Illinois Civil Justice League: Madison County is "Magic"...?

January 06, 2005

Madison County is "Magic"...?

Before commenting on the possible "magical" nature of Madison County, I'd like to again thank Evan Schaeffer for his invitation to Guest Post on Notes from the (Legal) Underground. Today, Evan has posted a counterpoint response to my post, which I hope garners some comments today on either of our sites.

Thanks to Professor Bainbridge for calling my Guest Post "thoughtful" yesterday, although the only thing "money" in Madison County seems to be our legal system. Also, Rich Miller of Capitol Fax noticed us yesterday, calling ICJL Blog "pretty in-your-face stuff at times, which makes it an interesting read." Thanks for the compliment (I think).

As for Madison County's "magic," I wanted to briefly point out something that Walter Olson caught in The American Spectator. In the article "Tort Reform’s Ground Zero," William Tucker details a quote from infamous Mississippi trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs:

[W]hat I call the "magic jurisdiction,"…[is] where the judiciary is elected with verdict money. The trial lawyers have established relationships with the judges that are elected; they're State Court judges; they're popul[ists]. They've got large populations of voters who are in on the deal, they're getting their [piece] in many cases. And so, it's a political force in their jurisdiction, and it's almost impossible to get a fair trial if you're a defendant in some of these places. The plaintiff lawyer walks in there and writes the number on the blackboard, and the first juror meets the last one coming out the door with that amount of money.… The cases are not won in the courtroom. They're won on the back roads long before the case goes to trial. Any lawyer fresh out of law school can walk in there and win the case, so it doesn't matter what the evidence or the law is.

The thought that a trial lawyer would acknowledge this type of system must be offensive to citizens who trust that our American constitution will bring us fair courts - and especially offensive to voters who often elect state judges.

Tucker goes on to comment:

Trial lawyers are able to concentrate their firepower in "magic jurisdictions" like Madison because of loopholes in the federal rules of procedure. The trick is to keep the case from being bounced up to federal court, where class actions are much more difficult to certify and where the judges are less susceptible to persuasion.

So, is Madison County "magic"? Tucker acknowledgs it. President Bush certainly acknowledged it yesterday in his visit to Madison County. Perhaps local officials and judges would be less embarassed by adjectives like "magic"?

Remember, the reference to "magic" only comes from one of the nation's most famous trial lawyers. I guess one man's "magic" is another's "hellhole". Either way, in Madison County, the results are the same: Lost jobs, lost doctors, lost opportunity.


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