Friday, December 16, 2005

Damaged Justice

From your Chicago Tribune:
Lawyers for Philip Morris USA contributed $16,800 to help elect a judge who cast a deciding vote in Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court decision favoring the tobacco giant.

The judge also received $1.2 million in campaign money from a group that filed an amicus brief supporting the cigarette-maker.

Yet no one suggested that Judge Lloyd Karmeier recuse himself from a closely watched case in which he voted with three others to strike down a $10.1 billion judgment, handing a huge victory to Philip Morris. ***

[T]he judge's election backers were pleased with Thursday's 4-2 high court decision.

"Karmeier's election changed the vote," said Edward Murnane, president of the nonprofit Illinois Civil Justice League, which contributed $1.2 million to the judge's campaign and filed an amicus brief supporting Philip Morris.

"Even though he wasn't the (sole) deciding vote, if Gordon Maag had been elected" the outcome might well have been different because the decision required a majority of the seven-member court, Murnane noted.

Chief Justice Robert Thomas, who was elected to the court in 2000, recused himself because he is being represented in another matter by one of the attorneys representing the smokers.

Murnane said that even though his organization's money played a role in electing Karmeier, "we never tried to influence him on how he should act in a case. I've never talked to him about any case, even after the fact."
Even if you agree with the decision -- and I think I do -- you have to admit this does not create confidence in our judicial system.

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