Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Madison County Removed From 'Judicial Hellholes' List

But Cook County Ranks Third In ATRA Report

Madison County, Illinois, long considered to have one of the most plaintiff-friendly legal systems in the United States, has been removed from the American Tort Reform Foundation's annual list of "judicial hellholes."

While Madison County remains on an American Tort Reform Association "watch list," the new status for the Southwest Illinois county is a confirmation that reforms initiated by Chief Judge Anne Callis and her colleagues are having a positive impact.

Indicative of the changes in Madison County, local newspapers reported last week that plaintiffs in three civil trials had lost their lawsuits in the span of one week. Plaintiff attorneys have long viewed Madison County as a friendly venue, explaining the high volume of litigation filed in Madison County.

In an Illinois Civil Justice League study in 2005, it was revealed that Madison County had almost twice the volume of litigation per capita than Cook County, the largest county in Illinois and still included on the "judicial hellholes" list.

"This is good news for the people of Madison County and it is good news for the people of Illinois," said Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League and a member of the board of directors of the American Tort Reform Association. "Judge Callis and her colleagues vowed to improve the administration of justice in Madison County and they have been working to do that just. They have met with doctors, with hospitals, with business leaders and with the ICJL to learn of the many concerns about justice in Madison County and they have been working to assure fairness to all parties."

Not so favorable was the repeat appearance on the "hellholes" list by Cook County, about which the ATRA report commented,

"...it seems that the unfortunate pattern of Cook County verdicts for 2007 is that for every reasoned decision limiting excessive awards, thee is another extraordinary verdict waiting in the wings."
A third Illinois county, St. Clair, the neighbor of Madison County, also has been placed on the "watch list," removed from the "hellholes" category it had last year. St. Clair seems to have benefited from the improvements in Madison County and the frequent linking of the two Mississippi River counties across the river from St. Louis. St. Clair has not demonstrated any eagerness for reform but there is no doubt they'll accept the reduced criticism.

Link To Full 'Judicial Hellholes' Report (.pdf).


Yellow Dog Democrat 3:23 PM  

hmmm....Madison County is taken off the list for voluntarily implementing reforms, and St. Clair County is downgraded for being close by?

Seems more than just a little arbitrary to me.

But if that's your argument, shouldn't we be putting the collar counties bordering Cook County on the Judicial Hellhole list, since judicialhellholitis is apparently contagious?

I think the real story here is that the Madison County judicial system was able to implement its own reforms, which have been embraced by all parties, without the kind of legislative meddling that the ICJL so often advocates for, and which has been held unconstitutional time-and-time again.

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