EAST ST. LOUIS – Attorney Robert Clifford of Chicago plans to call Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier as a hostile witness in a civil racketeering trial against State Farm in September.
On June 22, Clifford moved to ask leading questions and for the first time directly accused Karmeier of participating in a racket with State Farm in 2004.
“Justice Karmeier is hostile to plaintiffs’ co-lead counsel and one of their principal trial attorneys, Robert A. Clifford,” Clifford wrote.
Clifford represents a class of former State Farm policyholders who won $1 billion in Williamson County in 1999, but lost it at the Supreme Court in 2005.
The class claims State Farm secretly and improperly supported Karmeier in order to overturn the judgment.
From State Farm and individual defendants William Shepherd and Ed Murnane, Clifford seeks to recover about $10 billion.
From Karmeier, Clifford seeks to recover leadership of Illinois justice on behalf of plaintiff lawyers.
Their Supreme Court candidate in 2004, Gordon Maag, had written an appellate court opinion affirming the Williamson County judgment in 2001.
Maag lost, and plaintiff lawyers have never stopped contesting the result.
In 2014, when Karmeier stood for retention, Clifford contributed $150,000 to a media campaign that nearly cost Karmeier his job.
Clifford wrote in his motion to ask leading questions that Karmeier expressed hostility in an interview with journalist Brian Mackey on Dec. 21, 2014.
“Justice Karmeier repeatedly attacked lawyers who helped fund the publicity advocating against his retention for the Illinois Supreme Court in 2014, specifically noting Mr. Clifford’s $150,000 contribution,” Clifford wrote. “Justice Karmeier claimed that Mr. Clifford had acted unethically, though his contribution was publicly disclosed and legal.
“Justice Karmeier’s bitterness was undiminished two years later, when he addressed the Illinois State Bar Association’s annual dinner on Dec. 9, 2016.”
Clifford quoted Karmeier saying that in 2014, a group unleashed a torrent of negative advertising to the tune of about $2.6 million.
Clifford wrote that he was obviously among the lawyers Karmeier referred to.
He quoted Karmeier saying that such communications would cause citizens to lose faith in the courts and abandon hope for equal justice.
His motion to ask leading questions extended to a committee that ran Karmeier’s campaign in 2004.
He wrote that all its members participated in an enterprise through which defendants violated racketeering law and accomplished their fraud.
“The interests of Justice Karmeier and his campaign staff have always been aligned with those of the defendants in the factual context of this case,” Clifford wrote.