Illinois Associate Justice Lloyd Karmeier is under fire this week after a petition was filed with the court detailing what is alleged to be previously undisclosed support from State Farm Insurance Company before Karmeier voted in favor of its side in a dispute. Previously, State Farm told the court that it had given $350,000 to Karmeier. Now plaintiffs lawyers, including former Sen. Fred Thompson, allege that he actually received between $2.4 million and $4 million from State Farm sources.
In 2005, Karmeier voted with State Farm after securing his seat with the help of large amounts of contributions from the company. Now the attorneys are alleging the company lied and asking the court to reconsider a $1 billion verdict against State Farm. The former FBI agent Michael Reece hired by the plaintiffs states “The bottom line of my investigation is that State Farm used the Illinois Civil Justice League to elect Judge Karmeier and Judge Karmeier knew it.” Reece stated in his affidavit that accompanied the petition.
Karmeier was asked but had declined to recuse himself from the class-action case against State Farm.
In the 2009 opinion in Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Co., the Supreme Court held that a West Virginia appellate judge should have recused himself from a case where Charleston lawyer Brent Benjamin received $3 million in campaign contributions before his election. he then voted to overturn a verdict against a contributor due to the “serious risk of actual bias.” Justice Kennedy wrote that “[t]he inquiry centers on the contribution’s relative size in comparison to the total amount of money contributed to the campaign, the total amount spent in the election, and the apparent effect such contribution had on the outcome of the election.”
In this case, you have the added allegation that both company lawyers and Karmeier himself knew the earlier representation to the Court was false. It is also highly disturbing to see a company putting out this level of support for a judicial officer. Insurance companies are not known to be cavalier about their money. Giving millions to a single state judicial officer’s campaign is presumably done in anticipation of a positive return on the investment.