Illinois Civil Justice League: March 2005

March 31, 2005

Another Cup of Joe

The McDonald's Coffee case is already an infamous piece of American history. In 1992, a New Mexico retiree spilled a cup of McDonalds coffee in her lap and ended up being awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages (later reduced to $480,000).

This case might have been on the minds of a Southern Illinois University student and her lawyer when they filed suit against Starbucks, on the campus of SIU-Edwardsville, in Madison County court.

The student, Molly Alter of Edwardsville, claim that the coffee she was served at Starbucks was in a defective cup and burned her hands. However, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Circuit Judge George Moran dismissed the coffee lawsuit, granting the same protections and immunity to Starbucks that the University receives as a state entity.

According to the Post-Dispatch:

Alter, a student in the university's graduate program in metalsmithing, alleged that her hands were burned on Dec. 3, 2003, when the cup crumbled. She contended that she was unable to complete her class work for the semester.

Her attorney, Matthew Marlen, said his client had made a "pretty good recovery" and was back in school.

The Court of Claims is the proper venue for the case," Moran wrote in his court order, referring to the forum set up by the state of Illinois to resolve all claims against state entities.

"We're disappointed because my argument had been that we were not suing the state," Marlen said. "We were not suing SIUE. We were suing Starbucks and there was no indication the university operated or had anything to do with Starbucks other than it granted them a right to operate on the campus."

Since 1992, this case has been hotly debated (no pun intended) amongst proponents and opponents of legal reform (check out a fine debate presented on A similar cases is even being litigated in Russia of all places, however the plaintiff is only claiming $3,514 in damages ($14 in healthcare costs and $3,500 of "moral damage").

However, if you thought this was the first time a Southern Illinois attorney had thought to sue over a cup of coffee - you'd be wrong. In January 2001, the Murphysboro (IL) McDonald's owner, Short Enterprises, was named in a lawsuit with Wal-Mart, a cup manufacturer, and the plaintiff's own mother, in a case brought by attorney Eric Long.

According to the Washington Post:

Teresa Reed claims in the lawsuit against Short Enterprises, owner of the Murphysboro McDonald's, that a cup of coffee she bought at the drive-through window in 1998 spilled and scalded her ankle, allegedly leaving a permanent scar.

Reed said the coffee, which the suit alleged was "served at a temperature too hot for consumption and hot enough to scald the human body," spilled and burned her after she placed it in a cup holder in her mother's car.

The suit also accuses Reed's mother of negligence, saying Carol Sanders "owed a duty of care for the safety of others riding in her vehicle."

March 25, 2005

Plaintiffs Power: Politics, Politicians & Documentaries

This week, released its "Plaintiffs Power", a look at the Top 16 national personal injury firms in terms of financial revenue. There are several very interesting and timely articles that I'd highly recommend...

I thought it would be interesting to see how many of these 16 firms "dabbled" in the recent Illinois Supreme Court election.

- Baron & Budd, a Dallas asbestos firm with an office in Glen Carbon, tops the list with annual revenues estimated at more than $75 million. Baron & Budd contributed to $25,000 to Justice For All PAC and $25,000 to DPI this past fall.

- Milberg Weiss, a national firm built on securities class action cases, contributed $10,000 to DPI in October 2004.

- Lieff Cabraser contributed to DPI in 2000 and 2002, but stayed out of IL this year.

- Ness Motley (or whatever they separated into now) hasn't had interest in IL, but Richardson Patrick (recent partners who broke away in 2002) contributed $75,000 to DPI in 2004. This story about the breakup of Ness Motley is a must-read.

- Philip Corboy of Corboy & Demetrio is one of the famous $100,000 contributors to DPI.

I guess 4 out of 16 firms at $235,000 is a little interest...

If you missed "A Well-Oiled Machine," the story about Weitz & Luxenburg, make sure you read the box at the bottom titled, "Perry Weitz’s Recipe for a Delicious Mass Tort." If you're like me, I'm sure you can't resist a delicious mass tort on any restaurant's dessert menu! I was so excited to learn the recipe...

1. Be ahead of the curve. Read medical journals and FDA reports, stay in touch with physicians, listen to prospective clients and referring lawyers. "We like to be on the cutting edge of knowing about adverse reactions," says Weitz. "Once we begin to see an incidence of disease and death, we research it. Hopefully we’ll hear about it before The New York Times." And before the Association of Trial Lawyers of America establishes a working group.

