Before the Class Action Reform Act was defeated in the Senate this week, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa complained that too many class actions are "decided in some podunk county in some state of the nation like Madison County, Ill." The quote is from this article.
I know a little about Madison County, Illinois--it's one of the states where I practice, and it's where the offices of Schaeffer & Lamere are located. Is it a podunk county? If you want a definition, "podunk" means "a small isolated town, region, or place that is regarded as unimportant."
In fact, Madison County, Illinois--which is part of the St. Louis metropolitan area--is one of the largest counties in Illinois, which is one of the largest states in the country. Here's my conclusion about Senator Grassley's comment, which was repeated in newspapers from coast to coast: the good senator needs to get someone less ignorant to write his speeches for him. (And if he wants to have a competition about populations, the population of his entire state of Iowa is about what we have in the St. Louis metropolitan area.)
Meanwhile, a second myth about Madison County was also laid to rest this week. As I've mentioned on this weblog before, the tort reformers are always saying that the "reputation" of Madison County as a "judicial hellhole"--which the tort reformers themselves created, by the way--is causing business to flee the county. It's laughable to someone who's actually been to Madison County, where there's new construction everywhere, including huge warehouses going up for miles along I-255.
Now there's more evidence the tort reformers are wrong. This week, the US Department of Labor reported that of the country's largest counties, Madison County ranked second for increases in the average weekly wage. Here's what one elected official had to say about the report, according to an article in the Belleville News-Democrat:
"I've seen a lot of things in the newspaper with tort reform and that stuff," said Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, referring to the reputation of Madison County's court system. The courts have been criticized as the national center of frivolous and class-action lawsuits.
"But I've been in contact with local chambers of commerce trying to attract people to Madison County, and we agree Madison County is a good place to locate business," Dunstan said. "There has been a lot of propaganda in the last election year."
As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, "Only Collier County on Florida's Gulf Coast, home of Naples, posted a higher growth rate among U.S. counties."