Under the Robes

Campaign contributions put state supreme court justices in a bind

This is one of the hazards of electing judges.

"Four Illinois Supreme Court justices have been asked to withdraw from hearing an appeal of a legal-malpractice case against Corboy & Demetrio, one of the nation's top personal-injury firms, because the justices have gotten political contributions from the Chicago firm's attorneys," the Sun-Timesreports.

According to a motion filed in the case, members of the firm - and two of the firm's expert witnesses - contributed $52,000 to the campaign of Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald and $30,000 to Justice Charles Freeman.  Justice Anne Burke received only $1,500, but the firm gave $24,000 to her husband, Ald. Ed Burke.  Justice Robert Thomas was also named as a recipient of campaign money.

Corboy & Demetrio is a big player in Illinois political circles -- and makes no apologies for it. The firm's Michael Reagan told the Sun-Times that the contributions were "ordinary" and are a "fact of life in a democracy."

But should lawyers in a democracy give campaign contributions to the judges who will decide their cases?

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