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Supreme Court Quick Takes

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Leetaru v. The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois and Illinois State Treasurer v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and the criminal case People v. Barner

CIVIL

Leetaru v. The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

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

Issues of sovereign immunity divided the Court in this suit by a doctoral student against the University of Illinois and one of its associate vice chancellors (Guenther). Leetaru filed a circuit court action to enjoin further action in connection with an investigation defendants were pursuing against him regarding allegations that he engaged in academic misconduct. Leetaru contended that defendants violated University rules and regulations in conducting the investigation, exceeded their authority, and deprived him of due process.

The circuit court dismissed the action, finding that the Court of Claims had exclusive jurisdiction. After the appellate court affirmed, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Brunton v. Kruger, Cowper v. Nyberg, Skaperdas v. Country Casualty Ins. Co. and Harris v. One Hope United, Inc and provide short summaries for In People ex rel. Madigan v. J. T. Einoder, Inc., McCormick v. Robertson and In re Parentage of Scarlett Z.-D.

CIVIL

Brunton v. Kruger

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

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Friday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the criminal cases People v. Almond, People v. Mosley, People v. Boyce and In re the Interest of Jordan G.

People v. Almond

By Jay Wiegman, Office of the State Appellate Defender

Many people mocked Barney Fife for carrying a single bullet in his shirt pocket, but today's decision in People v. Almond, 2015 IL 113817, shows that to have been a wise policy.

Based on an anonymous tip that drugs were being dealt out of a store, police officers approached Almond (who had prior felony convictions), asked him what he was doing there and whether  he was in possession of any narcotics or weapons. The officer testified that the defendant said “I just got  to let you know I got a gun on me.” The defendant was frisked, and the gun was recovered. The defendant filed a motion to quash arrest and suppress  evidence. At a hearing on the motion, Almond denied that he was even asked whether he had contraband and denied he ever told officers that he possessed a firearm, claiming that he would not tell a police officer that  information  because  he knew “it’s wrong to have a gun.” The motion was denied. Following a bench trial, the defendant was convicted on all counts.

A review of Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court criminal opinion in the case People v. Smith.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Friday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Ferris, Thompson & Zweig, Ltd. v. Esposito, Williams v. BNSF Railway Company, Lutkauskas v. Ricker and Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star of the State of Illinois v. Topinka and the criminal cases People v. Simpson, People v. Chenoweth and People v. Taylor.

CIVIL

Ferris, Thompson and Zweig, Ltd. v. Esposito

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

This case involves the question of subject matter jurisdiction as between the Workers’ Compensation Commission and the circuit court.  The Court held that an attorney fee dispute based upon referral agreements wherein the plaintiff referred workers’ compensation claims to the defendant fell within the circuit court’s jurisdiction.

Plaintiff sued defendant in circuit court, asserting that, pursuant to written agreements, plaintiff agreed to act as co-counsel in representing two women who had workers’ compensation claims.  After the cases settled, defendant refused to pay plaintiff its share of fees. 

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil case Bettis v. Marsaglia and the criminal cases People v. Belknap and People v. Stevens.

CIVIL

Bettis v. Marsaglia

By Karen Kies DeGrand, Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC

Interpreting a provision of the Election Code and resolving a split among appellate districts, the Illinois Supreme Court found that a petitioner seeking judicial review of an electoral board’s denial of a request to submit a public question for referendum satisfied the statutory service requirement. The Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/10-10.1(a) (West 2012), provides that a candidate or objector seeking judicial review of an electoral board’s decision must serve a copy of the petition upon the electoral board. The petitioner, Carolyn Bettis, wished to challenge a resolution of the Macoupin, Montgomery and Sangamon counties’ school district to issue working cash bonds in the amount of $2,000,000. Bettis petitioned the local election board to place the issue on the ballot for an April 9, 2013 election. When the board sustained the objections of two individuals to Bettis’ request, she sought judicial review and served a petition on all of the members of the electoral board at their homes, but did not serve the board as a separate entity.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil case Michael v. Precision Alliance Group, LLC and the criminal cases People v. Jolly and People v. Simth.

