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Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil case Bettis v. Marsaglia and the criminal cases People v. Belknap and People v. Stevens.


Bettis v. Marsaglia

By Karen Kies DeGrand, Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC

Interpreting a provision of the Election Code and resolving a split among appellate districts, the Illinois Supreme Court found that a petitioner seeking judicial review of an electoral board’s denial of a request to submit a public question for referendum satisfied the statutory service requirement. The Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/10-10.1(a) (West 2012), provides that a candidate or objector seeking judicial review of an electoral board’s decision must serve a copy of the petition upon the electoral board. The petitioner, Carolyn Bettis, wished to challenge a resolution of the Macoupin, Montgomery and Sangamon counties’ school district to issue working cash bonds in the amount of $2,000,000. Bettis petitioned the local election board to place the issue on the ballot for an April 9, 2013 election. When the board sustained the objections of two individuals to Bettis’ request, she sought judicial review and served a petition on all of the members of the electoral board at their homes, but did not serve the board as a separate entity.

Q. What should I do if believe my supervising attorney has given me a task that I think violates the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct?

A. Rule 5.2(a) states that “a lawyer is bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct notwithstanding that the lawyer acted at the direction of another person.” However, the comments to that rule provide some limited protection for a subordinate lawyer in certain circumstances such as when the subordinate attorney files a frivolous motion at the request of a supervising attorney or the “lawyer is acting in accordance with a supervisory lawyer’s reasonable resolution of an arguable question of professional duty.” For more information, see IRPC 5.2.

ISBA members can browse past ISBA Ethics Opinions, access our Ethics Hotline, and other resources on the ISBA Ethics Page.

[Disclaimer. These questions are representative of calls received on the ISBA’s ethics hotline. The information provided below is meant as an educational tool to highlight potentially applicable Illinois RPC or other ethics resources that might help the lawyer answer the question posed. The information provided isn’t legal advice.  Because every situation is different, often complex, and the law is constantly evolving, you shouldn’t rely upon this general information without conducting your own research.]

The ISBA Assembly unanimously approved a resolution in support of the celebration of the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta on Saturday, Dec. 13 during the Joint Midyear Meeting in Chicago. The resolution was brought forth by ISBA Governor Stephen M. Komie.

The text of the resolution is available here and below:




A Resolution in Support of Celebrating the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta

WHEREAS, Magna Carta (Latin; "Great Charter"), also called Magna Carta Libertatum or The Great Charter of the Liberties of England, is an Angevin charter originally issued in Latin;

WHEREAS, on June 15, 1215, at Runnymede on the banks of the River Thames near Windsor, England, King John affixed his seal to Magna Carta. King John confronted by 40 rebellious barons at the point of a sword consented to their demands in order to avert civil war. However, just 10 weeks later, Pope Innocent III nullified the agreement, and England plunged into internal war. Although Magna Carta failed to resolve the conflict between King John and his barons, it was reissued several times after his death;

"As advocates fearful of court rebuke or sanction, Illinois lawyers normally play by the procedural rules, not citing Rule 23 orders even when such an order would be helpful to their case." So writes Robert T. Park in the latest issue of Trial Briefs, newsletter of the ISBA Civil Practice & Procedure Section.

So what about In re Estate of LaPlume? There, Park writes, the appellate court cited a Rule 23 order while "carefully stating that it was not relying on that order as precedent but still quoting from it and using its holding to bolster the correctness of its disposition of the case before it."

Park sees LaPlume as more support for the argument that Rule 23 be amended. "There is no sound reason why a litigant or judge can cite a federal trial court decisions from North Dakota or Alaska, as found in West’s Federal Supplement, or any sister state’s appellate decisions but is not allowed to cite an Illinois Rule 23 appellate order, even one that is on point and potentially dispositive." Read his article.

Asked and Answered

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. John, where do you begin to get a value on a family law practice? It seems that one times gross revenue is unfair since it is usually one time business. I saw you speak at an ISBA event and this question was not addressed.

A. Regarding your question - it sort of depends on whether you are buying or selling and where you want to start. In general, I agree with you that a multiple of one times gross for a family law practice is probably high. It depends on whether the practice has built up more of a firm brand vs. an individual brand. In other words institutionalized the practice. Also on where and how the firm gets business - advertising, referral sources, etc. A firm that has practice (institutional) goodwill might very well start at a multiple of one whereas a practice where the goodwill is personal goodwill the multiple might be .75 or less - in some cases even zero. I know of a few family law practices in the Chicago area that have been sold for .33 of gross revenue. 

Often the initial asking price has little to do with regard to where you end up. Often, due to the concern that the clients and business might not materialize for the new buyer many firms are sold on various forms of an "earn-out" or a small payment at closing with the remainder paid and based on a percentage of revenues collected over a period of time - 3 to 5 years.

I have seen PI and other one shot matter firms sell for one times gross revenues but this is a best case scenario. CPA firms fare much better.

Chief Justice Rita B. Garman of the Illinois Supreme Court and Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans of Cook County Circuit Court announced Tuesday that media cameras soon will be allowed in some Cook County criminal courtrooms.

Chief Justice Garman said that the Supreme Court has given its approval for the Cook County Circuit  Court to become part of a pilot program already being implemented in 40 other counties in Illinois.

Effective Monday, January 5, 2015, the media will be allowed to video and audio record proceedings at the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th Street and California Avenue in Chicago in accordance with procedures contained in the Illinois Supreme Court Policy on Extended Media Coverage and a new local Circuit Court rule promulgated by Chief Judge Evans.

“The opening of Cook County criminal courtrooms to media cameras is a significant and very welcome step in our efforts to bring greater transparency to the judicial process, while protecting the rights of the accused, witnesses, and jurors," Chief Justice Garman said. "The experience with media coverage in other judicial circuits has been overwhelmingly positive, and it is time to extend the pilot program to the most populous county in the state.

The Illinois Supreme Court announced Monday that Jodi Melinda Hoos has been appointed Resident Circuit Judge of Peoria County, 10th Judicial Circuit. This vacancy was created by the retirement of the Hon. Michael E. Brandt. it is effective Dec. 29, 2014 and terminates on Dec. 5, 2016.

Sign-up Today (Dec. 15) for January 1 Coverage.

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The Joint Midyear Meeting hosted by the Illinois State Bar Association and Illinois Judges Association kicked off Thursday afternoon with the Opening Reception at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. Highlights on Friday include the sold out luncheon featuring U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Supreme Court Dinner featuring Illinois Supreme Court Justice Robert Thomas.

View the full schedule at

View pictures from the Opening Reception at

The Illinois Supreme Court recently expanded its electronic filing standards to include e-filing in criminal and traffic cases (PDF). Before the amendments, which took effect September 16 but have not yet been implemented by the county courts, electronic filing was only available in civil cases. Ideally, expanding e-filing to criminal matters will increase efficiency in the courts while lowering costs.

Three changes to the electronic filing standards are particularly noteworthy. First, amended paragraph 9(f) provides that documents filed by pro se litigants will be reviewed for acceptance by the court before being rejected by the clerk's office for failure to comply with formatting requirements. Paragraph 9(f) does not specifically limit this requirement to criminal filings, and thus could benefit pro se litigants in civil matters.

Also, multiple traffic (or other) citations can be filed in one transaction under the amended rules. This batch file can be sent directly from the law enforcement agency that issued the citations. Coupled with the provision that exempts partner agencies (state's attorney, public defender, attorney general, and law enforcement) from paying filing or vendor fees, this change could result in significant cost savings. It also allows paper citations not to be filed with the clerk's office.