2. Do your prep work. Weitz says he’s looking for two things when he evaluates a potential mass tort. First is science: "Is there causation? Will I be able to survive a Daubert motion?" Next is damages: "Are there serious injuries or death? Is there punitive conduct?" he says. "I look at the punitive conduct of a company, particularly if the damages are not serious. Punitive conduct gives us the ability to try lesser damage cases." Before filing a suit, Weitz says, the firm will get hold of liability documents, consult with potential expert witnesses, and conduct mock trials. "We spend an extraordinary amount on due diligence," he says, "to make sure we’re making the right choices."

3. Spread the word. Weitz & Luxenberg advertises for clients, and informs its referral network of dozens of firms in all areas of the country that it’s looking for new mass tort cases. "A lot of times the cases end up being filed here," says Weitz. "New York is better than being in Arkansas, Tennessee, or wherever."

4. File individual cases, not class actions. Weitz & Luxenberg only resorts to settlement classes in dire circumstances, such as the threatened bankruptcy of Sulzer in the hip replacement litigation.

5. Work up cases for trial. If defendants still aren’t scared into settling, let Robert Gordon or another of the firm’s trial specialists try a case or two. Spare no resources–manpower, experts, technological support–at trial.

6. Settle everything else. Let Weitz handle the economics and negotiations.

Imagine my surprise when "flour" wasn't even an ingredient...? And, I thought lawsuits were just about victims getting their day in court...

You have to wonder how Madison County litigation fits into this theme: (1) research and find the lawsuit, (2) advertise until you find a client, (3) scare the defendants until they're ready to settle.

I guess the "homemade" Madison County version of this recipe doesn't include #4: "File individual cases, not class actions."

Apparently, local firms are taking note of Weitz's political strategies:

As mass tort litigation has become a political issue, Weitz & Luxenberg has become politically active. On the state level, Weitz & Luxenberg recently brought on assembly speaker Sheldon Silver as of counsel, agreeing to pay him not as an employee, but according to the recovery in cases he attracts to the firm.

Silver took a beating in the New York press, which questioned whether he had a conflict of interest; Weitz insists that Silver's affiliation has nothing to do with politics: "New York hasn't been a tort-reforming state." The firm's federal politicking is more significant. For the last two years, Weitz has spent two days a week in Washington, lobbying against a proposed nationwide trust to end the asbestos litigation.

Have you heard of any local politicians joining any trial firms as "Of Counsel" lately?

On the same webpage, you'll find a fascinating article about how lawyers are getting into the documentary business. Juris Productions, run by Rob Feldman and Keiko Johnson, produces 60-minutes-styled video segments that attorneys use in pre-trial settlement meetings.

Johnson and Feldman, both former television journalists, are in the vanguard of a little-known but increasingly important business. In February 2002 they left six-figure salaries as producers at KNBC-TV news in Los Angeles to create settlement videos with the polish of network television broadcasts.

The company has an active client base of more than 20 firms, and Feldman estimates that they work on approximately 40 settlement documentaries a year. Juris had approximately $600,000 in revenue in 2003 and expects to at least double that number this year. The company has only eight full-time employees, but relies on a cadre of freelance videographers and moonlighting network professionals to fill in the holes.

Funny, I hadn't heard of trial lawyers using freelance journalists to produce, doesn't happen in Madison County...ever...

March 22, 2005

Cities can't afFord lawsuit over Crown Vics

After a jury took only 2 hours last October to clear Ford Motor Company of any liability in a case over the safety of the Crown Victoria police cars, municipalities are feeling the sting of the lingering litigation.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Illinois municipalities are working hard to get out of their class action suit - brought in ATRA #2 Hellhole St. Clair County - because Ford is unwilling to sell anymore Crown Victorias to any of the municipality plaintiffs.

Although the jury ruled the cars safe, a St. Clair County judge is still weighing the consumer fraud portion of the case.

According to the Tribune:

Illinois is the only state with a class-action suit involving law-enforcement agencies, including the City of Chicago. But since 2002, 75 municipalities in 20 states have sued Ford, saying that when the Crown Vic is struck from behind at high speeds, the fuel tank, which is between the rear axle and the bumper, can be punctured easily and leak gas.

