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Illinois Supreme Court


The Illinois Supreme Court has adopted a statewide policy statement for pretrial services. The statewide policy statement is a continuation of the advancement of pretrial services in Illinois.

"This policy statement seeks to serve as a guide for all of our trial courts," Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier said. "The goal of pretrial services is to reduce the pretrial incarceration rate while ensuring that defendants comply with approved pretrial release. This process includes the application of a validated pretrial risk assessment tool which aids judges in making research-based decisions about whether defendants should be detained or released prior to their criminal trials.”

The statement is as follows:

A leading appellate attorney reviews the Illinois Supreme Court opinion handed down Thursday, April 20. The case is People v. Way. 

People v. Way

By Kerry J. Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender

Ida Way was driving a vehicle when she crossed into oncoming traffic and struck another vehicle head-on, causing injuries to the driver of that vehicle as well as a passenger in her own car. Subsequent forensic testing revealed the presence of cannabis metabolite in Way's urine. She was charged with aggravated DUI based upon her having "any amount" of a drug, substance, or compound in her urine.

Way sought to defend against the charge by introducing evidence that a sudden, unforeseeable medical condition that caused her to lose consciousness was the proximate cause of the accident. She offered that her passenger would testify that she lost consciousness, three eyewitnesses would testify that they saw her shortly before the accident and she did not appear impaired, and her doctor would testify that it was possible that her loss of consciousness was due to her low blood pressure. The trial court rejected her request, concluding that the statute was one of strict liability "as to the accident." The appellate court looked to the law of proximate cause in civil cases and held that Way should have been permitted to present medical evidence.

A recent change to the rule governing how lawyers deal with unidentified funds in their pooled client trust accounts has generated over $1,000,000 for legal aid in Illinois.

In March 2015, the Supreme Court of Illinois amended Rule 1.15 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct to require Illinois lawyers to remit unidentified funds in these client trust accounts to the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois after a 12-month due diligence process to determine who owns the funds. Since the new rule went into effect on July 1, 2015, the Lawyers Trust Fund (LTF) has received $1,007,829.21.

“For the 1.8 million Illinoisans living in poverty, legal aid is the only realistic option when confronted with a serious legal problem,” said LTF executive director Mark Marquardt. “Unfortunately, legal aid groups are facing serious financial headwinds in terms of both state and federal funding, which make this new source of revenue even more critical.”

A long-term restoration project between the Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office and the Supreme Court of Illinois has led to the discovery of some rare, historic documents involving famous and infamous Illinois attorneys.

“I am pleased with the results of this project, which sought to restore and preserve a unique facet of our state’s history,” said White, who also serves as State Archivist. “Since 2010, the State Archives Department has been restoring attorney oaths for the Supreme Court. Approximately 142,000 oaths, some preceding the Civil War, have been restored.”

Justice Rita Garman with Archives’ conservator Alex Dixon examine a restored oath.
Justice Rita Garman with Archives’ conservator Alex Dixon examine a restored oath.
Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier said, “The Court recently had the opportunity to tour the State Archives and see, firsthand, the efforts being made there to conserve these important documents. Attorney oaths offer scholars, educators and students a very tangible, but very fragile connection to the lawyers who have helped shape our laws and the legal profession over the past two centuries. The Court is extremely grateful to the Archives for everything it has done to ensure that this irreplaceable record of the legal profession’s history is preserved and protected for future generations. The work done by the Archives’ staff has been nothing less than extraordinary.”


On April 3, 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court approved Supreme Court Rule 293, which requires trial courts to commence a jury trial if requested by a respondent in an involuntary admissions proceeding under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code within 30 days of the request effective immediately.

The decision to approve this rule stems from years of confusion and debate. Recognizing the serious rights at stake in cases such as In re James W., 2014 IL 114483, and In re Rita P., 2014 IL 115798, the Court asked its Special Advisory Committee for Justice and Mental Health Planning to study the matter and recommend solutions. Rule 293 was proposed by the Committee to clarify and make mandatory the time limit trial courts have to convene juries in mental health involuntary commitment hearings. 

The importance of creating one uniform rule for the state cannot be understated. It recognizes the importance of fundamental liberty interests; provides one consistent standard for judges to make clear, concise, and complete findings of fact; and provides guidelines to  judges who lack experience in these types of case. Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier explained, "The Court is confident that the new rule will provide much needed guidance to the courts and officials charged with enforcing the orders and, in so doing, ensure full and proper protection of the fundamental liberty interests of citizens facing involuntary admission or treatment for mental health issues.”

