Monday, May 24, 2010

Medical malpractice likely campaign issue for state Supreme Court justice

While Thomas Kilbride has made a host of decisions while serving as a justice on the Illinois Supreme Court for the past 10 years, just one will likely be the focus of his retention bid in November.

In February, Kilbride voted with the majority of the state's high court to limit how much a jury can award victims in medical malpractice suits. The controversial decision has some in the medical community fearing doctors will be pushed out of the state because of rising liability insurance rates.

While justices up for retention don't have a formal opponent, many contend simply putting them on the ballot makes them too political. Namely, judges have the backing of political parties and don't have limits on how much they can spend on their own campaign.

This brings into question whether or not judges have an alliance to the law or their fundraisers, said Kent Redfield, political scientist at the University of Illinois Springfield.

"It degrades the legitimacy of the judicial office if people think they are partisan actors," said Redfield.

Redfield's comments were featured in a May 22, 2010, article in the Bloomington Pantagraph.

Download a PDF of the article