In the last 20 years, a dozen officers have died and 10 have been severely burned nationwide in fiery rear-end crashes.

Despite the crash numbers, police say there's nothing like the Crown Vic, with its roomy interior and powerful engine. Since Chevrolet stopped making the Caprice squad car in 1999, the Crown Vic has been the only rear-wheel-drive vehicle available, police say.

Statistics bear out its popularity: Eighty-five percent of police agencies in the nation use the Crown Vic.

According to the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor website:

There have been no accidents or injuries in the state of Illinois. This case was a class-action trial based on the value of after-market equipment sought by plaintiffs and did not have anything to do with personal injury.

This case was about plaintiffs' lawyers representing Illinois officers that have had no accidents, asking for compensation for equipment that was not ordered, not paid for, and that does not add to the safety of the vehicle.

But, according to the AP story, the plaintiffs' attorney thinks Ford should keep feeding the hand that is biting them:

"I think it's coercion by Ford," said Trisha Murphy, a plaintiffs' attorney involved in the lawsuit.

The attorney for Ford counters: "The bottom line is either they are serious about the lawsuit and the claims in the lawsuit or they're not," he said. "If you think the vehicle is unsafe — we don't — but if you do, don't expect us to supply you vehicles."

A website dedicated to a "Safety Alert" for the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, which claims to be "sponsored by law enforcement officers and families affected by defect" hasn't been updated since September 27, about the time the case was set to go to trial in St. Clair County. Information and e-mail contacts on the site are directed to David Perry, the lead partner of Perry Haas law firm in Corpus Christi, TX.

A 2002 story reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cleared Ford in its investigation: "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the car exceeds federal standards for fuel system safety and the rate of fires was no greater than with Chevrolet Caprice police cars."

Back to the AP story:

Deputy Police Chief Dave Scanlan said he did not even know his department was part of the lawsuit because he never saw a letter informing the city it would be included unless it expressly declined. The department found out about it when it was time to buy more squad cars.

"We woke up and Ford wouldn't sell us any Crown Vics," he said.

What did you expect, Ford to start discounting its products to people suing them? If municipalities wait long enough, they'll probably be awarded coupons anyway...

March 17, 2005

Chief Tort Reform?

In my ongoing pursuit of photo-blogging many of the supporters of legal reform, I'm adding a special March Madness edition today with the newest case of lawsuit abuse hitting our state's anchor institution of higher education, the University of Illinois.

News reports from the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and Bloomington Pantagraph, detail the Cook County lawsuit against the University's Board of Trustees.

From the Tribune:

The suit was filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court by the Illinois Native American Bar Association and two individuals. It asks the court to declare that the use of Illiniwek, the controversial symbol of the athletic teams at university's Urbana-Champaign campus, violates the Illinois Civil Rights Act.

Richard Hutchison, the Tinley Park attorney representing the plaintiffs, said the university's board "continues to circumvent" a decision on the fate of Illiniwek. "The board won't bring this matter to a head and do what's right, which is retire the chief," he said.

More from the Sun-Times:

The suit seeks an injunction to stop the chief. Attorney Richard Hutchinson said the 30-member law group -- of which he is a member -- is an "aggrieved party'' under the Civil Rights Act because members "suffer personally and professionally from the racist policy.'' Also aggrieved are two other plaintiffs on the suit, Hutchinson said: Stephen Naranjo, a Native American student at the U. of I.'s Chicago campus, and Roger Fontana, a Cherokee and a Champaign resident.

Tom Hardy, a U. of I. spokesman, said the university complies with all laws banning discrimination. He said the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education ruled in 1995 that Chief Illiniwek did not violate the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Using lawsuits to resolve matters that proponents can't win within Congress, state legislatures, and other quasi-legislative bodies is nothing new. It's the hallmark of judicial activism, in fact.

By suing, despite rulings from two federal executive branch agencies, anti-Chief proponents are attempting to circumvent both the legislative representation AND executive representation. In essence, who cares if Illinois voters have voted to elect a President and Governor and General Assembly...? If we can't sway the Board of Trustees, the General Assembly or the Governor, we'll just hope to find a friendly judge...

