In Governor Rauner's State of the State Address in February 2015, he made direct remarks about his plans to reform the personal injury legal system in Illinois. Among his remarks, he proposed prohibiting trial lawyers from contributing to judge's campaigns. Injury attorneys at Pintas & Mullins explain how this proposal would critically jeopardize the rights of injured citizens.
Not once in his campaign for governor did Rauner mention his intention for radical change in the legal system. He is now proposing to prevent trial lawyers - those advocating for injured plaintiffs against corporate wrongdoers - from contributing donations to judge's campaigns. His proposal targets trial lawyers exclusively, not defense lawyers, or counsel working on behalf of Big Business or its allies.
In Illinois, judges are chosen by popular vote, making campaigns as important as those for other public office. In recent years, these judicial elections have become as expensive as any other campaigns, forcing candidates to rely on outside supporters. Judicial elections are also dominated by Big Business including insurance companies and others who make no secret of electing judges who will decide in favor of corporations at the expense of everyday citizens.
To put this in realistic terms, let's say someone catastrophically injured by a pharmaceutical drug chose to sue Pfizer. This patient now suffers a severe disabiliy and is largely unable to work because of it. Because of a defective drug, they require a lifetime of medical care, with little to no money to pay for it. This is already a David-and-Goliath scenario.
Rauner is now proposing to prevent the lawyers representing this injured plaintiff from making campaign contributions to judges. His proposal would not, however, prevent the lawyer defending Pfizer from making contributions. This is not only corrupt and immoral, but it is plainly unconstitutional. It is preventing a member of society from participating in democracy based on their profession.
In other parts of his speech, Rauner stated that workers' compensation and liability costs needed to be reformed. Illinois has one of the most worker-friendly compensation systems in the country, which Big Business views as an immense threat to wealth. Millionaires and billionaires like Rauner disapprove of the plaintiff-friendly nature of our courts because it properly compensates injured workers, instead of keep the lower and middle classes in their place.
Insurance companies, Big Pharma, and nursing home corporate owners are all allies of Rauner. In fact, Rauner was recently involved in a scandal for his work with a decrepit nursing home chain in Florida. The nursing homes were responsible for numerous deaths and atrocious injuries and named Rauner's firm, GTCR, as helping mastermind the nursing home's operations.
The nursing home chain, Trans Healthcare, was hit with $1 billion in liability after several deaths and rampant resident abuse claims. GTCR, Rauner's firm, co-founded Trans Healthcare in 1998. Rauner sat on the nursing home chain's board for four years, during the time Trans was actively and knowingly understaffing its facilities to boost profits. More on this scandal can be found here.
Rauner and his firm depended entirely on defense attorneys to get them out of this $1 billion liability. Is it any surprise that now, with his new election to governor, he is supporting those lawyers, judges and special interest groups that stood beside him? In doing so, he is muting the voices of those who need their rights protected the most: the elderly, sick, injured, and poor.