Seven years ago, Justice Karmeier was the swing vote in a decision to overturn a $1 million verdict against State Farm Insurance. At the time, he admitted that State Farm had contributed $350,000 to his campaign to be elected to the Illinois Supreme Court and the Plaintiff called for the Justice to recuse himself from the decision because of his obvious bias. The United States Supreme Court, however, said that Justice Karmeier could take part in the decision because the campaign donation was too low to actually sway his judgment. But it’s been revealed that State Farm donated between $2 and 4 million to his $4.5 million campaign.
The Plaintiff has now filed a motion to reconsider the case, claiming that State Farm bought a verdict when they lied and misled the Court about the campaign donations. Justice Karmeier claims that since the issue of whether he had to recuse himself has been to the Supreme Court and he was allowed to weigh in on the verdict. And to add to the controversy, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that a West Virginia Supreme Court judge should not have ruled in a case involving a coal-mining company that raised the lion’s share of his campaign’s budget.
The question here, though, is not only whether State Farm effectively “bought” this verdict, but also how many similar verdicts have they swayed in a similar manner? When insurance companies are allowed to donate huge amounts of money to judicial candidates through Political Action Committees, our entire justice system is undermined. The decision of a jury comprised of twelve impartial citizens from the community in which the controversy originates shouldn’t be overturned in this manner.
When we let big business and national insurance companies have such enormous influence over our judicial elections, we deprive the ordinary citizen of the chance to balance the scales. Contributions like this must be limited and the amounts of those contributions must be public.
The next time an insurance adjuster tells you that you don’t need an attorney because he’ll “be fair,” consider the source.
For more information about the author, Chicago Accident Lawyer Steven A. Sigmond, visit www.chicagoaccidentlawyer.com, or call us at (312) 756-1186.