There must be many alternative viewpoints from other Native Americans about "The Chief". At, you will find photos from a 1982 presentation of the current Chief regalia made by Sioux Chief Frank Fools Crow to the University of Illinois. I enjoyed the quote posted on the site by the late Sioux Chief:

"The power and ways are given to us to be passed onto others. To think anything else is pure selfishness. We get more by giving them away, and if we do not give them away, we lose them."

Chief Crow probably won't get to be cross-examined by the lawyers in this upcoming lawsuit, unfortunately he passed away in 1989. Perhaps the University will contact his descendents to serve as expert witnesses.

I found a website called, which has much of the history of the Illini and Chief traditions. I'm not a lawyer or judge, but I didn't see anything "racially offensive" or "demeaning." All I found was a lot of interesting information about the Native American history in our state, along with a group of students who - unbelievably enough - have really done their homework about the Chief. (That's a knock on college students in general, not UIUC students)

On the first day of the Fighting Illini's attempt to win a national championship, you would hope that someone wouldn't be using lawsuit abuse to drum up national attention for a cause they couldn't win within their University or their state's General Assembly. Unfortunately, while the Illini are marching their way through the Tourament of 64, they'll be running from a Cook County Court and some Chicago lawyers looking to capitalize on the team's success. Sad part is...the anti-Chief plaintiffs and their lawyers will lose nothing if this suit is thrown out, but state taxpayers will probably end up paying for University's lawyers to defend this suit.

(Editorial Note: I should mention that, while my sister and brother-in-law both attended the University of Illinois, I actually attended arch-rival Missouri. Despite my Tiger allegiance, I have always supported the Chief and will be rooting for the Illini this month. UIUC students support the Chief by more than a 2-1 margin.)

Update: Apparently the Chief is being sued in Federal Court in Urbana, according to Chief Illiniwek Blog. The Blog also reports on a comment from Senate President Emil Jones about his plans to increase pressure on the University to abandon the Chief, Jones told the Chicago Tribune: "I'm going to scalp him." And critics say the University is being racially insensitive?

March 16, 2005

Lawsuits Threaten Schools & Scouting

Lawsuits are always a threat to taxpayers, especially to local school districts. Thanks to Diane Meyer at Respublica Blog for pointing out the latest threat of litigation against the Boy Scouts of America.

According to, the ACLU has threatened to sue any "taxpayer-funded organizations that charter BSA units":

The ACLU sent a letter to the Boy Scouts of America in February threatening legal action against public schools and other governmental agencies that charter Boy Scout groups on grounds that their sponsorship amounts to religious discrimination and violates the separation of church and state.

Boy Scouts open their meetings by holding three fingers aloft and repeating an oath in which members vow their allegiance to God and country, resolve to help others and commit to keeping themselves morally straight. Central to the BSA's stated mission is character development and values-based leadership training.

ACLU leaders view these conservative emphases as warrant for legal action, according to documents on the ACLU website.

Defending against a wave of ACLU lawsuits would cost schools untold thousands of dollars, [a BSA spokesperson] said. Instead of risking financially draining litigation, the BSA is pulling scout units from schools as a matter of stewardship, he said.

The Department of Defense has already settled with the ACLU over its connection with the BSA, stemming from a 1999 lawsuit that the ACLU of Illinois filed against the DoD, HUD and the Chicago Public School District.

According to a November 2004 ACLU release:

"It is critical that the Pentagon send this very clear signal to its units across the globe to ensure that government officials are not engaged in religious discrimination in their official capacity," said Charles Peters of the Chicago law firm Schiff Hardin who assisted the ACLU of Illinois in the lawsuit.

March 14, 2005

Lawsuit Lollapalooza

I've heard many names for Madison County, but "Lawsuit Lollapalooza" is a new one. According to Wikipedia, Lollapalooza means "something unusual," which is probably an apt description for Madison County.

From the American Enterprise article:

Two years ago, 73-year-old Judge Nicholas Byron, the dean of Madison's judiciary, interrupted a defense attorney who moved that the trial ought to be held where the events occurred--three states and 700 miles away in Pennsylvania--rather than in Madison County. "You know, as a result of certain events that have occurred, and most of them concern me, I have come to certain revelations," said Judge Byron. "I want this on the record...I am not a Madison County judge.... I am concerned with all Americans. And you know what? ...I am going to expand the concept that all courts in the United States are for all citizens of the United States.... Motion denied." Judge Byron's advertising of his willingness to entertain suits from anywhere was no idle boast. At that point he was presiding over 25 percent of the national docket for cases of mesothelioma, the most deadly form of asbestos lung disease.

