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Grand Opening: 20th Judicial Circuit Casino!

Madison County Record

Tuesday, January 8, 2019  |  Editorial  |  By The Madison County Record

Courts (27) , Ethics, Campaign Reform, Transparency (12a) , Metro East (65)
Imagine if a courtroom were like a casino and your verdict was determined by a game of chance. 

The plaintiff could present his case against you, you could present your defense, and then, instead of relying on a judge or jury to render a decision, you’d have the option instead of spinning the roulette wheel, throwing dice, playing a game of blackjack, or feeding the slots.

Depending on the size of the settlement sought, you might not want to gamble like that. After all, the odds are always in favor of the house – and in favor of the customers favored by the house. 

Neither the facts nor the law nor any logical argument would make a difference. It would all be a matter of chance, assuming that the games weren’t rigged.

There are some who would argue that the courts in Madison and St. Clair counties have operated like casinos for years, and maybe they have a point. They don’t call it jackpot justice for nothing.

Still, you’d think that local judges would want Metro East residents at least to be capable of suspending disbelief and consider them to be honest and impartial jurists. You’d think they might try to refrain from brazen displays of bias and caprice. You’d think that the last person they’d appoint to fill a judicial vacancy would be a casino operator.

If you were thinking that, you can stop now. All reasonable and unreasonable doubt has been removed. Get ready to take your chances with Judge Jeff Watson, president of the East St. Louis riverboat Casino Queen. 

By a vote of 20th Judicial Circuit’s 12 elected judges, Watson has been selected to fill an open position as associate justice.

Watson and the Casino Queen have been generous contributors to the Democratic Party in St. Clair County and East St. Louis, and to individual candidates and committees. Watson also is a commissioner on the Bi-State Development Commission and a former partner at the Dusek, Lopinot & Watson Law Firm in Belleville where he practiced law from 1997 through 2000.

You can bet his appointment was not a matter of luck.