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Chamber: Illinois biz court climate still abysmal

Thursday, Apr 24, 2008 - Posted by Rich Miller

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says Illinois still has one of the most anti-business court climates in America, despite progress in the once-vilified Madison County civil courts.

The business group ranked the state’s civil courts 46th, the same as last year. Missouri ranked 31st, according to a report released Tuesday.

The group said reforms in Madison County, once labeled a “judicial hellhole” by business groups, have been balanced out by rampant lawsuit abuse in Cook County, the state’s largest county.

* So, how were the rankings made? Here’s the explanation

All interviews for The 2008 State Liability Systems Ranking Study were conducted by telephone among a nationally representative sample of in-house general counsel, senior litigators and other senior attorneys who are knowledgeable about litigation matters at companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million. Interviews averaging 23 minutes in length wereconducted with a total of 957 respondents and took place between December 18, 2007 and March 19, 2008.

* Nationally, that’s not a bad sample size at all. However, state by state sample sizes were pretty darned small. Indiana, which ranked 4th best in the nation, had a survey sample size of just 58 people. Illinois’ ranking appears to be based on 131 respondents, but the Harris poll claims 250 were interviewed, so I’m not exactly sure about that.

* The Illinois poll found that…

Greater than one out of every two business decision makers (53%) has made a business decision primarily to avoid a potential lawsuit.

That’s pretty open-ended. Did some of the companies produce a safer product because of the threat of a lawsuit? Did a restaurant go out of its way to clean thoroughly clean its kitchen, for instance? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

* There’s no doubt that the trial lawyers have had the upper hand at the General Assembly over the past few decades, even though the GA did pass a significant medical malpractice reform bill. The Illinois Trial Lawyers had this point-by-point response to the survey…

* Only corporate defense lawyers from companies earning $100 million or more were surveyed. No local attorneys, judges, or media were surveyed.

* The methodology has already been debunked. U.S. Chamber’s own pollster admitted to Copley News Service in 2004 that there is no way to measure the fairness of a state’s legal system.

* In 2006, U.S. Chamber’s CEO and the same pollster confessed to the Charleston Gazette that only a fraction of corporate defense lawyers knew anything about West Virginia’s courts, even though they ranked poorly at 49th.

* There is no margin of error or evidence the “rankings” are statistically valid. U.S. Chamber lists multiple tables pretending to detail the methodology without actually revealing the response rate or accuracy of its poll.

Even so, this is an interesting snapshot and worth discussion.

Try not to spew talking points in the comments, please. Stay reasoned and reasonable. Vitriol will be deleted.


  1. - Reddbyrd - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 10:41 am:

    Very funny stuff. I love the way Capt. Fax tries to make us laugh out loud…All interviews for The 2008 State Liability Systems Ranking Study were conducted by telephone among a nationally representative sample of in-house general counsel, senior litigators and other senior attorneys who are knowledgeable about litigation matters at companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million. ….
    …This is like doing a poll of crackheads on the best place to get high America or Amsterdam where is *()(()^() is legal.
    Thanks for making us chuckle

  2. - Vitriol - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 10:44 am:

    Why you pickin’ on me?

  3. - RMW Stanford - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 10:45 am:

    It would be nice to study done on this topic by a more disinterested party, both the Chamber and the Trial Lawyers have some degree of biases, the trial lawyers probably more so of the two.
    My own feeling is that legal climate in Illinois is probably unjustly hurting business here and in turn harming the state’s economy. What I would like to see is a more independent group do a study on the economic cost of the state’s legal climate to business and the public.

  4. - Bill - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 10:48 am:

    “Try not to spew talking points in the comments, please.”
    I guess that leaves me out!

  5. - wordslinger - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 10:56 am:

    “Shopping” for advantage cuts both ways. Delaware is ranked #1 by the chamber — where does everyone incorporate?