This argument is nothing new. Madison County personal injury lawyers and their spokespeople have barked the complaint that "this is the ONLY place in the country for plaintiffs to get a fair hearing" many times over.

This would seem rather insulting to EVERY OTHER jurisdiction in Illinois and America. Are they suggesting that no other judges in America are fair?

According to this month's ITLA's "Vested Interest" column, ITLA is "marshaling resources so that we can continue to counter dishonest attacks on trial lawyers, judges and the system of justice."

I guess we'll see if any of the mounting resources are spent defending the honor of any of the other Circuit judges in Illinois (you know, the ones that the trial lawyers have insulted by moving cases out of their courtrooms to the Madison County courtrooms), or if they'll only go to defend "America's Courthouse," the Lawsuit Lollapalooza that Madison County taxpayers are paying for in Edwardsville.

March 10, 2005

Lawyer: Sue Thyself

As if there needed to be anymore evidence that an Madison and St. Clair counties have an overly litigious legal environment, now the Madison County Record reports that an Alton lawyer has resorted to suing himself.

According to the Record:

Alton attorney Emert Wyss thought he could make money in a Madison County class action lawsuit, but he accidentally sued himself instead. Now he has four law firms after his money - and he hired all four.

Wyss’s boomerang litigation started in 2002, when he invited Carmelita McLaughlin to his office at 1600 Washington St. in Alton. Acting as her attorney when she bought a home in Alton and when she refinanced it, on both occasions she had chosen Centerre Title--a company that Wyss owned--to close her loans.

He produced a retainer agreement providing for his legal services and those from the Lakin Law Firm of Wood River, Campbell and Brinkley of Godfrey, Freed and Weiss of Chicago, and Diab and Bock of Chicago. McLaughlin signed.

It then gets a little complicated, but suffice to say that it doesn't present the Madison County class action system in any better light. Wyss refers the plaintiff and case to the Lakin firm, which then files the class action suit against Alliance Mortgage.

According to The Record, from the depositions in the case:

"Emert Wyss, wearing his hat of Centerre Title company, collects the fees from Ms. McLaughlin, and now we have six, seven, eight months later, Emert Wyss wearing his hat as Ms. McLaughlin’s attorney suggests she file suit over the very fees his title company collected from her, is that right?" [Alliance Mortgage attorney Don] Brown asked.

Wyss replied, "That is right. It oversimplifies it, but that is correct."

Brown asked Wyss if he had an agreement with the Lakin firm, and he responded that he had a verbal agreement.

When Brown asked what it was, Wyss replied, “I am to receive 10 percent of the attorney fee collected on these cases.”

I guess when you buy a house in Madison County, you never know when you might be signing up for a class action lawsuit. Now, Judge Kardis has added Wyss and his title company as third-party defendants in the case, setting up a scenario where Wyss might be liable for part of the final judgment. And, unfortunately for Wyss, he might not get his 10 percent referral fee now.

The Record reports: Apparently, Wyss surrendered his ten percent. Kardis wrote, “Defendants were provided with a fee renunciation letter.” Kardis sealed the letter.

[Alliance attorneys] asked Kardis to disqualify all of McLaughlin‘s attorneys for improper solicitation, arguing that they used Wyss as a straw man to obtain cases from Centerre Title clients whom they could not directly approach.

Kardis denied the motion to disqualify McLaughlin’s attorneys.

March 08, 2005

County Boards for Tort Reform

Today's photo-blogging takes us to the #1 & #2 Judicial Hellholes in America: Madison and St. Clair counties. People - including elected politicians - understand the dramatic toll that lawsuit abuse has taken on the region and state.

Both counties also have local leadership dominated by Democrats - the party normally swayed by the trial lawyer lobbying. However, the Democrats in Madison County (who hold a 19-10 majority) and St. Clair County (who hold a 21-8 majority) feel significantly different from their party leadership in Springfield.

Recently, the Madison County Board (the Board meets on the other side of those upper windows pictured) enacted a resolution calling upon state leaders to do something about this crisis.

