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Monday, March 21, 2005

Illinois Supreme Court Rules Money Isn't a Conflict of Interest

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As Kevin McDermott reports in the St. Louis Dispatch, the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that a campaign contribution from a donor to a judge does not constitute a conflict of interest when that donor appears in a case before the judge. In this case, the donor - State Farm Insurance - gave $350,000 to then-candidate for the Illinois Supreme Court Lloyd Karmeier.

I had to read it twice myself. It gets worse.

In the 2004 election in which State Farm made the contribution, Karmeier defeated Gordon Maag for the spot on the Illinois Supreme Court. As an appellate judge, Maag had previously ruled against State Farm at an earlier stage in the same case.

So, Maag rules against State Farm. State Farm spends $350,000 to defeat Maag's efforts to win election to the Supreme Court. Maag loses. The State Farm case goes to the state Supreme court, which includes a guy they just gave $350,000. That court then rules that the $350,000 isn't a conflict of interest.

John Grisham couldn't write this stuff.

A better system of electing judges is public financing. The impartiality that the judiciary must have to be effective and to deserve the public's confidence demands a system that prevents any company or individual from buying themselves a judicial election whenever it benefits them. One state, North Carolina, already has a system of public financing for judges, which worked well in the last election, providing the public with confidence in the impartiality of judges.

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