  6. - TVOR - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 10:59 am:

    Where’s YDD? Oh wait no empty talking points allowed …

  7. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 11:10 am:

    Not only were we ranked close to the bottom, the entire ranking was based on a curve, not some abstract perfection. So this is bad news that should be taken seriously. Cry all you want about bias, the bias was applied equally, and we still stunk.

    For too long we have been raising people to believe that they are owed something. That their lot in life is due to being owed by someone. Trial lawyers feed off this. They troll on television during daytime programs, looking for clients who feel they are owed by someone. Sometimes these legal ads troll for clients by parading asbestos exposure or pharmaceuticals taken off the market. They are looking for clients that feel owed.

    This attitude is deadly. Not only does it corrupt businesses, it puts many businesses out of business. This attitude encourages multi-million dollar lawsuits against family run operations and libels them as negligent insensitive individuals. Even frivolous lawsuits destroy small businesses during the judicial process exposing the frivolity. When people feel they are owed, they often feel justified in behaving badly.

    We need balance. Our state is too skewed towards trial lawyers. We do not have sufficient safeguards protecting individuals from this attitude. If we wish to change Illinois from it’s traditional 20th Century business model, we have to free those who are unable to risk building the 21st Century model. Our current situation isn’t balanced - it drives businesses away.

    When we were wealthy, we could ignor things like this. We could afford waste 50 years ago, couldn’t we? In today’s Illinois, we must learn to compete, just as Illinoians successfully learned to do 150 years ago. We no longer have that luxury. One of the first things we did when we settled the wilderness is drive away the predators who killed the livestock. Today, it is trial lawyers who are driving the livestock away.

  8. - Question the status quo - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 11:12 am:

    Why not approach this from another direction?
    Examine the benefits we get from an unfettered tort system. Are there ANY aside from consumer protection that might be achieved with a somewhat restricted system like other states have?
    Are places with tort reforms doing better than us economically?
    That is certainly true.
    Are their consumers suffering some harm as a result?
    Haven’t seen any evidence of that in any of the tort reform states.
    It was obvious in the microcosm of the medical malpractice area that Doctors were leaving the state and healthcare consumers’ needs were not being met.
    It is also obvious that business keeps leaving our state. Is the indefinable benefit from aggressively pursing tortfeasors outweighing the fact that it is harder to get a job here?

    Consider this, lawyers used to be merely a professional service, like a plumber or a doctor. Now they are a social and economic force all of their own. When will we put the brakes on it?

  9. - PhilCollins - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 11:26 am:

    I know a Glen Ellyn neurologist who said, three years ago, that his salary was about $600,000, per year. He said that his malpractice insurance premiums were about $400,00, per year. He said that, if the premium increases, he’ll quit medicine.

  10. - Ghost - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 11:47 am:

    I would be interested to know what is different about our system and the system in Delaware other then the subjective “feeling” of those interviewed. For example, Del righted higher in the enforcement of meaningful venue requirments.

    How so? Does Del have a diff veneu Statute then Il? If not, how about an indication of what is a “bad” venue decision? Once we know what a “bad” venue decision is how many times did IL courts acutally issue such decisions.

    The entire study contains no identifiable criteria or actual comparisons. it is not based on case decisions or a sampling of case decisions. if you can point to different statutory language in how certain legal standards are in each State, or court rulings, you have at least talking points. This is nothing but antecdoctal commentary without any factual support.

  11. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 11:55 am:

    Cap Fax should give an award for the best interpretation of Reddbyrd’s drawing.

  12. - Bruno - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 12:02 pm:

    I don’t know that surveys are as robust as a robust review of actual data. That said, the nations employment numbers are basically one set of stats and one survey.

    Assuming that the respondent aren’t embellishing or being led, the information probably has credence.

    My guess is that the rights of citizens will always take a back seat to Business Lobby and Trial Lobby bickering.

  13. - Change Need For More Illinois Jobs - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 12:05 pm:


    “Nothing but antecdoctal commentary” …other than the commentary and opinions were shaped by the very same people who make the decisions where economic expansion and new jobs will be located.

