Madison, St. Clair counties named to 'judicial hellhole' watch list Madison and St. Clair county courts made the American Tort Reform Association's "judicial hellhole" report watch list for 2008. The association labels an area as a judicial hellhole when it believes judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in favor of plaintiffs and their attorneys. In the past, Madison County took the top slot on the list three years in a row. However, the county improved its standing with increased arbitration and other reform programs. But, an increase in asbestos lawsuit filings this year kept it on the watch list, according to Darren McKinney, a spokesman for the American Tort Reform Association. McKinney praised the efforts of Chief Judge Ann Callis for moving the county out of the hole. Callis said being off the list is better than being on the list, but the county's rank is not the most important issue. "Our first and most primary goal as judges is to serve the people in Madison County," Callis said. St. Clair County has not made any progress or lost ground, McKinney said. "It has more or less maintained a status quo relative to our report last year," McKinney said. Chief Judge John Baricevic said the county's ranking by this organization and any other will not influence the court. "Neither the opinion of that group or any other group is to be allowed into a courtroom," Baricevic said. "It can't be a factor that a judge uses." Cook County took the No. 3 spot on the judicial hellhole list. Madison County was second on the watch list and St. Louis took the forth slot. The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association does not hold this report in high regard. Illinois Trial Lawyers Association President Philip H. Corboy Jr. said the American Tort Reform Association is a front group for corporate interests. Corboy said the report comes out every year and criticizes with little variation. "It is the same old same old just with different catch words, buzz words, cute words," Corboy said. Contact reporter Holly Meyer at email@example.com or 659-0985.