EAST ST. LOUIS – Plaintiffs who claim State Farm tainted the Illinois Supreme Court through Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier say that a timeline he gave to a news reporter in 2015 revealed corruption.
In a trial scheduled May 7 before U.S. District Judge David Herndon, plaintiffs plan to question Karmeier about the timeline.
Plaintiff attorney Robert Clifford of Chicago on March 15 wrote that Karmeier would confirm the relevant content of the timeline or be impeached.
Karmeier provided the timeline to Brian Mackey for an article in Illinois Issues magazine.
Plaintiffs plan to introduce the article as evidence too.
Lead plaintiff Mark Hale sued State Farm in 2012, under civil provisions of racketeering law.
Hale previously belonged to a class that won about $1 billion at trial in Williamson County in 1998.
Jurors in that action, Avery v. State Farm, found the insurer supplied inferior parts for crash repairs.
Fifth District appellate judges affirmed the judgment in 2001, and State Farm appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Justices had not reached a decision in 2004, when Karmeier and Gordon Maag ran for an open seat on the Illinois Supreme Court.
Maag, as Fifth District judge, had written the opinion affirming the judgment.
Karmeier won, and Avery moved to disqualify him.
Karmeier participated in a unanimous decision to reverse the judgment.
Two dissenters who agreed that trial judge John Speroni improperly certified the class would have allowed trials for subclasses.
Avery’s lawyers tried for six years to convince the Court that Karmeier tainted the decision, to no avail.
In the seventh year, in 2012, they took the case to district court.
They seek to recover the Avery judgment with interest, for an amount currently close to $3 billion; they also seek triple damages under racketeering law, bringing the current figure close to $9 billion.
Earlier this year, State Farm moved for summary judgment.
Clifford opposed the motion, claiming the timeline showed the need for trial.
He quoted a footnote on the timeline stating, “Initially Justice Karmeier did not participate in the case.”
The footnote continued, “He became involved only after the court deadlocked again when a revised draft was circulated at the January 2005 term of court.”
It stated that he cast a confidential vote in favor of the proposed disposition.
Clifford wrote that Karmeier admitted he broke a deadlock when he voted to overturn the judgment.
On March 1, State Farm counsel Ronald Safer of Chicago wrote, “That is neither accurate, nor is it what the footnote says.”
Safer moved to strike the timeline as hearsay.
“That document was not authored by Justice Karmeier and it does not contain statements by him,” he wrote.
Safer wrote that plaintiffs have asked the court to invade deliberations of the Illinois Supreme Court and make improper determinations about Karmeier’s role.
He also wrote that although it is a matter of public record that the Avery case remained pending when Karmeier took office, it is not a matter of public record why it remained pending.
He further stated that it was not a matter of public record that Karmeier initially did not participate, that he became involved only after the court deadlocked, or that the deadlock occurred after a revised draft was circulated and that Karmeier cast a confidential vote in favor of a proposed disposition.
“All of this information, even if true, is protected by the judicial deliberation privilege,” Safer wrote.
He wrote that Karmeier alone couldn’t waive the privilege, “because it belongs to the entire Avery court.”
Clifford opposed Safer’s motion on March 15, writing that privilege doesn’t apply.
“Ignoring the fact that Justice Karmeier made the entire timeline part of the public record when he voluntarily submitted it to a reporter, State Farm argues that the privilege protects any information that is not a matter of public record,” Clifford wrote.
“The privilege is not so broad.”
He wrote that if judicial privilege were a bag, “the cat is already out, and it got out on its own volition.”
“No public interest would be served by preventing plaintiffs from referencing facts that the world already knows,” he wrote.
Finally, he argued that State Farm lacks standing to invoke a privilege that belongs to courts and their staff.