    Again, this is a poll, and a rather large and expansive one, done by Harris Interactive - a fairly prominent and respected name in surveying.

    Studies with statute, legal, and issue comparisons are available, try the PRI study here.

  14. - Ghost - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 12:37 pm:

    CHange, there is nothing in that study you linked which compare ILL actual laws, or decisions of IL courts to Del Law or Del court decisions.

    Your underlying concept that those who percieve theri is a problem should be heeded because they make decisions about employment contains a flaw, if there is no actual problem with the courts in IL compared to Del, there is nothing to fix no matter how big decisions makers “feel” about the State.

    In other words, if we have a problem identify the actual problem. if Del has a law which says “x”, and Il does not, then lets discuss adding law X to our books. if Del courts have the same basic law as IL, but IL court decisions apply it in manner why, while Del courts apply it in manner x, then again we need to consider tightening the law towards the desired outcome, or examing why the judicial decisions on the same legal language differ between the two states.

    This is a big nothing to discuss. I feel Illinois is not good creates neither opportunity for change or point to discuss. So far we just have no actual basis to support the exsiatnce of disparity between IL and Del or an identifiable point to discuss.

  15. - Southern Illinois - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 12:41 pm:

    I didn’t particpate in any survey. But the construction firm that I’m involved with continues to do more commercial work outside the state of Illinois than within.

    And that wasn’t always the case. Sadly, many of the firms that we are doing business with have operations inside the state of Illinois. But their expansion plans, rarely, if ever, include the land of Lincoln any more.

    The pendind structural work act is just another example of the anti-business attitude coming from Springfield. I don’t need a survey to know that Illinois is driving business from the state. I’m living it.

  16. - Ghost - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 12:45 pm:

    SOuthern that makes no sense. We repealled the Sturtural Wortk Act a decade ago. If that was hurting the buisness climate then we should have enjoyed a decade of increased business under the friendly climate created by its repeal.

    They are discussing bringing it back, which I think is a horrible idea and an actual point capable of being discussed in regards to IL court system and business. BUT is represents a possible future problem, not the idenfication of a current problem with the existsing system.

  17. - Sango Dem - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 1:42 pm:

    A bunch of corporate attorneys think courts should be more friendly to their bosses. Big surprise! The judiciary is overloaded with former corporate lawyers. I have no smypathy for the Chamber whining that their stranglehold on the judiciary isn’t as tight in some areas.

  18. - Skeeter - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 2:04 pm:


    Actually, that is the case. There has been a building boom which unfortunately is peaking (interest rates are doing the damage).

    To say that the Structural Work Act has no impact is ridiculous. It does. When you make a General Contractor or an Owner a de facto party to a worker’s compensation case (but with more recoverable for the plaintiff) and when you for all intents and purposes remove the worker’s own fault from the equation, you are going to increase the cost of construction.

    Cook County is a bad place for defendants. It just is. Juries give away money and judges issue rulings against defendants. The real question is whether the judge will be sort of against the defendant (where the defense loses on the close calls only) or whether the defendant simply gets its rear end kicked.

  19. - Law School Anyone? - Thursday, Apr 24, 08 @ 2:19 pm:

    Tort systems have very little to do with Business Corporation Acts.
    I mean to say that where you are incorporated (and the tax and shareholder protections that follow) have almost nothing to do with where your corporation can be sued or how a tort will be litigated.
    Long ago it was determined that if a Delaware Corp. is doing business here it can be sued for torts here.
    And a multitude of small businesses (including Doctor offices) are not incorporated at all.
    When you don’t understand that, how can you possibly be qualified to understand what these businesses are actually complaining about?

    Trial lawyes “forum shop” in Cook County all the time?
    Can anyone give an honest answer as to why?
    It’s the largest unified court system in the United States so it’s not for the efficiency of Cook County government.

  20. - Trust - Friday, Apr 25, 08 @ 3:00 am:

    I trust lawyers more than docs and the insurance industry the least

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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