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Leading appellate attorneys review the Illinois Supreme Court opinions handed down on Thursday, September 21. The cases are People v. PetersonPeople v. Gray, People v. Holman, People ex rel. Madigan v. Wildermuth, In re Linda B., Cochran v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc., Illinois Landowners Alliance, NFP v. Illinois Commerce Commission, Aspen American Insurance Company v. Interstate Warehousing, Inc., and Manago v. County of Cook.

People v. Peterson

By Kerry Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender

In 2004, Drew Peterson’s ex-wife, Kathleen, was found dead in her bathtub.

Her death was initially ruled accidental. In 2007, after Peterson’s then-wife Stacy disappeared, Kathleen’s body was exhumed and two additional autopsies were conducted. Both concluded that the manner of death was homicide. Peterson was charged with Kathleen’s murder in 2009, and was convicted in a 2012 jury trial.


It's not unusual to hear judges and lawyers - mostly judges - talk about how many pro se litigants they encounter these days. And the eye-popping statistics more than bear out the anecdotal evidence.

Data from the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts ("AOIC") show that in 2015, nearly two-thirds of total civil cases outside Cook County - 65.2 percent - had at least one self-represented litigant. For certain types of cases, this figure rises as high as 80 percent. In addition, the court system is facing the facts that one out of five Illinois residents speaks a language other than English at home according to U.S. Census data, the number of Illinois residents below the poverty line has grown, and the number of pro bono attorneys has not kept pace.

"People are self-represented for a whole host of reasons," says Danielle Hirsch, assistant director of the AOIC's Civil Justice Division. "Some can't afford representation, some don't know where to find it, and some are do-it-yourselfers who want the sport of trying it on their own. It would be hard to treat them as a monolith." Hirsch adds that in practice areas like small claims or family, "the default is self-representation." And defendants overall are about two-thirds pro se, she says.

Christine T. Cody has been named associate judge of the 18th Judicial Court in DuPage County, filling the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Bruce R. Kelsey.

She received her law degree from the Loyola University School of Law and has been a partner with the Law Offices of Rohde & Cody in Addison since 2011.

She has also served as an adjunct professor at the College of DuPage, a partner with Cody, Mitacek & Rohde, an assistant state's attorney for the DuPage County State's Attorney's Office; and an associate at DiMonte, Schostack & Lizak. 


Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the owner of a law practice in Belleville, Illinois. My practice focuses on real estate, estate planning and administration, and bankruptcy. I have three legal assistants. While I have been in practice for ten years, I have never hired an associate. I have a busy practice and now is the time. I have identified a candidate with six years of experience that I want to hire. He has business that he can bring with him. He has been working with a larger firm as an associate and has been paid a straight salary. My next step is to make him an offer but I am struggling with how to pay him. I would like to hear your thoughts.

The Circuit Judges of the 18th Judicial Court, DuPage County, unanimously elected Judge Daniel P. Guerin to the position of chief judge at a meeting held September 13. Judge Guerin's term as Chief Judge will commence on December 4, 2017. Judge Guerin will succeed Chief Judge Kathryn E. Creswell.

In June, three New Jersey Supreme Court committees jointly barred the state's lawyers from using Avvo's client-linking service. State regulators found that the "marketing fee" taken by Avvo from the payment consumers make to lawyers for flat-fee services via its referral system is improper fee-splitting with nonlawyers and an unethical lawyer-referral payment (Avvo argues that it does not violate ethical rules (http://bit.ly/2i2xgsK)). New Jersey regulators also found that LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer operate legal service plans that were not registered with the State of New Jersey. (Both entities have since registered.)

What does this opinion mean for Illinois attorneys? As a preliminary matter, not very much. New Jersey regulates its attorneys, just like Illinois regulates its own, says Tim Moran, the chair of the ISBA's Standing Committee on the Future of Legal Services and immediate past chair of the ISBA Unauthorized Practice of Law Task Force. The New Jersey rulings don't have any effect on Illinois attorneys. However, the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct also prohibit fee-sharing with nonlawyers. And ISBA General Counsel Charles Northrup notes that ethics opinions in South Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have also found the Avvo marketing fee to constitute improper fee-sharing and referral fees.

Find out more in the September Illinois Bar Journal.


Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the sole owner of a six-attorney estate planning practice in Phoenix, Arizona. The five associates have been with me from five to fifteen years. I just turned 55 and would like to retire when I am 65, either by selling my practice to another firm or to one or more of my associates. I would like to receive some remuneration for the sweat equity that I have invested (goodwill). I have tried over the years to set up my practice in a way that it is not “just me.” I changed the name of my firm to a trade name that does not include my name, arranged the lawyers’ names on our letterhead and website alphabetically, and eliminated designations such as principal and associate. I believe that I have made it difficult for clients and prospective clients to know who the boss is. I hope that this will make my firm more salable and appealing in the future. I would appreciate your comments.


Beginning with the N-Z reporting period ending June 30, 2019, Illinois attorneys must complete at least one our of diversity and inclusion CLE and one hour of mental health and substance abuse CLE during each two-year reporting period, or participate in a yearlong Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program (S. Ct. Rule 795(d)).

The rule changes reflect an effort to address the impact of the legal profession's diversity challenges on the justice system. Additionally, the new rules seek to encourage lawyers to explore ways to increase their health and well-being because statistics show that judges and lawyers suffer from mental health and substance abuse issues at a significantly higher rate than does the general population.

ISBA has several courses to help you satisfy the requirements under the new MCLE rule change, including:

Robert F. Harris has been appointed a Cook County Circuit Judge in the 5th Subcircuit by Justice Mary Jane Theis and the Illinois Supreme Court. 

Mr. Harris was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Edward Washington.
The appointment takes effect September 21, 2017, and will conclude on December 3, 2018, when the position will be filled by the 2018 General Election.

"I'm deeply honored to be chosen from a field of accomplished and talented people to be selected as a judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County," Harris said. "I look forward to this new path as a servant to the public and I will work hard to become an exemplary member of the judiciary."

Charles S. Beach was appointed as a Cook County Circuit Judge in the 6th Subcircuit by Justice Mary Jane Theis and the Illinois Supreme Court.

Mr. Beach was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of the Hon. Richard C. Cooke. The appointment takes effect Sept. 15, 2017 and will conclude on Dec. 3, 2018, when the position is filled by the November 2018 General Election.