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Campaign Contributions to Judges

In the State of Illinois most judges are elected to office by the voting public. As is the case with other elected offices, judicial candidates have fund raising events but in this instance the supporters are the attorneys that will ultimately practice before them. Donations to judges is generally not an issue when opposing attorneys both contribute to the same judge but what about the situation where only one one parties' attorney is a contributor? In smaller Illinois counties the number of elected judges are so small that it is either impossible or impractical for a judge to recuse themselves or for an attorney to request a substitution of judge. In those venues regular recusal could bring the court system to a standstill.

In the past, scandals have occurred wherein judges either accepted bribes or repaid there donors with favorable rulings. Most judges and attorneys are honorable professionals handling and deciding cases on their merits. The real question then is how does the Illinois judiciary avoid the appearance of impropriety in the handling and disposition of lawsuits brought before them?

This past week the Illinois Supreme Court began addressing this issue by proposing a new rule to the "Judicial Code of Conduct" which would provide in substance that a judge shall disqualify himself or herself when, after considering all relevant circumstances, there exists a probability of bias. Relevant circumstances include items such as the amount of campaign support, both monetary and non-monetary, and the timing and impact of the support.

From the perspective of this Chicago injury attorney the most practical solution to this ethical dilemma is for the judge to disclose his or her relationship with one of the attorneys to the other. It then becomes the decision of the affected attorney to proceed before the disclosing judge or request a recusal. From a tactical point of view, I typically keep the case in front of the disclosing judge knowing that he or she will probably bend over backwards to be fair and impartial rather than subject them self to scrutiny by a reviewing court. If the relationship between a judge and one of the attorneys has more depth and history, then voluntary recusal is the only must immediately take place.

In other states and in the federal courts judges are appointed for a specific term or for life. There are those legal commentators that suggest that appointment is a better practice than electing our judges. Unfortunately, all that appointment accomplishes is to accelerate potential corruption by moving it from an informal group of political supporters to a formally appointed political panel. The voting population is cut out of the process and back room politics determine who shall become a judge.

Next time you speak with your Chicago personal injury attorney ask them if they contribute to the campaign of the the judge that will be hearing your case!

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About the Firm Chicago Illinois Personal Injury Lawyers

http://www.rickgrossman.com 866-942-8024 The attorneys at Steinberg, Burtker & Grossman practice exclusively in the area of personal injury litigation. For representation, contact the firm today in Chicago, Illinois.

Representative Cases

  • $8.3 Million to a tire serviceman who suffered brain damage and quadraparesis as a result of the explosion of a defective multi-piece rim.
  • $4.0 Million to the estate of a man who died after knee replacement surgery at Evanston Hospital.
  • $3.1 Million to the estate of a woman who died post child birth at the University of Chicago Hospital.
  • $2.2 Million to the estate of a woman that was killed in a roll over vehicle accident on the Kennedy Expressway.
  • $2.1 Million to the estate of a over medicated man who died at Rush University Medical Center.
  • $2.0 Million to a tuck pointer who fell from scaffolding.
  • $1.0 Million to the estate of an elderly woman who fell from her bed at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
  • $1.0 Million to the estate of a woman killed by a City of Chicago fireman.
  • $1.0 Million to the estate of a single woman killed in an airplane crash.
  • $1.0 Million to the estate of a man who died in Loyola Hospital as a result of the mechanical failure of a respirator.
  • $1.0 Million for the death of a baby from delayed treatment at Roseland Community Hospital.
  • $800,000 to a man from undiagnosed carpel tunnel syndrome at Rush University Medical Center.
  • $750,000 to motorcyclist who sustained severe injuries to his leg when struck by a motor vehicle.

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