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Illinois Supreme Court

Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Rita B. Garman announced today the formation of a judicial screening committee for the Sixth Judicial Circuit.

The screening committee was formed for the purpose of assessing the qualifications of those persons who have applied for appointment to the Office of Judge of the Circuit Court for the Sixth Judicial Circuit created by the upcoming retirement of Judge Arnold F. Blockman on September 16, 2016. Under the Illinois Constitution, the vacancy will be filled by Supreme Court appointment.

The Illinois Supreme Court announced on Friday that the annual registration fee for attorneys practicing in Illinois will increase by $3 next year.

The increased funds will be directed to the Lawyers' Assistance Program (LAP), a not-for-profit organization that helps attorneys, judges, and law students get confidential assistance with substance abuse, addiction, and mental health issues.

Under amended Supreme Court Rule 756, the annual registration fee will increase from $382 to $385 in 2017 for attorneys who have been in active status for three years or longer. Attorneys in active status for less than three years, inactive status attorneys, and out-of-state attorneys eligible to practice in Illinois under Supreme Court Rule 707 will not see their attorney registration fees rise.

“This modest increase in the annual registration fee will have a significant impact on the LAP’s ability to provide services to impaired attorneys and to shine a light on the issues of addiction and mental illness in our profession,” Chief Justice Rita B. Garman said. “I have often observed that when the Court is called upon to impose professional discipline on an attorney for some sort of professional misconduct, the attorney very often has an underlying history of substance abuse or mental illness. Intervention by the LAP, thus, serves not only the attorney whose career may be impacted by these issues, but the members of the public who have placed their trust in the attorney.”

The Supreme Court of Illinois announced the filing of lawyer disciplinary orders on March 22, 2016, during the March Term of Court. Sanctions were imposed because the lawyers engaged in professional misconduct by violating state ethics law.

DISBARRED

  • Tanya Yvette Brockington, Homewood

Ms. Brockington was licensed in Illinois in 2009 and in Georgia in 2010. She was disbarred in Georgia for neglecting three immigration matters, failing to return unearned fees, and failing to cooperate with the Georgia disciplinary authority. The Illinois Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline and disbarred her.

  • Christian Chenoweth, Chicago

Mr. Chenoweth, who was licensed in 2002, was disbarred on consent. He obtained $1,550,000 in connection with representing two clients and misappropriated at least $10,000 of those funds.  In addition, he pled guilty to a felony charge of retail theft.

  • Raymond L. Huff, Peoria

Mr. Huff, who was licensed in 1973, was disbarred on consent. He practiced law in 2015 during a period when he was suspended for having engaged in professional misconduct. In addition, he failed to comply with Illinois Supreme Court rules after the earlier suspension was imposed against him.  

  • Larry Jay Meyer, Chicago

Mr. Meyer, who was licensed in 1978, was disbarred on consent. He misappropriated more than $150,000 in client funds, provided incorrect information to clients about the funds that he received on their behalf, and borrowed $10,000 from a client without making the required conflict of interest disclosures.

Chief Justice Rita B. Garman announced on Monday that the Illinois Supreme Court has concluded its four-year pilot project permitting news cameras in Illinois courtrooms and has adopted a permanent Policy for Extended Media Coverage (EMC) in the Circuit Courts of Illinois.

The pilot project, which was launched by the Supreme Court on January 24, 2012, allowed the use of media cameras in certain courtrooms on an experimental basis. Since then, 15 judicial circuits have been approved to implement EMC, and more than 450 media requests have been made under the Policy.

Based on the success of the pilot project and the Court's continued goal of promoting greater transparency, accountability, and accessibility to the court system, the justices have amended the Policy to terminate its status as a pilot project and to allow each circuit court to decide whether it wishes to implement EMC.

“At every level of the judicial system, we do the people’s work, and the people have an interest in observing how the judicial process functions,” Chief Justice Garman said. "We are pleased with the success of the pilot project and with the great cooperation we have received from the media. It is time to make EMC more widely available."

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.

DISBARRED

  • 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.