Madison - St. Clair Record

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Deposition transcript: Karmeier testifies he had no knowledge of State Farm support in ’04 election

By Record News | Aug 25, 2017

EAST ST. LOUIS – State Farm, defending a claim that it corrupted the Illinois Supreme Court by securing the election of Justice Lloyd Karmeier in 2004, has filed two bits of a deposition swearing he knew nothing of support from State Farm.

Plaintiffs seeking $10 billion from State Farm in U. S. district court deposed Karmeier in March 2016, but most of the transcript remains confidential.

Plaintiffs aim to recover a $1 billion judgment that the Supreme Court reversed in 2005, in Avery v. State Farm, with interest and triple damages.

State Farm attached portions of Karmeier’s testimony to a recent summary judgment motion that challenged federal court jurisdiction.

State Farm argues that federal courts can’t review state court decisions.

Plaintiffs argue that no court but a federal court can provide a remedy for corruption in a state court.

The first bit of transcript that State Farm filed with the summary judgment motion didn’t identify the lawyer asking the questions.

Context suggests State Farm counsel Ronald Safer of Chicago.

The lawyer said: “Aside from the assertions that plaintiffs made in their motion for your nonparticipation in the Avery case, did you have any knowledge that State Farm supported your campaign in any way?”

Karmeier: “No.”

The lawyer repeated the disclaimer about plaintiffs’ assertions and asked: “Did you have any knowledge that any individual from State Farm in any way supported your campaign?”

Karmeier: “No.”

The lawyer repeated the disclaimer and asked, “Did you have any knowledge that State Farm contributed to your campaign in any way, directly or indirectly?”

Karmeier: “No.”

The lawyer repeated the disclaimer and asked, “Did you have any knowledge that anyone related to State Farm in any way had contributed to your campaign, directly or indirectly?”

Karmeier: “No.”

The lawyer asked if he had discussions about the Avery case with anyone except one discussion he mentioned with campaign manager Steve Tomaszewski.

Karmeier: “No.”

The lawyer said: “Looking at paragraph 89 of the complaint, the first sentence is, ‘Karmeier knew the sources of his contributions.’ Is that true?”

Karmeier: “No.”

The lawyer then asked about Illinois Civil Justice League director Ed Murnane, a defendant along with State Farm.

Plaintiffs claim Murnane recruited Karmeier for State Farm’s benefit and played a big role in the campaign.

The lawyer asked Karmeier, “Did Ed Murnane inform you of his day to day operations?”

Karmeier: “No.”

In the second bit of the deposition, Russell Scott of Belleville questioned Karmeier on behalf of State Farm employee William Shepherd, also a defendant.

Plaintiffs claim Shepherd, like Murnane, recruited Karmeier.

Scott: “I believe that you testified previously that you have no memory of ever meeting Mr. Shepherd?”

Karmeier: “That’s correct.”

Scott: “Is it fair to say that Mr. Shepherd never served on your campaign committee?”

Karmeier: “That’s correct.”

Scott: “Never served on your campaign finance committee?”

Karmeier: “That’s correct.”

Scott: “Did not provide you advice regarding what has been called your recruitment as a candidate for the Supreme Court?”

Karmeier: “That’s correct.”

Scott said: “Never gave you advice on campaign strategy or campaign finance?”

Karmeier: “That’s correct.”

Scott: “Do you have any idea what Mr. Shepherd’s position at State Farm was?”

Karmeier: “I did not.”

Scott: “Do you have any idea what his day to day activities at State Farm are or were?”

Karmeier: “I do not.”

Scott: “And in no way did you conspire with Mr. Shepherd regarding anything with respect to your campaign or the Avery decision?”

Karmeier: “That’s correct.”

State Farm also attached to its motion a portion of a deposition that Karmeier campaign worker and current Troy mayor Al Adomite gave in 2015.

Safer asked Adomite about a discussion with Karmeier.

Adomite: “I indicated to him that that information was available on the state Board of Elections website and so, if he was investigating who contributed to the Karmeier campaign, his best source would be the state Board of Elections website.”

Safer: “Do you know whether Judge Karmeier was keeping track of the source of contributions?”

Adomite: “No, I don’t know that.”

Safer: “Do you know whether he went to that website and tracked the contributions to his campaign?”

Adomite: “No, I don’t know that.”

