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Press Release

March 22, 2010

NEW HARRIS STUDY RANKS COOK COUNTY THE WORST LOCAL JURISDICTION IN THE COUNTRY FOR LEGAL FAIRNESS

I-LAW says Cook County's poor legal climate is driving jobs and opportunities to other states

(Marion) - Cook County is the worst local jurisdiction for legal fairness according to a new report from the respected Harris Interactive, Inc., polling company.

According to the study, respondents were asked to list the five worst cities or counties with the "least fair and reasonable litigation environments." Cook County was the #1 answer from the survey respondents.

"Everyone wants to be a winner but winning the distinction as the worst local court jurisdiction in the country for legal fairness is not something Cook County residents should relish," said Travis Akin, executive director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch. "The legal climate in Cook County is taking a toll on the job market. According to the report, two-thirds of the respondents believe a state's legal climate is likely to have a big impact on the decision of where to locate or expand a business. The litigation climate in Cook County has become a problem area residents can no longer afford to ignore."

The US Chamber of Commerce commissioned the study, which asked 1,482 corporate lawyers and executives their impressions of the legal environment in all 50 states. The survey focused on such issues as venue requirements, discovery, damage awards, jury fairness and judges' competence.

Overall, Illinois' legal climate is ranked 45th in the country and #1 in the Midwest, far behind every other state in the region as Indiana is ranked #4, Iowa #5, Wisconsin #22, Michigan #30, Missouri #37 and Kentucky #40, nationally. Only California, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and West Virginia rank worse than Illinois.

"Illinois again stands out as the state with the worst judicial climate in the Midwest," Akin said. "This dubious distinction has taken its toll on our economy as we are continuing the illogical practice of importing lawsuits and exporting jobs. This is especially evident in Cook County which is reporting an unemployment rate of 11.6 percent. Companies create jobs where the legal system is fair and is it any wonder that Cook County continues to shed jobs?"

The report released today mirrors the results of a report I-LAW released last fall. I-LAW conducted a comprehensive examination of the amount of money Cook County government spends on litigation expenses, including settlements and verdicts, and found these staggering results:

  • In 2008, Cook County paid a whopping $69 million in litigation-related expenses.
  • For the sake of comparison, Cook County's litigation costs were higher than those of Los Angeles County, even though L.A. County has more than twice the population of Cook County.
  • In 1994, Cook County held 44% of the state's population and 46% of the state's litigation. In 2007, Cook County's share of the state population held relatively steady at 41% but the county's share of litigation in the state had skyrocketed to 65%.
  • In 2008, Cook County spent 738 times more money on litigation expenses than DuPage County even though Cook only has six times as many people as DuPage.

"Clearly, there is a culture of lawsuit abuse in Cook County," Akin said. "At a time when local governments can barely make payrolls and other financial obligations, it makes no sense to continue to allow lawsuits to suck up tens of millions of taxpayer dollars every year and yet this is what happens in Cook County year after year. Cook County's sue-happy culture is costing taxpayers and it is costing jobs. The time has come for Cook County residents to take this problem seriously."

The Harris Company study is the preeminent standard by which businesses, policymakers and the media judge the lawsuit climate of states. More information on the study can be found at www.instituteforlegalreform.org

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