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There has been a lot of discussions in recent months on abolishing the Missouri Court Plan, which provides that, in all appellate courts, including the Missouri Supreme Court, and some county courts, judges will be appointed by the governor from an approved and vetted panel. Those judges will then stand for retention in an election. This has been how Missouri selects and retains its judges for many years. The plan is so successful, that it is hailed around the country as a model to be followed.

But, since Democrat Governor Jay Nixon was elected in 2008, conservatives and business political groups have called for an end to the Missouri Court Plan. (Never mind that they had no problem with the plan when a Republican was doing the appointing …) It has become a main attack point in these highly partisan political times.

Dismantling the Missouri Court Plan is a bad idea. A very bad idea. And you have to look no further than our neighbor Illinois to know why. Illinois elects its judges, including Supreme Court justices. And tens of millions of dollars have been spent in those campaigns in recent years. And what do contributors get for their money? Anything they want.

This article from the Chicago Tribune tells the story in all its sordid detail. Basically, Justice Lloyd Karmeier, a southern Illinois Republican, was elected to the Illinois Supreme Court in 2004 in a race that cost over $9,000,000.

A $1.18 billion dollar judgment had been entered against State Farm if a class action case for breach of contract in providing non-original manufacturer parts in its collision repairs and hiding that fact from its insureds. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the judgment and then it mades its way to the Illinois Supreme Court.

In filings with the Illinois Supreme Court this week, attorneys for the plaintiffs have alleged and provided supporting documents to demonstrate that Justice Karmeier was actually recruited by State Farm to run for the seat on the Illinois Supreme Court in anticipation of the case being heard. These Court filings indicate that directly and through other entities, State Farm donated between $2.5 million and $4 million dollars to Karemeier’s campaign.

Obviously, I don’t know whether these allegations are true or not. If they are true, it is an eerie parallel to supposed fiction, like John Grisham’s “The Appeal”. If it is true, it is a one of the greatest acts of fraud ever perpetrated.

And even if its not true, it just goes to show you that, inherently, electing judges is fraught with danger. Compare it to the recent Republican debate, in which Governor Perry of Texas said “I’m offended that you think I could be bought with $5,000.” Left unsaid was that he could be bought for $350,000 in campaign contributions. If these allegations are true, State Farm made a damn good investment in Justice Karmeier. $4,000,000 to overturn a $1+ billion dollar judgment? Sounds like a hell of a return on their investment to me.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch has reported that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed into law an amendment to the Workers Compensation Law that bars those who are injured while committing a crime from collecting benefits.

The law was spurred by the case of Matt Mitchell, an Illinois State trooper who was convicted of reckless homicide for the deaths of sisters Kelli and Jessica Uhl in 2007. Mitchell was driving his patrol car at speeds in excess of 100 mph responding to a call while texting and operating the patrol car’s computer.

The Illinois Supreme Court has declared legislation imposing a limit, or “cap,” on the amount that a jury can award to the victims of medical malpractice is unconstitutional. In Lebron v Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, the Court held that “statutory caps violate the separation of powers clause of the Illinois Constitution and declared the entire Act invalid.”The case represents a major victory for civil justice. By declaring that a legislature cannot substitute its judgment for that of a jury of citizens, the Illinois Supreme Court has joined a growing number of state supreme courts who have deemed such legislation unconstitutional, or otherwise invalidated such acts.In order to understand what this decision means, it is important to understand what so-called “tort reform” acts “cap.” These acts place a limit, or cap, on what a jury can award in any case for non-monetary damages. These are damages for loss of a normal life, pain and suffering. By placing a uniform limit on these damages, legislatures have, in effect, said that those who are harmed the most should not receive compensation for their losses. The Lebron case is a perfect example:The Lebrons filed suit for injuries their child received during delivery, including severe brain injury, cerebral palsy and cognitive mental impairment. Because of the negligence of the doctor and nurses involved, Abigaile Lebron will never develop normally and will be fed by tube for the rest of her life. And Abigaile is exactly the type of victim of medical malpractice who deserves compensation and, due to tort reform, is exactly the type of patient who is most affected by caps. Because caps act to limit only non-monetary damages, it is the young, the old and those who have low earnings who are most affected by caps. If a 50 year old banker making $250,000 a year is left in the same condition as a 1 year old, that 50 year old banker will be able to show earnings losses in the millions of dollars, in addition to past and future medical bills. But, if the same thing happens to an infant, that infant has no earning history, so it is difficult or impossible to establish those lost earnings. Thus, with caps in place, hospitals and doctors consistently devalue loss of life and injury to the very young and the very old.The Illinois Supreme Court made the right, and just, decision.