On April 3, 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court announced changes to a rule impacting the requirements for continuing legal education (CLE) in Illinois. The rule change will go into effect on July 1, 2017, and begins with attorneys with the two-year reporting period ending June 30, 2019.

Pursuant to Amended Supreme Court Rule 794(d), Illinois lawyers will be required to complete one hour of diversity and inclusion CLE and one hour of mental health and substance abuse CLE as part of the Professional Responsibility CLE requirement. 

Studies show that the legal field falls short in the areas of diversity and wellness as compared to other fields. Promoting education on these issues helps address two of the profession's greatest challenges, and positions Illinois as one of the first states to require such programming. Illinois is one of seven states that allows diversity and inclusion to qualify for ethics/professionalism credit. With the amendment of Rule 794(d), it became the fourth state to require diversity-related CLE, and it is one of only three states that will require mental health and substance abuse education. As a result, Illinois is one of only two states that requires both diversity and inclusion and mental health and substance abuse education for continuing legal education. 

The Supreme Court of Illinois announced the filing of lawyer disciplinary orders on March 20, 2017, during the March Term of Court. Sanctions were imposed because the lawyers engaged in professional misconduct by violating state ethics law. 

DISBARRED

  • Joel Mitchell Bell, Chicago

Mr. Bell, who was licensed in 1975, was disbarred on consent. He misappropriated over $364,000 in client funds and lied to two of his clients about the status of their respective settlement proceeds. He was suspended on an interim basis on December 2, 2016.

  • Michael David Gerhardt, Forest Park

Mr. Gerhardt, who was licensed in 2003, was disbarred. He neglected two civil cases, resulting in two judgments totaling approximately $500,000 being entered against his clients in one case and $20,000 in settlement funds not being distributed to another client. He also failed to return an unearned fee and made misrepresentations to his client regarding the status of that client’s case. He failed to appear at his own disciplinary hearing.

Beginning with its March 2017 term, the Illinois Supreme Court is posting briefs for each case in the term’s Call of the Docket on the court’s website.

The briefs for the March term are available under Docket in the Quick Links tab. Briefs for upcoming terms will typically be available one to two weeks before each term starts.

“Briefs and oral arguments are the primary tools used by courts of review in deciding cases," Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier said in a court press release. "Our court has made videos of all oral arguments available online for several years now. We are very pleased that briefs will now be available online as well."

The change was made possible when the Illinois Supreme Court adopted Rule 364 to protect against identity theft and the disclosure of personal information in cases before the state's reviewing courts. The rule took effect July 1, 2016, and affects all documents and exhibits filed by paper or electronically in criminal and civil cases before the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts.

Leading appellate attorneys review the Illinois Supreme Court opinions handed down Friday, February 17. The cases are Stone Street Partners, LLC v. City of Chicago Dept. of Administrative HearingsWardwell v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.Grimm v. Calica, and, from the criminal docket, People v. Fort, People v. Ayres, and People v. Shinaul.

CIVIL

Stone Street Partners, LLC v. City of Chicago Dept. of Administrative Hearings

By Michael T. Reagan, Law Offices of Michael T. Reagan

In Stone Street Partners, LLC v. City of Chicago Dept. of Administrative Hearings, a limited scope Armageddon was expected to occur concerning a claim of unauthorized practice of law, but by a vote of 4 to 3 that battle was called off.  Stone Street Partners, LLC brought this action in the circuit court to obtain administrative review and other relief after discovering that a judgment had been recorded against one of its properties for failure to pay $1,050 in fines and costs imposed by Chicago’s department of administrative hearings for alleged violations of the city’s building code, such as installation of carbon monoxide detectors, removal of garbage and debris, and the installation of lighting and exit signage.

Justice John J. Stamos
Justice John J. Stamos
Justice John J. Stamos, who served as an Illinois Supreme Court Justice from 1988 to 1990, passed away on Saturday, January 28, in Northbrook. He was 92.

“On behalf of the Illinois Supreme Court, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family, friends and former colleagues of Justice John J. Stamos," Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier said. "Justice Stamos was an outstanding lawyer and judge who distinguished himself both on the appellate court and as a member of the Supreme Court of Illinois.

"Justice Stamos is perhaps best known as the author of In re Himmel,  125 Ill.2d 531(1989).  Decided in the wake of Operation Greylord, In re Himmel affirmed that all members of the Illinois bar are under an obligation to report lawyer misconduct or the misconduct of others directly observed in the practice of law or the administration of justice. The case has been cited hundreds of times in the legal literature and has had a profound and positive impact on how lawyers conduct themselves in Illinois and throughout the United States. The people of our State owe him a debt of gratitude for his unwavering commitment to the highest principles of justice. He will be missed."