CIVIL

Michael v. Precision Alliance Group, LLC

By Karen Kies DeGrand, Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC

Reversing an appellate decision entering judgment for plaintiffs in a retaliatory discharge case, the Illinois Supreme Court reinstated a judgment entered for an employer after a bench trial. The case turned on the legal standard that governs an employee’s burden of proving causation in a retaliatory discharge lawsuit. Illinois recognizes such a claim as a narrow exception to the general rule that an employer may terminate an “at-will” employee at any time, for any reason. The plaintiff in such cases must prove that the employer discharged the employee in retaliation for the employee’s activities and that the discharge violates public policy, such as when an employer fires an employee for asserting a workers’ compensation claim or for “whistleblowing,” reporting illegal or proper conduct. 

In this case, the employees contended that they were fired for whistle blowing  concerning weight labeling violations investigated by the Department of Agriculture. The employer, an agricultural supply company selling soybean seeds, convinced the trier of fact that the company fired the plaintiffs for nonpretextual reasons; one was discharged for engaging in horseplay with a forklift and two others were terminated in connection with a reduction in force. 

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Keating v. City of Chicago, Madigan v. Illinois Commerce Commission, Pusateri v. Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company and Huber v. American Accounting Association and the criminal cases People v. Denson, People v. Holt, In re Detention of New and Cordrey v. Illinois Prison Review Board. The court also released In re Edmonds.

 

CIVIL

Keating v. City of Chicago

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

This opinion, while not reaching the merits of the case, reflects an important point of Illinois constitutional law.

The appellants sought review from a Supreme Court Rule 23 Order which affirmed dismissal of the plaintiffs’ complaint challenging the City of Chicago’s red light camera ordinance.  On review, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal:

In this case, two Justices of this Court have recused themselves and the remaining members of the Court are divided so that it is not possible to secure the constitutionally required concurrence of four judges for a decision (see Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 3).  Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.

The Court explained that the effect of this dismissal is the same as an affirmance by an equally divided court of the decision under review but it does not have precedential value.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Friday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Hayashi v. Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation and Lake County Grading Co. v. Village of Antioch and the criminal case People v. Patterson.

CIVIL

Hayashi v. Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation

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

The plaintiffs in this case were physicians whose health care licenses were permanently revoked based upon prior convictions for battery or criminal sexual abuse of their patients.  They argued that section 2105-165 of the Department of Professional Regulation Law, which was the basis for the revocation, did not apply to people whose convictions predated the Act, that the Act was impermissibly retroactive, and that the enforcement violated various state and federal constitutional provisions.

The Supreme Court found “no merit” in any of plaintiff’s claims. The Court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiffs’ complaints for declaratory and injunctive relief.

Section 2105-165 was enacted in 2011. It mandates permanent revocation, without a hearing, of the license of a health care worker who has been convicted of certain types of criminal offenses, such as “Sex Offender” offenses. Each of the plaintiffs had been convicted, before 2011, of the types of offenses included within the Act.

The Court held that the language of the Act, which provides that revocation applies when a health care worker “has been convicted,” indicated that the Act was intended to apply to convictions that predated the Act.

A member of our panel of leading appellate attorneys reviews Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinion in the legal malpractice case Goldfine v. Barack, Ferrazzano, Kirschbaum & Perlman.

Goldfine v. Barack, Ferrazzano, Kirschbaum & Perlman

By Karen Kies DeGrand, Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC

In a legal malpractice action for the loss of a claim under the Illinois Security Law of 1953, the Illinois Supreme Court rejected a law firm’s arguments that it was being punished for securities violations rather than subject to compensatory damages for negligence. Stock purchases made in 1987-1990 giving rise to an action against Shearson Lehman, broker Michael Steinberg, and others provided the backdrop for the legal malpractice action. The plaintiffs, Morton and Adrienne Goldfine, retained the defendant law firm, Barack, Ferrazzano, Kirschbaum & Perlman, to sue the brokers after the  investment proved worthless as a result of the bankruptcy of the company whose stock plaintiffs purchased in 11 transactions. The plaintiffs had a claim for rescission under the Illinois Securities Law; however, claims against the broker defendants were dismissed based upon the law firm’s failure to serve the rescission notice required by the statute.