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Illinois Supreme Court

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.

For the first time in nearly 60 years, filing fees for reviewing courts in Illinois will increase effective January 1, 2015.

On August 12, 2013, Governor Pat Quinn signed into law Public Act 98-0324. Under the new law, fees collected by the Clerks of the Supreme and Appellate Courts will be set by Supreme Court Rule, rather than by statute.

In addition, rather than transferring the funds collected into the General Revenue Fund, these fees will be deposited into the newly-created “Supreme Court Special Purposes Fund.” The new fund will be used to support the Supreme Court’s commitment to e-business initiatives, including the streamlining and upgrading of the case management system in the courts of review.

As authorized by the new law, the Supreme Court has amended Rule 313 to provide that, unless excused by law, petitioners and appellants filing cases in the Supreme and Appellate Courts will pay a filing fee of $50 instead of $25. Respondents and appellees will see filing fees increase from $15 to $30.

The Supreme Court Clerk also collects fees for producing official certificates with seals, issuing new law licenses, and performing registration and renewal of registrations for businesses formed for the practice of law. Both the Supreme Court Clerk and the Appellate Court Clerks charge fees for copying of documents, opinions, and orders, although the availability of many such documents at www.illinoiscourts.gov has eliminated much of the demand for copying services. These fees have not been increased.

The Illinois Supreme Court has announced that the Hon. Paul M. Fullerton, Associate Judge of the 18th Circuit, has been appointed Circuit Judge at Large for the 18th Circuit, DuPage County.

This vacancy was created by the retirement of the Hon. Rodney Equi. It is effective Jan. 2, 2015 and terminates on Dec. 5, 2016.

Chief Justice Rita B. Garman of the Supreme Court of Illinois has begun an application process for an at-large Circuit Court vacancy in the Seventh Judicial Circuit.

The vacancy is created by the retirement of Judge Patrick J. Londrigan on December 8, 2014. Judge Londrigan has been a Circuit Judge in the Seventh Circuit since 2004.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil case Michael v. Precision Alliance Group, LLC and the criminal cases People v. Jolly and People v. Simth.

CIVIL

Michael v. Precision Alliance Group, LLC

By Karen Kies DeGrand, Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC

Reversing an appellate decision entering judgment for plaintiffs in a retaliatory discharge case, the Illinois Supreme Court reinstated a judgment entered for an employer after a bench trial. The case turned on the legal standard that governs an employee’s burden of proving causation in a retaliatory discharge lawsuit. Illinois recognizes such a claim as a narrow exception to the general rule that an employer may terminate an “at-will” employee at any time, for any reason. The plaintiff in such cases must prove that the employer discharged the employee in retaliation for the employee’s activities and that the discharge violates public policy, such as when an employer fires an employee for asserting a workers’ compensation claim or for “whistleblowing,” reporting illegal or proper conduct. 

In this case, the employees contended that they were fired for whistle blowing  concerning weight labeling violations investigated by the Department of Agriculture. The employer, an agricultural supply company selling soybean seeds, convinced the trier of fact that the company fired the plaintiffs for nonpretextual reasons; one was discharged for engaging in horseplay with a forklift and two others were terminated in connection with a reduction in force. 

On Nov. 21, the Illinois Supreme Court amended its Rule 138 privacy provisions to remove a ban on publication of minors' names in civil cases. The ban, which would have taken effect January 1 if not for the amendment, was opposed by the ISBA and its Family Law Section Council. The ISBA testified against the ban at a public hearing of the Supreme Court Rules Committee in 2013.

Before Friday's amendments, Rule 138 was set to prohibit inclusion of "birth dates" and "names of individuals known to be minors" in court documents and exhibits. It would have allowed only minors' initials and birth years to appear.

Critics' principal objection to the ban was that it "conflict[ed] with other statutes that, for example, require a child's name and birth date to be included in unified orders of child support and joint parenting agreements," wrote Adam Lasker in the November 2013 Illinois Bar Journal. (Also see Janan Hanna's article in the February 2014 IBJ for more about the ban and critics' concerns.)

The Supreme Court of Illinois announced the filing of lawyer disciplinary orders on Thursday, November 13, 2014, during the November Term of Court. Sanctions were imposed because the lawyers engaged in professional misconduct by violating state ethics law.

DISBARRED

  • Robert Scott Forbes, Alston

Mr. Forbes, who was licensed in 1980, was disbarred on consent. He forged the signature of a deceased client on six workers compensation benefits checks totaling $9,324.66 that the State had mistakenly sent to him for his client. He misappropriated the proceeds. Mr. Forbes was aware that his client had died when he obtained the checks. When the Attorney General’s office sought to recover the funds, Mr. Forbes falsely claimed that the client’s sister, who served as the executor of the client’s estate, had forged the signatures and received the proceeds. Mr. Forbes also repeated his false story to the Illinois Appellate Court and made material misrepresentations to the ARDC to impede the disciplinary investigation.

  • Michael Samuel Froman, Skokie

Mr. Froman, who was licensed in 1976, was disbarred on consent. He misappropriated approximately $90,000 in settlement funds belonging to three clients.

Michael J. Tardy, Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, announced today that the Eighth Judicial Circuit judges voted to select Debra L. Wellborn as an associate judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit.

Ms. Wellborn received her undergraduate degree in 1984 from the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO, and her Juris Doctor in 1986 from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Ms. Wellborn is currently affiliated with the State of Illinois Attorney General's Office in Quincy, IL.

The Illinois Supreme Court announced Tuesday that Chief Judge Joseph G. McGraw of the 17th Judicial Circuit has been named the new Chairman of the Conference of Chief Judges, effective January 1, 2015.

Judge McGraw will take over leadership from current Conference Chairman Chief Judge Elizabeth Robb of the 11th Judicial Circuit, who is retiring from judicial service on December 31, 2014. Judge McGraw has served as the Conference's vice-chairman since April 2014 and has served as a member of the Conference since January 2012.
The 17th Circuit consists of Boone and Winnebago counties in northern Illinois. A duly elected chief judge from each judicial circuit serves as a member of the Conference of Chief Judges.

The Illinois Supreme Court announced Thursday the appointment of veteran attorney Edward J. King as Cook County Circuit Judge in the Fourth Judicial Subcircuit.