Petition Claims State Farm Secretly Raised Millions for Ill. Justice Who Voted Its Way in $1B Case

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Lawyers seeking to reinstate a $1 billion verdict against State Farm claim the insurer covered up the full extent of its fundraising on behalf of an Illinois Supreme Court justice who voted to overturn the award.

In a petition filed last week, former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson and other Tennessee lawyers claim that State Farm raised between $2.4 million and $4 million on behalf of Lloyd Karmeier, who sided with State Farm in the 2005 decision after winning election. The Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune have stories on the allegations.

Karmeier had refused to recuse himself in the case, a class action that had claimed State Farm breached its contract with customers by using nonoriginal parts in vehicles damaged in crashes. State Farm told the Illinois Supreme Court it had provided $350,000 to the Karmeier campaign. The new petition claims the insurer used the Illinois Civil Justice League to elect Karmeier, according to the Tribune story.

State Farm spokesman Dick Luedke told the Tribune that the case was resolved by the Illinois Supreme Court years ago, and plaintiffs’ attempt to obtain cert were unsuccessful. The Tribune was unable to reach Karmeier for comment.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a different case in 2009 that the Constitution required the recusal of a West Virginia Supreme Court justice who was elected with the help of more than $3 million in contributions from a coal mining executive. The court said the justice should not have participated in a decision overturning a verdict against the CEO’s company. The case was Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Co.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “O’Connor: Want a Qualified, Impartial Judiciary? Don’t Use Contested Elections”

ABA Journal: “Mud and Money: Judicial Elections Turn to Big Bucks and Nasty Tactics”

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