More Judges Suing for Libel

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A newspaper appealing a libel verdict can’t get a hearing before the Illinois Supreme Court.

That’s because one of the high court justices was the plaintiff, and four other justices testified on their colleague’s behalf, Adam Liptak writes in his Sidebar column for the New York Times.

The Kane County Chronicle, a suburban Chicago newspaper, has been ordered to pay $4 million to Chief Justice Robert Thomas for a column suggesting politics influenced his handling of a case against a prosecutor.

The case illustrates a problem. “Libel lawsuits by judges, which have spiked in recent years, put an unusual strain on the justice system,” Liptak writes.

He cites figures showing judges filed 1 percent of libel lawsuits in 1998, and 6 percent in 2005. In a June 22 article, Tony Mauro of Legal Times said those figures raise questions about whether judges have a right to be as litigious as everyone else.

Without an avenue for appeal, the newspaper has filed a suit against Thomas in federal court in Chicago.

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