Local Doctors Voice Opposition to Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride

By Ashley McNamee

October 27, 2010 Updated Oct 27, 2010 at 10:37 PM CDT

If you have watched TV recently you've probably seen ads for and against Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride.

The ads against him are funded by the Illinois Civil Justice League or Justpac. They are aimed at keeping Kilbride off the bench because of his vote to strike down a state law that limited damage awards in medical malpractice suits.

Tuesday four doctors at the Illinois Eye Center, like Steven Smart, publicly supported Justpac and the campaign against Kilbride. Smart says the malpractice caps case is only one reason why.

"That prompted us to look at him, then we found out about his criminal record and his support. It is all of those things together that led us to our decision to take a stand on an issue like this," said Smart.

The group is also concerned with Kilbride's campaign financing. Kilbride's Campaign Spokesman Aaron Chambers says the race for retention is non-partisan.

However, the Illinois Supreme Court has four democrats and three republicans so the switch of one seat would shift the balance of power.

Chambers says of the whopping $2.5 million Kilbride has raised, well over $1 million of that came from the Michael Madigan controlled Democratic Party of Illinois. The rest came from organized labor and private citizens. Justpac's President Ed Murnane says to take that with a grain of salt.

"Don't be mislead by the fact that people wearing blue caps and blue shirts carrying guns are supporting Justice Kilbride. It is because they are a member of the local police union, the same thing can be said for the state's attorney's we have seen pop up," said Murnane.

Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons appeared in one of Kilbride's first campaign ads.

"What you have in this case is a group that wants to register its complaints in the name of law and justice, although that is not really what this is all about," said Lyons. "Then a justice has to raise an incredible amount of money to get his message across too. It is ugly, no one likes it."

Kilbride's campaign spokesman agrees.

"In light of the continued, repeated threats, we responded accordingly. We are working overtime to correct the individuals who are lying and distorting the facts in a smear campaign," said Chamber.

Justpac, which does receive funding from republicans, says the other concern is the amount of money coming from the trial lawyers who may one day argue in front of Kilbride if he is retained.

"There was almost exactly the same amount of money coming from the trial lawyers into the democratic party and to the Kilbride campaign," said Murnane. "Like $1.45 million from the trial lawyers to the democrats and $1.35 million to Kilbride."

"I would challenge them to point to a candidate with broader base of support then Kilbride," said Chambers, noting Kilbride's support ranges from former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson to the Chicago Tribune to the National Rifle Association and the Illinois State Rifle Association.

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