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Illinois Supreme Court

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.

The Illinois Supreme Court announced today the adoption of several rule changes designed to bring attorney ethics rules up to date with advances in technology and developments in global legal practices.

During its September Term, the Court approved amendments to the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct and Supreme Court Rules 705 and 716. The Supreme Court Rules Committee recommended the changes to the Court after reviewing the proposals and holding a public hearing on July 22, 2015, in Chicago.

All of the rule changes take effect January 1, 2016.

Joseph R. Tybor
Joseph R. Tybor
Joseph Tybor, the longtime Chicago journalist and press secretary for the Illinois Supreme Court, died Saturday at his home in Countryside. He was 68.

Tybor’s 30-year journalism career included comprehensive coverage of a broad array of subjects, including the Vietnam War, Notre Dame football and his must-read “On the Law” column that ran weekly in the Chicago Tribune.

For the past decade and a half he was a diligent advocate for the Illinois Supreme Court and spearheaded key changes to the Open Meetings Act, which allowed cameras into Illinois courtrooms for the first time.

"My colleagues and I are deeply saddened by Joe’s passing. He was truly dedicated to his role as the voice of the Illinois Supreme Court, and we watched in awe as he continued to carry out his duties even as he fought his illness," Chief Justice Rita B. Garman said. "He was an example to us all of courage and strength. We extend our deepest condolences to his family, in which he took such great pride. We will miss his professionalism, his optimism, and his cheerful demeanor."

“His relationships with reporters and his love and passion for the law made him such an absolute great fit at the Supreme Court,” Tybor’s son, Adam Tybor, said. “He was amazing at his job - he fought for his beliefs."

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil case Nelson v. Artley and the criminal case People v. Stapinski.


Nelson v. Artley

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

The liability of a rental car company who obtains a certificate of self-insurance from the Secretary of State is limited to the same minimum coverage provisions applicable to rental car companies who meet their financial responsibility obligations through purchasing an insurance policy. 

Mr. Nelson was injured by an Enterprise rental car driven by Mr. Artley, who was uninsured. Nelson sued Artley, resulting in a default judgment of $600,000.  Nelson brought a supplementary action against Enterprise.

Enterprise asserted various affirmative defenses, the most pertinent dealing with its financial exposure.  Enterprise argued that because it was self-insured, its total financial responsibility per occurrence was $100,000 (the statutory minimum coverage requirements for insurance).  Because $75,000 already had been paid or allotted to other claims arising out of the same incident, the circuit court issued a turnover order of $25,000 to Nelson. 

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke announced today an application process for a vacancy in the 13th Judicial Subcircuit of Cook County.

The vacancy will be created by the retirement of Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas P. Fecarotta Jr., who served as a judge since 1998. His retirement took effect September 30, 2015.