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Idea of the Day: Did State Farm Influence the Illinois Supreme Court for Its Own Benefit?

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A sitting Illinois Supreme Court justice could soon face questions under oath about allegations that he voted to overturn a $1 billion verdict against a powerful corporation that secretly spent millions of dollars to help him get elected.

A lawsuit now being tried in an Illinois courtroom alleges that insurance giant State Farm essentially funded and operated a multimillion-dollar campaign in 2004 to elect Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier to the state supreme court. On August 5, 2013, the plaintiffs in Hale v. State Farmtold the judge hearing the case that their “stated intention” is to ask Justice Karmeier to address the allegations in a deposition. The plaintiffs contend that State Farm violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, by using the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Republican Party, and other entities as conduits to conceal its role in funding and operating the justice’s campaign. RICO allows plaintiffs to sue persons or entities involved in a conspiracy to engage in improper activities such as bribery, fraud, or violent crimes. In May of this year, a federal judge denied State Farm’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and ruled that the plaintiffs can continue with discovery. The trial could unearth more details about the extent of State Farm’s involvement in Justice Karmeier’s 2004 campaign.

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