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Messy, Expensive Judiciary Race Stays Messy, Expensive After Election

By vouchey in News on Dec 22, 2004 4:46PM

Karmeier-Maag.jpgMost Chicagoans wouldn't know it, but Southern Illinois is leading the nation in judiciary politics. On Monday Gordon Maag, the loser of an intense race for supreme court in Southern Illinois against Lloyd Karmeier, filed a $110 million defamation suit charging that some of the groups opposing his candidacy lied about his record and ruined his reputation.

Fans of Court TV know: Maag has got a tough case to make. And the great irony of Maag's suit is that is exactly the kind of tort he was accused of promoting as a sitting appellate court judge - expensive, and seemingly frivolous. Adding to the excitement, Maag filed the case in his home of Madison County, Illinois, a county named by the American Tort Reform Association as a "Judicial Hell Hole".

As any Chicago voter who has plowed through the pages of obscure names at the back of their ballot knows, Illinois doesn't appoint its judges, it elects them. While Illinois government has had an elected judiciary since its founding, judiciary contests took two forms: In Chicago judgeships were barely-contested positions filled with friends of the machine; in the rest of the state, judge elections were sleepy affairs mainly concerned with name recognition on election day. Judge campaign financing had been climbing in recent years, but then came the Maag-Karmier race for the Supreme Court seat in Southern Illinois.

As of Election Day 2004 Gordon Maag's campaign had received $4,231,663 and Lloyd Karmeier had received $4,301,156. In its final months the Maag-Karmeier race became an orgy of spending, including the founding of a legal newspaper by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which was hoping to influence voter attitudes towards tort reform. The final campaign finance tallies due next month are expected to show much more spending, including considerable non-candidate, interest group spending.