A radio ad from JUSTPAC, the leading opponent of retention-seeking Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride, has caused a bit of a stir the last couple of days, resulting in coverage in the Chicago newspapers, an admonishment by the Illinois State Bar Association and a response ad from Kilbride's own campaign.
The hubbub started brewing when the political committee of the tort reform group, the Illinois Civil Justice League, released an advertisement featuring dramatizations of parts of cases which the Illinois Supreme Court had decided. The Kilbride campaign denounced the ads as inaccurate, and then reported many of the stations running it yanked it. (JUSTPAC has since released a modified ad, which is here.)
Then earlier this week, the the Illinois State Bar Association issued a statement which slapped JUSTPAC for the ad campaign, saying it "is inappropriate and distorts his record" by characterizing Kilbride as allegedly soft on crime.
(In the interest of disclosure, I'll note that the ISBA has endorsed Kilbride.)
The admonishment was made by the bar association’s committee on Tone and Conduct, which considers political advertisements in Appellate and Supreme Court campaigns. (The committee was formed in 2004, with the support and urging of ICPR, as a result of the attack ads that dominated the Maag-Karmeier Supreme Court campaign in Illinois’ southernmost judicial district, the Fifth.) Composed of lawyers and non-lawyers, the permanent committee aims to discourage campaign activities that negatively affect the judiciary’s integrity and independence.
Today, the Chicago Tribune reported on the retention campaign and the ad controversy. The article quoted legal experts who explained that the Kilbride opinions referenced in JUSTPAC's ad were based on "legal procedures and points of law."
The Illinois' Civil Justice League's director, Ed Murnane, has defended the ad's content.
The Kilbride committee now has released its own radio ad refuting the claims made by his opponents and slamming its creators.