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Law firms involved in huge verdicts move to stop retention of Ill. SC justice

By David Yates | Oct 28, 2014

Karmeier 140x150

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Legal Newsline) – Law firms fighting to reclaim billions of dollars in two verdicts originally wiped away by the Illinois Supreme Court have moved to stop the retention of one the justices responsible for overturning the judgments.

As first reported by the Madison-St. Clair Record, on Oct. 23 the Charleston, S.C., law firm Richardson Patrick Westbrook & Brickman and attorney Christine Moody, partner at Korein Tillery in St. Louis, contributed a total of $500,000 to Campaign for 2016 – a committee bent on stopping the retention of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier.

The Richardson firm, a law firm specializing in asbestos litigation, donated $300,000, while Moody gave $200,000.

On Monday, Moody gave another $200,000, with fellow Korein Tillery attorney George Zelcs also chipping in another $300,000, campaign finance records show.

Just two weeks earlier, on Oct. 16, Zelcs had made a contribution of $300,000, bringing his total to $600,000.

Moody’s first contribution ($200,000) came on Oct. 21. To date, she has also contributed $600,000.

While attorneys for both firms declined to comment on the ample donations, court records hint at a reason why the firms might fund a committee solely focused on stopping the retention of Karmeier.

On April 29, the Illinois' Fifth District Appellate Court reinstated a $10.1 billion verdict stemming from Philip Morris USA Inc.’s marketing of “light” cigarettes in the case of Sharon Price, et al. v. Philip Morris.

Several years earlier, in 2005, Karmeier sided with the majority in overturning the $10.1 billion jury verdict, finding the Federal Trade Commission authorized the use of “light, low or reduced” in cigarette descriptions.

Some of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the still active case include Zelcs and Richardson firm attorneys Michael J. Brickman and Nina Hunter Fields.

Campaign finance records show the firms have directed more money into stopping Karmeier’s retention in Illinois than all other contests combined this election cycle.

On the federal level, Korein Tillery attorneys have contributed a total of $181,450 to Congressional races, with the bulk of the donations ($127,600) going to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, according to

A few of the Congressional candidates supported by the firm and its attorneys include:

-Alison Grimes, the Democratic Senate hopeful from Kentucky, $7,800;

-Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., $5,200; 

-Rep. William Enyart, D-Ill., $5,200;

-Tom Udall, D-N.M., $5,200; and

-Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., $5,000.

In South Carolina, attorneys for Richardson Patrick Westbrook & Brickman, a firm spawned in 2002 by attorneys who left a firm that became Motley Rice, have contributed $131,600 on the federal level in 2014.

The top recipients, according to, include:

-DGA Action $35,000;

-Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee $33,400;

-Democratic Party of South Carolina $20,400;

-Elizabeth Colbert Busch, D-S.C., $10,200;

-Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., $7,500; and

-James Clyburn, D-S.C., $7,400.

On the state level, the Richardson firm has given around $140,000 in the past nine years, which includes $75,000 to the Illinois Democratic Party and $28,500 to the South Carolina Democratic Party, according to

The Richardson and Tillery firms are not the only law firms with a stake in Karmeier’s retention.

Campaign finance records show on Oct. 21, Power, Rogers & Smith, a Chicago law firm also representing the plaintiffs in the Phillip Morris litigation, donated $150,000 to Campaign for 2016.

Overall, attorneys for the Power firm have been active in 2014, donating more than $342,000 to political action committees and congressional candidates, according to

Some of the top recipients of the firm include:

-The DSCC $97,200;

-Durbin $26,100;

-Democratic Party of Illinois $25,000;

-The DCCC $20,000;

-U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa; and

-Udall $12,200.

In addition to the Power firm, Clifford Law Offices in Chicago also donated $150,000 to Campaign for 2016 on Oct. 21.

In 2005, Karmeier and the Supreme Court overturned a $1 billion verdict in Avery v. State Farm – a still active case handled in part by Clifford Law Offices.

Campaign for 2016’s money has gone towards 30-second spots attacking Karmeier, accusing him of “letting corporations buy justice.”

In 2004, Karmeier raised nearly $5 million in his campaign to claim a seat on the Supreme Court, campaign records show.

In September 2011, the plaintiffs attorneys in the State Farm suit filed a petition asking the high court to reconsider the decision to overturn, asserting Karmeier received between $2.5 and $4 million in contributions from the insurance company, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.

Reach David Yates at

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Chicago TribuneIllinois Fifth District Appellate CourtIllinois Supreme Court