Democrat judges Brad Bleyer and Jo Beth Weber by significant margins, 56 to 44 and 54-46 percent, respectively, in the district's 37 counties.
Travis Akin, executive director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch | Courtesy of Travis Akin
“Voters rejected the current system of lawsuit abuse in Illinois,” Akin told the Record. “They voted for change. They voted for reform. They voted for fairness in our courts. Voters are tired of Illinois being a destination for lawsuit tourists. They are tired of losing jobs and opportunities to surrounding states. They sent a clear message that they are tired of the gamesmanship in our courts and they want to end the cycle of abuse that has plagued our courts for far too long.”
According to I-LAW, Illinois voters are "fed up" with the reputation that the state has earned, especially in Madison and St. Clair counties. These counties have been named “Judicial Hellholes” by the American Tort Reform Foundation and voters are looking to change it, Akin said.
“This election was a change election in many ways,” said Akin. “And in the Fifth Judicial District, voters sent a message that they do not want the status quo. They want judges who will stand up to personal injury lawyers and dismiss abusive lawsuits. They want jobs and opportunities – not more junk lawsuits.”
With personal injury attorneys pouring big money into elections to support their favored candidates - legislative and judicial - elections have typically gone their way.
He said this election also sent a message to state lawmakers, but will likely be lost on the Democratic leaders who control both chambers of the state legislature.
“The voters have made it clear they are tired of the status quo in Springfield,” said Akin. “They sent a message that the current way of doing business is unacceptable.
“Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any willingness on the part of the majority leadership in the House and the Senate to listen to what the voters have to say. Every indication so far has been that it will be business as usual. House Speaker Michael Madigan has told the press that any budget deal can only come if the governor’s reform agenda, which includes lawsuit reform, is taken off the table. We are right back where we started.”