It's a shame that your newspaper buys into the propaganda put forth by one of the nation's biggest front groups funded by a "who's who" of corporate giants interested in minimizing their financial exposure and avoiding accountability for acts and practices that cause harm and injury.
The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) is dedicated to help corporations evade responsibility for wrongdoing by undermining the civil justice system. Each year at this time ATRA issues an update to its inflammatorily titled "Judicial Hellholes" report, employing junk research to stoke public fear and foster misperception about how the legal system works. This report, like so many in the past, contains factual inaccuracies which further undermine the validity of their so-called "rankings".
Interestingly enough, the Illinois Civil Justice League - which is closely allied with ATRA - disagrees with the placement of Madison County on the judicial hellhole list and has stated that Madison County and its judicial leadership have taken major steps toward improvement of its judicial system and is not deserving of the "hellhole" title.
It's often only through our courts that citizens can get a fair shake, particularly when taking on such powerful special interests. No entity, government official or business should be permitted to use its power to infringe upon the right of citizens to have their day in court.
The truth is that corporations don't fear frivolous lawsuits; they know our justice system screens out the very few suits that are without merit. What they fear are meritorious lawsuits: actions brought by citizens against corporations producing unsafe products, polluting air and water, swindling their employees, or otherwise acting irresponsibly.
The real "judicial hellhole" is the one that ATRA and its allies wish to create: a court system in which regular citizens have no prospects for fair treatment and justice because their hard-won rights have been stripped away by powerful special interests.
Gregory L. Shevlin is president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. He is an attorney in the Belleville law firm of Cook, Ysursa, Bartholomew, Brauer & Shevlin.