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Illinois Supreme Court

Petrovic v. The Department of Employment Security

By Alyssa M. Reiter, Williams Montgomery & John Ltd.

This case, involving a denial of unemployment insurance benefits based upon employee misconduct, provided an opportunity for the Court to clarify the type of misconduct required and the proof necessary to justify such denial.

Petrovic applied for unemployment insurance benefits after she was terminated by American Airlines for misconduct at work. Petrovic had requested that the catering department deliver champagne to a customer and had asked a flight attendant to upgrade that passenger to first class.

The Department of Employment Security denied the request for unemployment benefits and the Board of Review affirmed that determination. Following further review, the case proceeded to the Supreme Court.

Because the applicable statute required that an employee’s violation be “deliberate and willful,” it necessarily required evidence that the employee was aware that her conduct was prohibited. In this case, there was no evidence in the record of a reasonable American Airlines rule or policy prohibiting Petrovic’s conduct. The employer’s sole witness at the administrative hearing testified only that “policies and procedures were not followed” but did not identify any specific rule or policy. Further, statements contained within the employer’s written protest were not legally competent evidence. The protest was merely a pleading and any facts alleged within the protest had to be substantiated with competent evidence.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Friday's Illinois Supreme Court Civil opinions in Coleman v. East Joliet Fire Protection District and Klaine v. Southern Illinois Hospital Services.

Coleman v. East Joliet Fire Protection District

By Alyssa M. Reiter, Williams, Montgomery & John Ltd.

In this divisive case, the Supreme Court departed from stare decisis and “determined that the time has come to abandon the public duty rule and its special duty exception.”

The public duty rule provided that local governmental entities and their employees owe no duty of care to individual members of the general public to provide governmental services, such as police and fire protection.

The Court based its ruling on three considerations: (1) the jurisprudence regarding the public duty rule was “muddled and inconsistent”; (2) application of the public duty rule is incompatible with the legislature's grant of limited immunity in cases of willful and wanton misconduct; and (3) determining public policy is primarily a legislative function and, by enacting statutory immunities, the legislature had rendered the public duty rule obsolete.

The special concurrence by Justice Freeman, joined by Justice Theis, agreed that the public duty rule must be abolished, but offered alternative justifications for the abolition. Justice Thomas, joined by Chief Justice Garman and Justice Karmeier, dissented, criticizing that the majority and concurring opinions were indefensible and that “both make a mockery of stare decisis.”

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Friday's top Illinois Supreme Court Criminal opinions in People v. Cummings, People v. Tolbert, People v. Chambers, People v. Sanders, People. v. Williams, People v. Lerma, People v. Thompson and People v. Salem.

People v. Cummings

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

Derrick Cummings was driving a van registered to Pearlene Chattic when an officer initiated a traffic stop because Chattic was the subject of an arrest warrant. The officer could not see the driver before initiating the stop. Upon approaching, he saw Cummings was a man and thus, clearly, was not Chattic. The officer asked Cummings for his license, and defendant responded he did not have one. Cummings was then cited for driving while license suspended.

The circuit court granted suppression, and the appellate court affirmed. Initially, the Illinois Supreme Court followed suit. On remand from the United States Supreme Court to reconsider its earlier opinion in light of Rodriguez v. U.S., 135 S. Ct. 1609, however, the Court reversed.

The Supreme Court of Illinois announced the filing of lawyer disciplinary orders on January 21, 2016, during the January Term of Court. Sanctions were imposed because the lawyers engaged in professional misconduct by violating state ethics law.


  • David Andre Bertha, Chicago

Mr. Bertha, who was licensed in 2002, was disbarred and he is required to pay certain restitution as a condition of any reinstatement. He converted over $13,000 in client escrow funds, neglected client matters entrusted to him, made scurrilous accusations and threats against judges, lawyers and others, and tendered a false court order and bank statement to a client.

  • Anthony Campanale, Chicago

Mr. Campanale, who was licensed in 1980, was disbarred on consent. He pled guilty to a federal charge of mail fraud affecting a financial institution. In his plea, he admitted to participating in a scheme to defraud lenders and their successors and to obtain money and property from lenders by means of materially false and fraudulent representations.

  • Robert Kenneth Lock, Jr., Chicago

Mr. Lock, who was licensed in 1989, was disbarred on consent. While suspended from the practice of law in a prior disciplinary matter, he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in a foreclosure matter and misled his client and other attorneys about his handling of that matter.

The Illinois Supreme Court announced Wednesday that Charles William Smith has been appointed as a Circuit Judge of the 19th Circuit, 1st Subcircuit. This appointment is effective Feb. 22, 2016 and terminates on Dec. 2018. This opening was the result of the retirement of the Hon. George Bridges.

The Illinois Supreme Court has announced the creation of a judicial college to provide comprehensive and multidisciplinary educational programs and professional development training to the state's judges and Judicial Branch employees.

Under the authority and governance of the Supreme Court, the Illinois Judicial College will consist of a seven-member Board of Trustees and six standing Committees. The formation of the Judicial College will take effect January 1, 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 Eighth Judicial Circuit.

The vacancy is created by the resignation of Judge William O. Mays, Jr., effective January 15, 2016. Judge Mays has been an At-Large Circuit Judge in the Eighth Judicial Circuit since 2006.

Under the Illinois Constitution, judicial vacancies are filled by Supreme Court appointment. The application process will lead to the final Court approval. Applicants will undergo an evaluation and screening process.

Notice of the vacancy has been posted in the courthouses throughout the Circuit. The application form and instructions may be obtained by visiting the Illinois Supreme Court's website at and following the instructions in the "Latest News" scroller announcing the Eighth Judicial Circuit vacancy.

Michael J. Tardy, Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, announced today that the 10th Judicial Circuit judges voted to select Suzanne L. Patton as an associate judge of the 10th Judicial Circuit.

Ms. Patton received her undergraduate degree in 1996 from Illinois State University in Normal and her Juris Doctor in 1999 from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Ms. Patton is currently affiliated with the Peoria County State's Attorney's Office in Peoria.

The Illinois Supreme Court has announced the creation of uniform standards and a certification and application process for problem-solving courts across the state.

Statewide standards will bring uniformity, accountability, and administrative oversight to problem-solving courts in Illinois, where there are already more than 100 in operation and more in the planning stages.

For the first time in nearly a century, the fees to obtain an Illinois law license and to certify documents will increase next year.

The Illinois Supreme Court approved these fee increases and other amendments to Rule 313 during its November Term. The increases will take effect July 1, 2016.