Esquire, June 2016
Supreme Court justices in Illinois are elected from districts, not statewide. Special interests zeroed in on the Fifth District, in the mostly rural southern part of the state, because it was home to Madison County, considered a mecca for class actions and large jury verdicts.
The American Tort Reform Association, a pro-business lobby, called the county’s court a “judicial hellhole.” Although the ideological balance of the high court was not in play, business trade associations, insurance companies and medical groups made large contributions to support the Republican candidate, Lloyd Karmeier. Plaintiﬀs’ lawyers largely funded Democrat Gordon Maag’s candidacy. Altogether, the two campaigns raised and spent an astounding $15.1 million.
The winner, Karmeier, reﬂected after his victory: “That’s obscene for a judicial race. What does it gain people? How can people have faith in the system?” Karmeier later courted controversy when he voted to overturn billion-dollar class action judgments against large corporations which backed him in his 2004 campaign.