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Illinois Supreme Court

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd., v. Heritage Bank of Central Illinois and In re A.A. and the criminal cases People v. Wiliams, People v. Guzman and People v. Castleberry.

CIVIL

Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd v. Heritage Bank of Central Illinois

By Karen Kies DeGrand, Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smith LLC

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday announced changes to a rule that will require attorneys to go online to report their compliance with Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements.

Under Amended Supreme Court Rule 796, the agency that oversees the Court's MCLE program will also be able to send notices electronically. The amended rule takes effect February 1, 2016.

The changes mark the latest example of the Court's ongoing efforts to utilize technology to make the judicial process and legal profession more efficient.

The Supreme Court of Illinois announced the filing of lawyer disciplinary orders on November 17, 2015, during the November Term of Court. Sanctions were imposed because the lawyers engaged in professional misconduct by violating state ethics law.

DISBARRED

  • Lee Samuel Fainman, Evanston

Mr. Fainman, who was licensed in 2008, was disbarred and ordered to make certain specific restitution as a condition of future reinstatement. Due to his neglect, a federal suit in which he represented five teachers against their employer was dismissed. He misrepresented to the teachers that the case had been dismissed due to factors beyond his control, and the teachers were forced to retain replacement counsel who unsuccessfully attempted to have their suit reinstated. A subsequent malpractice suit brought by the teachers resulted in a $560,612 judgment against Mr. Fainman, who has yet to pay any portion of that obligation. He also neglected an unrelated client matter, failed to return unused funds advanced by the client, and converted approximately $4,000 in settlement funds belonging to the client. Finally, he made misrepresentations to the ARDC in order to impede the disciplinary investigation.

The oral argument in the Chicago municipal and laborers pension law matter will be heard by the Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday, November 17, 2015.

Mary J. Jones, et al. v. Municipal Employees' Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, et al. is the third of four cases set for argument on November 17 at the Supreme Court Building at 200 East Capitol Avenue in Springfield. The first argument will begin at 9 a.m.

The argument in Jones will be captured by multiple high-definition cameras installed in the Courtroom and streamed live by Advanced Digital Media, Inc./ Blueroomstream.com.

Under Supreme Court rules, Advanced Digital Media applied for and was granted permission to serve as the media pool for the argument.
The live stream will be available at https://livestream.com/blueroomstream/events/4484348.

Audio and video of the argument will also be available later on November 17 on the Illinois Supreme Court's website at www.illinoiscourts.gov/Media/On_Demand.asp.

For members of the media who plan to attend the argument in person, please be aware that seating within the Courtroom is limited and there is no reserved seating. Auxiliary seating is available in a room adjacent to the second floor Courtroom, where the argument will be streamed on a monitor for viewing.

The Illinois Supreme Court has announced the results of a court user survey that measured public perceptions and experiences with trial courts across the state. Overall, the results show that court users have a very positive view of the courts in Illinois.

"My colleagues and I on the Illinois Supreme Court are gratified to learn that so many of our fellow Illinoisans have a positive opinion of the justice system," Chief Justice Rita B. Garman said. "We want to thank those who assisted the court with conducting the study and, in particular, the individual court users who took the time to provide thoughtful answers to the survey questions."

"The survey provides us with valuable information we can use to improve not only public perception of our court system, but also its efficiency and effectiveness. We plan to conduct a thorough analysis of the survey results to determine what actions we can take to increase public confidence in our legal system even further. Then, with the assistance the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC) and the Strategic Planning Committee, and with the involvement of judges and court administrators throughout the state, we will take action to implement changes that address the needs and concerns of the public we all serve."

The recommendation to conduct a survey designed to evaluate the perception and experience of court users came out of the Supreme Court's Future of the Courts Conference in 2013. The Strategic Planning Committee of the Illinois Judicial Conference, in coordination with the AOIC and under the Supreme Court's leadership, developed the survey.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Wednesday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Price v. Philip Morris, Inc., The Henderson Square Condominium Association v. LAB Townhomes LLC and Folta v. Ferro Engineering.

Price v. Philip Morris, Inc.

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

Holding that 735 ILCS 5/2-1401 does not authorize a circuit court to vacate the judgment of a reviewing court, the supreme court vacated the judgments of both the circuit and appellate courts in this latest of many rounds following the entry of a judgment for compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $10.1 billion following a bench trial in Madison County in March, 2003. Previously, that money judgment of the circuit court was reversed by the supreme court upon a direct review under SCR 302(b). That plurality opinion found that the Federal Trade Commission had specifically authorized the use of descriptors for light cigarettes, thereby effectively barring plaintiffs’ complaint by operation of Section 10b(1) of the Consumer Fraud Act.  There, the supreme court remanded to the circuit court with instructions to dismiss the case, which was done.

Justices of the Illinois Supreme Court administered the attorney’s oath to 1,605 new attorneys on Thursday at five separate locations across the state.

