As experienced medical malpractice attorneys practicing predominately in Illinois, we breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Illinois Supreme Court recently struck down as unconstitutional, once again, legislation that capped the amount of damages recoverable in medical malpractice cases. Unfortunately, one of the judges responsible for that opinion, Thomas L. Kilbride, now faces a challenge from various pro-business/pro-insurance lobbiests in his retention campaign. Judge Kilbride of the 3rd Judicial District is up for retention in November and must receive 60 percent of the vote to stay on the court.
As noted in Friday’s headline story of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Judge Kilbride, who was elected in 2000, and who is one of four Illinois Supreme Court justices up for retention this year, is facing attacks from several pro-business special interest groups. He has been the target of groups like the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Medical Society, and the Illinois Civil Justice League. The focus of such attacks have been the court’s recent decision in Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital that declared caps on medical malpractice awards unconstitutional.
Experts believe these pro-business and pro-medical interest groups will spend large amounts of money to deny Judge Kilbride’s re-election. No Illinois Supreme Court justice has ever not been retained in a re-election campaign.
Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys question whether judges should be appointed to the court through popular election in the first place. Most voters, even experienced attorneys, place their vote on election day without any information concerning the experience and competency of the judges they are asked to elect. Shouldn’t our judges in Illinois, like federal court judges and like judges in most states, be appointed under a merit-based system and after being thoroughly vetted by those most knowledgeable about the candidate’s background and experience?
Well, that’s besides the point for purposes of Judge Kilbride’s re-election campaign. The more important question is the role of politics in the judiciary. Judges, especially judges on the state’s highest court, should be charged with upholding the constitution, notwithstanding political repercussions for their decision. In Lebron, the Court held, just as it had several years ago in the Best decision, that the state’s attempts at taking the right to award damages in medical malpractice cases away from a jury violated the constitution. Now, because that decision may be contrary to popular opinion — based upon the millions of dollars spent by the insurance lobby and other powerful pro-business interest groups spreading misinformation — it may cost Judge Kilbride his job.
Passen & Powell’s top-rated Chicago personal injury lawyers will continue to fight for individuals and families to have their rights protected and their voices heard, even in the face of powerful interests who would like nothing more than to silence them.
For a free consultation with a top-rated personal injury or medical malpractice lawyer with Passen & Powell, call us at 312-527-4500.