From the Belleville News-Democrat: "County Board members unanimously Wednesday voted to approve a resolution requesting the state take action against medical insurance rates including placing caps on noneconomic damages."

Less than two weeks later, the St. Clair County Board enacted a similar resolution calling for the passage of House Bill 705:

From the Belleville News-Democrat: "The resolution specifically supported House Bill 705, a recently-introduced piece of legislation that would seek to reduce unwarranted lawsuits, enact sensible insurance reform, enhance medical discipline and protect physicians' assets in medical malpractice lawsuits.

The proposed legislation also would cap noneconomic damages at $250,000 in medical malpractice cases against physicians and at $500,000 in cases filed against hospitals.

""We have to show our support," said St. Clair County Board member Heinz Rudolf, D-Belleville. "We cannot afford to have one of our hospitals shut down."

March 06, 2005

Democrats for Tort Reform

As promised late last week, I will start photo-blogging with some pictures of legal reform advocates from Illinois. First up, Democrat Senator Barack Obama. Obama voted in favor of the Class Action Fairness Act, along with 18 other Democrats in the US Senate.

March 03, 2005

Simmons' New "Investment"

While a Madison County Record online poll might not be exactly scientific, the metro-east public weighed in by a 77-20 margin against local asbestos attorney John Simmons' effort to get state tax money for a minor league baseball complex for Marion, IL.

According to the Southern:

Not to be overlooked in the deal is requested financial assistance from the state. When Marion officials learned the state might not come through with $7.5 million in requested funds to build the stadium, [Marion Mayor Bob] Butler stepped forward with his tax increase proposal. Gov. Rod Blagojevich then announced last week that $3 million had been budgeted for the baseball project pending approval from the Legislature.

The City of Marion is either close to approving - or has approved - a sales tax increase to generate almost a half million a year for debt repayment on the $15 million construction loan. The General Assembly will consider the Governor's request for $3 million in state money.

Simmons, who will own the stadium, said the total cost of the project is $25 million, which includes the construction of the stadium and purchase of the land and new team.

"That's $10 million out of my pocket alone," he said.

Loyal readers will remember that John Simmons was investing in another Southern Illinois project last fall: Democratic Supreme Court candidate Gordon Maag. SimmonsCooper, the East Alton firm ran by Simmons and former Congressional candidate Jeffrey Cooper, and its partners donated more than $1.1 million to the various entities of the Maag campaign, including $360,000 to the Democratic Party PAC controlled by House Speaker Michael Madigan. Another $135,000 was given to Senate President Emil Jones PAC just three days after Election Day.

Now Simmons, who has almost unlimited riches from his winnings in the Madison County legal system, is looking to the state leaders in the Democratic Party to help him out.

Simmons told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

"I want to avoid the appearance of impropriety.... But the fact is, I'm a Democrat, I support Democrats."

[The Governor's Spokesperson Rebecca] Rausch said Simmons' political contributions to the governor and his party were unrelated to the administration's plans to help fund the stadium that Simmons will own. "We'd be just as happy to see the city of Marion own it," Rausch said.

If that's truly the case - and Marion taxpayers and state taxpayers are footing a majority of the bill - why not work that into the deal? Marion city officials say that they don't want the maintenance. But, couldn't the maintenance contract for the stadium be worked in with the lease?

Other Illinois legislators are questioning the ethical implications of such a large donor recieving a $3 million state grant, when the Illinois budget is already stretched very thin:

"It certainly smells fishy," said state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Highland. "This is a governor who talks about reform in government and reform in ethics, and we just keep seeing shadow after shadow cast across this administration. ... and this is another example of it."

Madison County Record's Dicta column speculates that Simmons' Marion investment might be the first step of outreach in a possible Congressional run against John Shimkus. Whether that's the case or not will remain to be seen. But, it's interesting to see that lawyers are now choosing baseball over judges for their investment strategies.

"I believe it's a good deal for Marion," Simmons said. "Are they helping me make money? Yeah. But I could make more putting my money somewhere else. But that wouldn't be as fun."

March 02, 2005

E-Harassment: New Fan to ICJL Blog!

I guess we'd like welcome the newest "reader" to ICJL Blog...

Yesterday, our newest "reader" spent 16 hours, 16 minutes, and 21 seconds on our Blog. Definitely a committed visitor!!!

