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Press Release - May 1, 2012

Legal Watchdog Group And Local Leaders Join Together To Host "Create Jobs, Not Lawsuits" Public Forum

Mayors, school officials and small business owners will discuss the high costs of living in a state ranked as the "Lawsuit Abuse Capital of the Midwest" and will propose ways to reduce frivolous litigation and create more jobs in southern Illinois

(Marion) - Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW), Marion Mayor Robert Butler, Herrin Mayor Vic Ritter, Regional Superintendent of Schools Matt Donkin and several other community leaders are joining together today to host a public forum to discuss the adverse impact of lawsuit abuse on job creation, municipal services and schools.

The forum is the first stop in Illinois of the national "Create Jobs, Not Lawsuits" public awareness tour that is taking place in states all across the country throughout 2012. Southern Illinois was chosen for the first stop in Illinois due to the region's long history as a hotbed for frivolous litigation.

Forum participants will share stories of how lawsuit abuse impacts their operations and will discuss proposals to create jobs and restore city services by implementing common sense lawsuit reforms.

"For far too long, Illinois has been creating lawsuits, not jobs," explained Travis Akin, I-LAW Executive Director. "Our state's economy is struggling, and lawsuit abuse is making it harder to get back on track. Mayors and small business owners will tell you that it is extremely difficult to create new jobs in a state that was ranked 45th in the country for legal fairness, as Illinois was. We are joining together today because we cannot wait any longer to develop ways to restore fairness to our courts and consequently create new jobs."

Illinois has long been viewed as the "Lawsuit Abuse Capital of the Midwest," ranking 45th out of 50 states for legal fairness in a recent report from the non-partisan Harris Research Company.

Mark Williams, Vice President of Marketing at Rent One, said money businesses spend on fighting lawsuits is money businesses could spend expanding and creating more jobs. "Businesses want to be in position of hiring more because that means the business is growing and expanding," Williams said. "Litigation is a major concern for businesses and in Illinois it is an even bigger concern because of the state's litigious climate."

The three mayors participating in the forum said abusive lawsuits also hurt communities because money spent on litigation is money that could be better spent on other more worthwhile projects. Herrin Mayor Vic Ritter explained, "The money cities spend fighting frivolous lawsuits is taxpayer money that's sucked out of our city budgets. That means we have to cut jobs, reduce services or raise taxes."

Franklin-Williamson Regional Superintendents of Schools Matt Donkin said that litigation is a concern for school districts in Southern Illinois. "When we talk about higher administrative costs these days, it is often caused by the extra work required because school districts are often threatened with the possibility of a lawsuit," Donkin said. "With budgets already tight, one lawsuit can cause financial damage to schools already trying to keep teachers working and programs going that serve students."

In recent years, other Midwestern states have moved to makes their states more conducive to job creation by passing their own lawsuit reform packages, yet efforts to pass badly-needed lawsuit reforms that would restore fairness to Illinois courts have been stymied in Springfield the past several years.

Akin added, "It is time for Illinoisans to stand together and put pressure on our state legislators to finally do something about the rampant lawsuit abuse in Illinois that is stifling job growth. While other states around us have made lawsuit reform a priority, it is a problem that continues to be ignored in Illinois. The end result is that Illinois has a higher unemployment rate than any other surrounding state."

Additional participants in today's forum include: Jim Marlo, Owner of Southern Illinois Dental Laboratory, Nan Fowler, small business owner and entrepreneur, Deborah Bost Pittman, small business owner and entrepreneur and Sharee Whatcott Langenstein, Attorney at Law.

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