The largest group —1,306—were admitted in the First Judicial District during two ceremonies at the Arie Crown Theater, 2301 Lake Shore Drive, in Chicago.

All of the candidates have passed the Illinois State Bar Examination and a required ethics examination and were certified by the Supreme Court Committee on Character and Fitness. They bring the total number of licensed attorneys in Illinois to approximately 96,000.

Justice Anne M. Burke presided over the 9:45 a.m. ceremony in the First District and Justice Mary Jane Theis presided over the 12:45 p.m. ceremony.

At the 9:45 a.m. ceremony, Will County Circuit Judge Richard C. Schoenstedt made the move for admission of the class. Cook County Circuit Judge Sharon M. Sullivan and Chicago attorney Stephen Stern seconded the motion. They all have children who took the attorney's oath during the ceremony.

Other guests of the morning ceremony included: Patricia Brown Holmes, president of the Chicago Bar Association; and Cook County Circuit Judge Jessica A. O'Brien, ISBA Board member and president of the Women's Bar Association.

Former Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald
Former Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald
Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald, who retired from the Illinois Supreme Court in 2010 after a long and distinguished career, passed away Sunday at his home. He was 74.

Justice Fitzgerald's 34-year judicial career was marked by duty, grace, innovation, and an unparalleled dedication to advancing the quality of justice for those he served. He was a model for integrity.

"Having joined the court shortly after his election in 2000, I had the privilege of serving with Justice Fitzgerald for a decade," Chief Justice Rita B. Garman said. "Before we both arrived on the Supreme Court, Justice Fitzgerald and I had known each other for almost 30 years – ever since we both became rather young members of the judiciary."

"Over the many years, he never changed. He was a warm and caring person, and even when on the bench, his demeanor revealed his genuine concern about the people who appeared before him. Tom Fitzgerald was dedicated to serving the people of Illinois and to making the judicial system as fair, efficient, and accessible as it could possibly be."

In addition to being a fine jurist, Chief Justice Garman said Justice Fitzgerald shared his gifts with others by teaching lawyers and other judges at numerous educational programs.

"He was also a true scholar of the life and work of Abraham Lincoln and a devoted man of faith," Chief Justice Garman added. "The people of Illinois were privileged to have Thomas Fitzgerald as a member of the Illinois Supreme Court for a decade, and I was privileged to be his colleague and friend."

Here is the Illinois Supreme Court Call of the Docket for November Term 2015:

Call Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - 9:30 A.M.

  • No. 117846 - People State of Illinois, appellant, v. Joshua Tolbert, appellee. Appeal, Appellate Court, First District.
  • No. 118672 - People State of Illinois, appellant, v. Gregory Hernandez, etc., appellee. Appeal, Circuit Court (DuPage).

Call Thursday, November 12, 2015 - 9:00 A.M.

  • Nos.118693, 118694 - People State of Illinois, appellee, v. Wail Salem, appellant. Appeal, Appellate Court, Third cons. District
  • No. 118973 - People State of Illinois, appellant, v. Taron R. Burns, appellee. Appeal, Appellate Court, Fourth District.

Call Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 9:00 A.M.

  • No. 118496 - People State of Illinois, appellant, v. Eduardo Lerma, appellee. Appeal, Appellate Court, First District.
  • No. 117720 - Stone Street Partners, LLC, appellee/cross-appellant, v. The City of Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings et al., appellants/cross-appellees. Appeal, Appellate Court, First District.
  • Nos.119618, 19620, 119638, 119639, 119644 - Mary J. Jones et al., appellees, v. Municipal 1Employees' Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago et  al., appellants. Appeal, Circuit Court (Cook).
  • No. 118661 - People State of Illinois, appellee, v. Jerry Boston, appellant. Appeal, Appellate Court, First District.

Ballard RN Center, Inc. v. Kohll's Pharmacy & Homecare, Inc.

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

In this “junk fax” class action case, the court held that a motion for class certification filed contemporaneously with the complaint was sufficient to bar a claim of mootness by defendant, which tendered the full amount recoverable under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act after the complaint, and class certification motion, were filed. In partially reversing the appellate court and in affirming the circuit court, the supreme court centered its analysis on its opinion in Barber v. American Airlines, Inc., 241 Ill.2d 450 (2011).

In Barber, plaintiff’s class action was properly dismissed because there was no motion for class certification pending when the defendant refunded the $40 baggage fee which was at issue, thereby mooting the class plaintiff’s claim. An underpinning of the reasoning in Barber was that in the absence of a motion for certification, the interests of the other class members were not then before the court.  

Here, defendant argued, in part, that the motion for class certification was a “shell” motion that lacked content. The supreme court disagreed, saying that the motion contained a general outline of the action, and effectively communicated the fundamental nature of the putative class action.