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Practice News

Chief Judge Diane P. Wood of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is pleased to announce the appointment of Deborah L. Thorne to a 14-year term as United States Bankruptcy Judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. She will take office on October 22, 2015.

Ms. Thorne earned her bachelor's degree from Macalester College, her Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Duke University and her law degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago Kent College of Law. She was admitted to practice in Illinois in 1983.

Ms. Thorne is a partner in the Chicago office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP. She is Vice President of the American Bankruptcy Institute for Communications and Information Technology and serves on the Executive Committee. Ms.Thorne is a Fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy and is also a member of the Federal Bar Association, Turnaround Management Association, International Women's Insolvency Confederation, and Decalogue Society.

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. 

Michael J. Tardy, Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, announced today that the Twenty-Second Judicial Circuit judges voted to select Jeffrey L. Hirsch as an associate judge of the Twenty-Second Judicial Circuit.

Mr. Hirsch received his undergraduate degree in 1991 from Indiana University in Bloomington and his Juris Doctor in 1994 from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Mr. Hirsch is currently affiliated with The Gitlin Law Firm in Woodstock.

National Celebration of Pro Bono is October 26-30, 2015

By Michael G. Bergmann, ISBA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, Executive Director of the Public Interest Law Initiative 

Coordinated by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, Pro Bono Week is intended to inspire even greater pro bono participation by lawyers throughout the nation. This initiative provides an opportunity for legal organizations across the country to collaboratively commemorate the vitally important contributions of America's lawyers and to recruit and train the many additional volunteers required to meet the growing demand. The Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service undertook this initiative to provide a format for showcasing the incredible difference that pro bono lawyers make to our nation, to our system of justice, to our communities and, most of all, to the clients they serve.

Asked and Answered

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. We are a two-partner firm located in Rochester, Minn. We have been approached by a solo practitioner that wants to sell us his practice. The price and terms seem fair, but we are concerned about staffing and managing the other office. His practice consists of himself and two staff members. We would have to maintain a second office, hire an associate or two for the office, and then manage both operations. We have recently tried to hire an associate without success by reaching out to targeted lawyers that we knew in our local area. Frankly, acquiring this practice is a little daunting. We would appreciate your thoughts.

A. I believe the first issue is whether you are looking to grow the firm and are willing to undertake the additional management responsibilities that comes with growth. Some firms are ready for growth and others are not. Larger is not necessarily better. 

I would not let your unsuccessful associate hiring attempts discourage you from acquiring the practice if you desire to grow and the price and terms are acceptable. You may need to cast a wider net and be more focused in your efforts. Recently a two-attorney firm in Mid-Missouri hired an associate from St. Louis. A two-attorney firm in Central Kentucky hired an associate from Lexington, Kentucky. It may take some time but a concentrated recruiting effort usually pays off regardless where you are located - even in small communities. 

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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.

Michael J. Tardy, Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, announced Monday that the 22nd Judicial Circuit judges voted to select Michael E. Coppedge as an associate judge of the 22nd Judicial Circuit.

Mr. Coppedge received his undergraduate degree in 1984 from the College of St. Francis in Joliet, and his Juris Doctor in 1987 from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Mr. Coppedge is currently affiliated with Cowlin, Naughton, Curran & Coppedge in Crystal Lake.

Asked and Answered

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. I am a recently elected managing partner of a 14 attorney firm in Orlando, Florida. For the last three years, our financial performance has been stagnant and my partners are asking me to cut all overhead expenses possible in order to improve profitability. Suggestions?

A review of Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the criminal cases In re Q.P., People v. Fiveash and People v. Goossens.


In re Q.P.

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

An officer responded to a call of a vehicle burglary in progress. Upon arriving, he located the minor, Q.P., who matched the description of the burglar. The officer handcuffed the minor and put him in the back of the squad car. The minor gave a false name and date of birth. Upon discovery that the information was false, the minor admitted to the officer that he was attempting to prevent the police from discovering that he had an outstanding warrant.

The minor was charged with, and convicted of, obstructing justice based upon giving false information to the police with the intent to prevent his apprehension. The Supreme Court was called upon to determine the meaning of “apprehension.” The minor argued that he was already apprehended because he was in police custody at the time he provided the false information. The State argued that apprehension is specific to each criminal charge and thus, while the minor had been apprehended for the suspected vehicle burglary, he had not yet been apprehended on the outstanding warrant.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Stevens v. McGuireWoods, LLP,  Lake Environmental Inc. v. Arnold, Seymour v. Collins, The Village of Vernon Hills v. Heelan and O’Toole  v. The Chicago Zoological Society.


Stevens v. McGuireWoods L.L.P.

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

The court’s unanimous opinion in Stevens v. McGuireWoods, LLP, is grounded on the established points that legal malpractice plaintiffs must be able to establish actual monetary loss as damages, that such a plaintiff cannot be in a better position by bringing suit against the attorney than if the underlying action had been prosecuted successfully, and that damages obtainable in a corporate derivative action belong to the corporation, and not to plaintiff shareholders. 

The plaintiffs here are former minority shareholders in an LLC.  They had retained the defendant law firm to bring claims against managers of the LLC as well as its majority shareholder.  Those claims were brought in both individual and derivative capacities.  Substituted counsel brought additional claims against the LLC’s corporate counsel.  Those claims were dismissed for various reasons, including standing and statutes of limitations and repose.  The plaintiff shareholders settled the underlying case, and relinquished all ownership interest in the LLC.