Study: Illinois courts among least fair

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), Illinois Chamber of Commerce and Illinois Civil Justice League released a two-week television and radio advertising campaign aimed at sending a message to Springfield: Illinois’ ranking in judicial fairness is costing Illinois taxpayers and sending jobs out of state.

According to a Harris State Liability Systems Ranking Study conducted earlier this year by ILR, Illinois ranked 45 out of 50 for having a fair and reasonable judicial system—an important factor in business. The commercials, which are a series of testimonials from business owners and workers, show concern about the ability for businesses to survive in a state ranked 45th for having one of the worst legal climates in the country for business. The business community is looking toward the legislative session, and is hopeful for real comprehensive reform measures to take shape.

Doug Whitley, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said: “It’s no secret Illinois’ business climate is suffering, and our reputation for lawsuit abuse is a big reason why. These ads highlight the dramatic effect our state’s broken legal system is having on employers throughout the state. The time for lawsuit reform is now.”

Although Illinois’ legal fairness ranking improved slightly over the past year—up one spot to No. 45—it is only a result of the federal Class Action Fairness Act passed last year, and several positive rulings by the state Supreme Court. The fact remains that Illinois has a long way to go to enact meaningful reform measures. Consider the following facts from the Survey:

31 percent of respondents rated at least one Illinois jurisdiction as having among the least fair and reasonable litigation environments in the country. Two Illinois counties—Cook and Madison—were rated among the top four worst jurisdictions, and St. Clair County was in the top 25.

Illinois is ranked in the bottom five in each of the following categories rated by respondents: having and enforcing meaningful venue requirements, treatment of class action suits and mass consolidation suits, punitive damages, judges’ impartiality, judges’ competence and juries’ fairness.

70 percent of respondents in that survey said a state’s legal climate affects important business decisions, such as where to locate or do business.

Meaningful lawsuit reforms do exist and have for several years, but plaintiffs’ lawyer allies in the state legislature continue to block this vital legislation.

Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League, said: “Plaintiffs’ attorneys from around the country flock to Illinois courts to file their frivolous lawsuits—and that has a real impact on our small business owners.”

But to protect jobs and the Illinois economy, the governor and legislature need to finish the job by passing the package of meaningful lawsuit reforms that protect jobs and the Illinois economy.

The television and radio spot will air for two weeks in St. Louis and the southern part of the state, and can be viewed at

From the Oct. 18-24, 2006, issue

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