Unfornately, our new "reader" has also started putting very personal comments on some messages. Perhaps this "reader" is fairly new to the Blogosphere, and doesn't appreciate the time and effort made to keeping comments and discussion civil. For example, trial attorney Evan Schaeffer's Blog Notes from the (Legal) Underground presents some very enlightened discussion about tort reform. Evan points out his opinions on the issue and people like myself, Ted Frank from, and other "legal eagles" from both sides of the debate post comments. I have even guest blogged on Schaeffer's site. Heck, even John Hopkins is now a guest columnist at The Record.

However, this new "reader" to ICJL Blog has started commenting only in very personal and demeaning ways. It reminds me of a series of e-mails over a 43-day period, in which Ed Murnane - President of ICJL and the co-contributor of this Blog - was harassed with disparaging daily e-mails. The e-mails, one of which included a picture of Ed's house, were copied to the metro-east media.

I might write a future column about Political E-stalking, but for now I'd like to just address Mr. Anonymous, the person posting flames on ICJL Blog.

The IP address for this "Anonymous" poster ( is also the IP address used for the Sorry Works Coalition Newsletter (, which is sent by the spokesperson for the group Victims and Families United. This is the SAME entity that sent the 43-day e-mail barrage to Ed Murnane, the SAME entity that allegedly violated the constitutional rights of Karmeier campaign volunteer Dwight Kay, and the SAME entity that is rumored to have been involved in other antics from the Karmeier-Maag campaign.

In an effort to keep this Blog from denigrating into a mere existence of comment "flames" - I'm suspending "Anonymous" comments and removing all but one of the new "readers" comments, so everyone can see the anger in it's portrayal. I enjoy receiving comments from everyone else, so I'd hate to have to fully suspend "comments" altogether (like many other organizations have).

While I've been too busy to post daily on this Blog, I feel like we've been able to provide some alternative viewpoints on legal reform issues. Our ongoing research presented here - and at - has even been recently cited by We have a sizable readership (more than you'd think), and I've received much positive feedback from people (from in the Capitol to several here in the Blog comments). While this new "reader" might have lots of time on his/her hands (don't get me wrong, I'm honored by yesterday's 16+ hour visit), I don't have time to "watch" for commenting "flames" all day long, I would like to think a "babysitter" for this Blog would not be needed.

Perhaps the "reader" will provide an apology to all of you - the ICJL Blog readership - for the "commenting" rights he/she has taken away from the Blog.

I should mention that, in the past year, the following invasions into privacy and intimidation tactics have been lodged against legal reform advocates just here in Illinois:

- The digging and cataloguing of trash from a state SENATOR who favors reform
- The publication of the home telephone number of that Senator's INTERN
- The investigation of the ICJL President's 20-year-old personal business records
- The invasion and intimidation of a Karmeier campaign volunteer's family
- The electronic mail harassment of the ICJL President and the media
- The filing of a frivolous lawsuit against the Karmeier campaign manager
- The surveillance of the Karmeier campaign manager's home
- The harassment of the Karmeier campaign by a suspicious documentary crew

I guess I'm just another victim in the trail of intimidation and insults.

Perhaps the new "reader" owes a "sorry" to all of the opponents of legal reform who choose to debate this issue in a more civil manner. Sorry, he's only giving all of you a BAD name.

And, in direct response to the "reader," thank you for proving the point of yesterday's column: that a vast majority of the "independent" opponents of legal reform are - indeed - either funded, founded, hired, sponsored, supported, etc., by trial lawyers. Despite Mr. Angoff's past professional experience as Democratic Governor Mel Carnahan's Director of Insurance, he is/was in fact "hired" by the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. Therefore, he doesn't represent an unbiased look at the issue. Neither does the "Anonymous" commenter on this site.

I'll now end my response to our new "reader" by photo-blogging many supporters of legal reform, expressly for the enjoyment of our new "reader." Perhaps we can extend the length of his cyber-visit beyond the 18 hour 45 minute record he/she now holds.

Finally, thank you to all of the proponents and opponents of legal reform who read our Blog without attempting to drag it into the gutter.

For more information on Today's legal reform news, check out the ICJL News Update, available everyday by clicking on the gold button above. For recent news headlines from, check out the ICJL Legal Reform News section, available under ICJL Resources.


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