Safer: “Do you know whether Judge Karmeier was monitoring campaign donation disclosure reports?”

Adomite: “No, I don’t know that.”

Safer: “Did you have any knowledge of support that State Farm provided to Judge Karmeier?”

Adomite: “No, I did not.”

Safer quoted Daniel Reece, an investigator for plaintiffs, who wrote that Adomite and members of Murnane’s executive committee confirmed that State Farm gave tremendous or significant support to Karmeier’s campaign.

Safer: “Did you tell Mr. Reece that you had any information that State Farm gave tremendous or significant support to Judge Karmeier’s campaign?”

Adomite: “No, I did not.”

Safer: “Is this part of Reece’s affidavit, paragraph 57, as it pertains to your statements, also untrue?”

Adomite: “Yes, it is.”

Safer: “Did Mr. Reece provide a false account of your conversation with him in his affidavit?”

Adomite: “Yes, he did.”

State Farm also filed reports of interviews that Reece and colleague Steve Senteney conducted in 2011, when plaintiffs tried to reopen the Avery case.

Reece and Senteney interviewed Adomite and wrote that he was familiar with prominent attorneys.

They wrote: “He did not think any of these people were seriously considered as candidates because Karmeier was the obvious pick.

“Mr. Adomite was very proud of the way the campaign was managed, although he did not take credit for any specific part of it.”

They wrote that he was well acquainted with Shepherd but not familiar with any other State Farm representatives except his agent.

They interviewed lawyer Paul Evans of O’Fallon and wrote that he said Karmeier was the only realistic candidate at the time.

They wrote that Evans said he was not aware of any vetting committee to find or evaluate candidates in 2004.

They interviewed Kimberly Maisch, Illinois director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and wrote that she said she asked members to choose between Karmeier and opponent Gordon Maag.

They wrote: “They overwhelmingly encouraged support for Karmeier, and she lent NFIB’s endorsement to him.

“She did not recall any discussions of other candidates on the Republican side before Karmeier was chosen as the nominee.

“She was not familiar with any other prominent down state candidates that would have been possible contenders for the nomination.”

They wrote that Maisch knew Shepherd very well and saw him often in his role as lobbyist in Springfield.

They wrote: “She knew State Farm took an active role in elections through the executive committee of ICJL, but she could not recall his level of participation in the Karmeier race of 2004.”

Reece and Senteney tried to interview her husband, Todd Maisch, head of government affairs for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

They wrote: “Mr. Maisch said he knew the purpose of the interview and directed Reece and Senteney to the Chamber’s attorney.”

Likewise, Illinois Manufacturers Association vice president of government affairs Mark Drenzler directed them to the association’s lawyer.

Reece interviewed Patricia Rutrough, former wife of State Farm vice chairman James Rutrough, by telephone at her home on a South Carolina island.

“They were divorced in 2003,” Reece wrote.

He wrote that she was familiar with names of directors and the executive staff including Shepherd.

He wrote that she wasn’t familiar with Murnane.

Reece: “She did not know how State Farm made decisions as to which politicians to support, or how money was given to them.

“Ms. Rutrough did not know Lloyd Karmeier’s name, and did not know anything about the judicial election in 2004.”

The case started in 1997, at Williamson County courthouse in Marion.

At trial in 1999, with Michael Avery of Louisiana as class representative, jurors found State Farm provided inferior parts for crash repairs.

Associate judge John Speroni entered judgment awarding more than $1 billion to policyholders in 48 states.

Fifth District appellate judges affirmed the judgment in 2001.

State Farm appealed and the Supreme Court heard oral argument, but the Justices had not reached a consensus at the time of Karmeier’s election.

Avery moved to disqualify him, but he participated in the decision.

All six participating Justices reversed the judgment and decertified the class.

Two Justices would have remanded the case for possible trials by subclasses.

Avery moved to disqualify Karmeier again in 2011, when they petitioned to recall the Court’s mandate, but their motion and their petition failed.

Avery’s lawyers sued State Farm in federal court in 2012, replacing him with Mark Hale of New York State as lead plaintiff.

Hale alleged that State Farm, Murnane, and Shepherd conspired in violation of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

District Judge David Herndon plans a trial next year.

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Organizations in this Story

Illinois Chamber of Commerce Illinois Manufacturers' Association Illinois Supreme Court U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois