LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – A suburban Chicago newspaper filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Tuesday against the Illinois Supreme Court’s chief justice, claiming it can’t fairly appeal a multimillion defamation verdict awarded to the judge because he heads the court.
Chief Justice Robert Thomas infected the state judiciary with a “constitutional cancer” by pursuing a defamation claim “in the friendly confines of the state legal system he dominates,” according to a lawsuit filed by the Kane County Chronicle’s parent company, Shaw Suburban Media Group, Inc., and former columnist Bill Page.
“The core of it is that the newspaper and the columnist can simply not get a fair shake on appeal and that deprives them of their civil rights,” said Bruce Sanford, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
Thomas, a former kicker with the Chicago Bears, sought damages over a series of columns that Page wrote in 2003. The articles claimed Thomas softened his position in a disciplinary hearing for former Kane County State’s Attorney Meg Gorecki after her supporters backed a judicial candidate he favored.
A jury ordered the Chronicle and Page to pay Thomas $7 million in November. But Circuit Court Judge Donald O’Brien, who is named as a defendant in the federal lawsuit, decided the award was unreasonably high and reduced it by $3 million in March.
The newspaper and columnist want the federal court to find that they can’t get a fair appeal in Illinois while Thomas is chief justice. They also want a declaration that the $4 million defamation judgment was unconstitutional.