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State Bar Condemns Ads Attacking Supreme Court Justice

CHICAGO (STMW) -- The Illinois State Bar Association is condemning an advertising campaign that a pro-business group is running against Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride.

The group, called JUSTPAC, is running radio ads in markets ranging from the Quad Cities to Will County to Kankakee in which actors posing as hardened criminals describe their crimes and thank Kilbride for ruling in their favor.

"The 'JUSTPAC' campaign directed at Justice Kilbride is inappropriate and distorts his record," the state bar group says.

In some of the cases targeted in the ads, Kilbride ruled that law enforcement authorities violated suspects' rights, but in at least one case, Kilbride actually voted to uphold the conviction. In that case he supported a different method for upholding the conviction than a lower court had.

To accuse Kilbride of siding with criminals in such a case is false, the state bar's Standing Committee on Supreme and Appellate Court Judicial Election Campaign Tone and Conduct said.

" 'JUSTPAC' has distorted the record and rulings of Justice Kilbride by characterizing him as allegedly soft on crime and criminals," the committee said.

After the accuracy concerns were raised, some stations have stopped running it.

JUSTPAC is affiliated with the Illinois Civil Justice League, which opposes a ruling by Kilbride and the court other Democrats against a state law limiting the amount of money juries can award victims of medical malpractice. The high court ruled that the state constitution empowers juries, not legislators, to make those decisions.

JUSTPAC has spent about $600,000 on radio ads against Kilbride, financed in part by groups such as the National Tort Reform Association, which fights for laws across the country limiting jury awards, said league director Ed Murnane.

"We'll stand by everything on the ads," Murnane said. His group urges a "No" vote on Kilbride's retention on the state supreme court.

Kilbride's campaign is spending about $2 million on television advertisements urging a "Yes" vote to retain Kilbride. Most of Kilbride's money is coming from the state Democratic party, in amounts, Murnane pointed out, roughly equal to amounts the trial lawyers are donating to the state party.

Kilbride needs 60 percent "Yes" votes to keep his seat on the state high court. Kilbride is a more vulnerable target than the other Democrat up for retention this year, Charles Freeman, because Freeman is elected from overwhelmingly Democratic Cook County. Kilbride's district is more Republican.

Kilbride has been endorsed by the State Fraternal Order of Police and the Illinois and National Rifle Associations.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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