Asbestos Litigation Interets Focus Money and Attention on Illinois’s 5th District Appellate Co

Plaintiff’s asbestos firms are pouring money into an election for a seat on the intermediate Illinois appellate court that overseas Madison County and St. Clair County. The contributions are described in an article from the Madison County Record. Set out below are asbestos related excerpts – note especially the $10,000 contribution from Simona Farisse – she’s a California lawyer who has been devoting increasing efforts to filing cases in Southern Illinois and trying to obtain trial slots in southern Illinois. Meanwhile, attention lies ahead from the defense interests lead by Ed Murnane.

"Nearly $55,000 has made its way into the 5th District Appellate Court race since April and the majority of that money landed in Democrat Judy Cates’ campaign coffers with the help of about a dozen Chicago lawyers and law firms.

Cates is a Swansea attorney and a past president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. McGlynn sits behind the St. Clair County bench on appointment. Messages and emails left for both candidates were not immediately returned Thursday.

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Records show that 13 of the 17 most recent contributions to Cates’ campaign came from individuals, law firms and other groups located outside of the 5th District.

Her biggest donation in the current reporting period – $10,000 – was made by California-based Farrise Law Firm, a trial lawyer firm that handles a variety of complex civil litigation matters, as well as asbestos and wrongful death cases.

Cates’ committee also reported receiving $26,000 in separate donations from Chicago and River Forest trial lawyers at Cooney & Conway, which focuses its practice on asbestos, medical malpractice and personal injury matters.

Cates’ committee reported having nearly $19,000, which included a $10,000 contribution from Simmons Law Firm in Alton, in its coffers as of March 31. McGlynn’s campaign, however, has raised much less, reporting a $7,100 balance as of March 31.

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Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL), said he expects more money will pour into the 5th District race as election season heats up. His group monitors judicial races throughout the state and typically provides candidate endorsements. The ICJL, which focuses its efforts on the civil justice system, was heavily involved in the campaign against Justice Thomas L. Kilbride’s 2010 retention race.

"We are paying very close attention to this race," Murnane said of the 5th District race between Cates and McGlynn. "We have not gotten actively involved yet, but we certainly intend to. July will probably be busy for us."

The ICJL supported McGlynn when he ran against Stewart in 2006 and opposed Cates in her 2008 race against Wexstten. Although it has not formally announced its endorsements for the upcoming election, Murnane said he doesn’t expect the group’s position on the two candidates will change.

"This is probably not going to be a very difficult decision for us to make," he said. "I expect we will get involved in the McGlynn campaign and raise some money for him."

Murnane said the race for the open appellate court seat could prove to be extremely important in a few years. With Supreme Court Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier’s term ending in 2014 and no word on his future plans, Murnane said justices on the 5th District Appellate Court could find themselves in a perfect position to run an aggressive campaign for the state high court. "

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About Kirk

Since becoming a lawyer in 1983, Kirk’s over 30 years of practice have focused on advising a wide range of corporations, associations, and individuals (as both plaintiffs and defendants) on both tort and commercial law issues centered around “mass torts.”

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