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The Lone Justice Fighting For Retention

Illinois Supreme Court

There's a last-minute push to unseat one of Illinois' Supreme Court justices. That's difficult to do -- a sitting judge doesn't have to win a race. He just has to get 60-percent of voters' to agree to his retention.

That hasn't stopped trial lawyers. State campaign finance records show a handful of firms gave nearly $2 million this month toward an effort to knock Justice Lloyd Karmeier (CAR-my-ur) from the bench. Ads airing in southern Illinois attack Karmeier for taking money from cigarette giant Philip Morris and insurance company State Farm, and later ruling on cases in their favor. In both instances, Karmeier decided with the majority.

His campaign manager, Ron Deedrick, says the opposition may have another motive.

"If he is retained, they will then turn around after the election and after he's sworn in for a new term for ten years, and make the same argument. he is unfit to sit on the bench regarding these two cases," Deedrick said.

The Illinois Supreme Court is set to re-hear the Philip Morris case, which carries a $10 billion verdict. The State Farm case is also still active; there's a separate case in federal court related to the firm's earlier campaign contributions.

A call to a law firm that Tuesday held a press conference in Belleville denouncing Karmeier never got returned.

A similar, high-dollar Supreme Court retention battle played out four years ago; in the end, Justice Thomas Kilbride held onto his seat.

Watchdog groups say they're worried by the money flowing into judicial races.

The Illinois State Bar Association recommends Karmeier be retained.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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