The county board chairman in Madison County, Ill. has asked the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board to carry out a judicial review of a judge’s acceptance of $30,000 in campaign contributions from law firms representing plaintiffs in asbestos-exposure litigation.
Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder recently was reassigned from hearing all asbestos cases after her campaign had received the law firms’ donations (see Gavel Grab).
“Importantly, the acceptance of certain campaign contributions creates a perception of conflict and negatively impacts the image of Madison County, the courts and of Judge Crowder,” said board chairman Alan J. Dunstan, according to an Alton Telegraph article.
“As Madison County Board chairman, I appreciate the quick action of Chief Judge Ann Callis and the other judges in the Third Judicial Circuit to remove Judge Crowder from her former docket. However, despite that action, I believe the judicial review I have requested is warranted.”
Judge Crowder said, “Certainly, the judicial inquiry can run its course, and I will be vindicated.” The judge has said she did nothing wrong. She announced earlier she would return the campaign donations and said there was no connection between her setting trial dates for the asbestos docket on Dec. 1 and her husband, who then was the campaign chairman, asking for the donations. Her husband has resigned as campaign chairman.
Justice at Stake has raised strong concerns about the influence of campaign cash in judicial elections. “Many in the public believe that justice is for sale, because skyrocketing election costs have forced judges to raise money from those who appear before them in court,” JAS states on its issues page about money and elections. “To insulate the courts from special interest excesses, more states are looking at reforming their judicial elections, or advancing proposals to eliminate competitive judicial elections entirely.”