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March 30, 2012

Madison County, Illinois Ends Controversial Asbestos Docket System

Madison County Circuit Judge Clarence Harrison has ended the pre-assignment of asbestos trials to plaintiffs’ law firms. Trials will instead be set on a case-by-case basis. The decision comes three months after Judge Barbara Crowder, whose campaign committee received $30,000 from plaintiffs’ lawyers shortly after she awarded their firms most of the court’s 2013 trial times, was removed from the asbestos docket.

We applaud Judge Harrison for ending Madison County’s longstanding and troubling practice of assigning asbestos trial slots to plaintiffs’ lawyers rather than to individual plaintiffs.

This system created an asbestos lawsuit futures market of immense value and was at the root of the “cash-for-trials” scandal that lead to the reassignment of the docket’s previous presiding judge.

By ending a practice that effectively put Madison County court time up for sale, Judge Harrison has taken an important first step towards cleaning up the court’s misguided approach to resolving asbestos lawsuits.

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