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Splitting Hairs Over Illinois' Legal Climate


Monday, September 14, 2015   

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Is it just hair splitting? Opinions vary on a new survey from the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform that gives Illinois poor marks for its legal climate.

The state ranks 48th nationally, and Gov. Bruce Rauner responded by saying the litigation environment is making the state less attractive to large businesses.

But Perry Browder, president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, disagrees. He explains that while Illinois and California were ranked as being bad for business, they have two of the biggest economies in the nation.

"If you take those economies and you put it in a worldwide setting, Illinois and California are huge economies that are bigger than some countries,” he points out. “So to place them low on the list for business environments is just not correct."

Browder adds because neighboring states have smaller economies, they see fewer cases.

In the survey, two-thirds of attorneys at U.S. companies said a state's lawsuit environment is likely to impact location and expansion decisions.

More than one-third of respondents felt either Cook County or Madison County had the least fair and reasonable litigation environment.

Harold Kim, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, contends there's too much venue shopping.

"There is a lot of out-of-state litigants who are attracted to the rules of the courts, the fact that the ability to consolidate cases gives plaintiffs’ lawyers a significant advantage to leverage significant settlements," he maintains.

But Browder counters that some of the largest, most complex cases are corporations versus corporations, not individuals. And he says the people's right to due process should be put above profits.

"A lot of times when the corporations and the insurance companies roll out these reports, they're trying to influence the judiciary, they're trying to influence the jurors, and what they're really trying to do is cut off people's access to have their day in court," he states.

Browder notes that the number of cases is going down, with state data showing lawsuit filings have decreased 26 percent in Illinois since 2007.

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