• Kirk Hartley

The Illusion of Justice and the Cancer of Secret Contributions – An Example from an Ongoing Il

For readers outside of Illinois, the following may offer some insights into the insanity of our judicial elections, and the growing cancer of undisclosed campaign contributions.

Start here with a New York Times article chronicling donations to the US Chamber of Commerce, and it’s subsequent and grossly unfair attacks on a sitting Illinois Supreme Court judge who faces the electorate this year. Or, go here to the National Public Radio view.

Are those two views skewed by "liberalism" ? Judge for yourself. But know that even the conservative Chicago Tribune is appalled, as explained here. Consider also these comments from Fox News, generally known for arch conservatism.

Close with a look at comments from Crain’s Chicago Business. As it’s name suggests, Crain’s is all about business. It’s leading voice is Greg Hinz . He offered some well stated editorial commentary on the election and the actions of the US Chamber of Commerce. Here are key excerpts:

"For anyone who doubts that the state’s method of electing judges has as much to do with deception and politics as justice, take a look at the mud-filled battle over whether Thomas Kilbride should be retained on Nov. 2 as a member of the Illinois Supreme Court.


The Illinois Civil Justice League sees it differently. The group has been very active in tort-reform issues of late, and it has jumped into the Kilbride retention race, helped by a $100,000 donation just the other day from the American Justice Partnership, with another $150,000 on the way from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In an ad and on its website, the league has focused not on med-mal but on felons, blasting Justice Kilbride for allegedly being too weak on crime.

What does the latter have to do with the former? “At election time, we focus on what’s going to move the voters,” league head Ed Murnane candidly concedes. Med-mal and tort reform are “not the kind of things voters typically pay attention to.”

Beyond that, a league radio spot on crime had to be revised after stations refused to run it on factual grounds. Justice Kilbride and some outside reviewers say the attacks are unfair, citing, for instance, a technical dissent on one sexual assault case because he wanted to issue a supervisory order rather than a writ of mandamus.

Mr. Murnane replies that the judge didn’t do what prosecutors wanted him to do, and that’s all that counts. Justice Kilbride responds with a long list of endorsements, including one from former Gov. Jim Thompson, an ex-prosecutor.


Judge for yourself, folks. But cases like this make my skin crawl. Judges need to worry about the law—not about offending, or pleasing, someone with a big wad of cash. There has to be a better way."


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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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