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Supreme Court Quick Takes

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.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Slepicka v. Ill. Dept. of Public Health, Nationwide Financial v. Pobuda and Bruns v. City of Centralia and the criminal case People v. Perez.

CIVIL

Slepicka v. Illinois Department of Public Health

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

What is the remedy if administrative review is sought in the wrong circuit court? Here, the Court held that the remedy was for the action to be transferred to the correct district of the Appellate Court to review the merits.

The Illinois Department of Public Health issued an order from Springfield determining that Mary Slepicka was subject to involuntary discharge from her nursing home, which was located in Cook County.  Slepicka sought administrative review of that decision in the Sangamon County circuit court. The nursing home moved to dismiss or transfer for improper venue. The circuit court denied the motion and confirmed the Department’s decision.

The nursing home sought dismissal of Slepicka’s appeal. The Appellate Court, Fourth District, found that the circuit court had jurisdiction but that venue was improper. It vacated the circuit court judgment and remanded with directions that the action be transferred to Cook County circuit court to review the Department’s decision.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases People ex rel. Madigan v. Burge and Kanerva v. Weems.

People ex rel. Madigan v. Burge

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

People ex rel. Madigan v. Burge, which involves great  public interest because of the alleged actions of defendant while supervisor of the Violent Crimes Unit detectives of an area for the Chicago Police Department, ends, as it began in the circuit court, with the conclusion that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider this case. The reasoning and judgment of the circuit court were affirmed; the appellate court was reversed.

In 1997 Jon Burge applied for and received pension benefits from the policemen’s benefit fund. In 2003, a federal civil rights lawsuit was filed by a plaintiff who alleged that he was tortured and abused by officers under Burge’s command. In answers to written interrogatories in that suit, Burge denied under oath having knowledge of, or participating in, the torture or abuse of persons in custody of the Chicago Police Dept. In 2010, Burge was convicted of felonies for making false answers to interrogatories.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases In re the Estate of Powell, In re N.C., a Minor, and In re Marrigate of Turk.

In re the Estate of Powell

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

In re Estate of Powell, 2014 IL 115997, holds that an attorney who brings a wrongful death action owes a legal duty to the decedent’s beneficiaries at the distribution of funds phase of that action.  The court rejected the contentions of the defendant attorneys in this legal malpractice case that an attorney engaged to prosecute a wrongful death action only owes a duty to the personal representative of the estate and not to the beneficiaries of the action.  The court also rejected a defense contention that the potential, unpled here, of a conflict among beneficiaries should negate the imposition of a duty to the beneficiaries.  The court stated it was making no determination as to the scope of duty when a conflict among the beneficiaries is specifically alleged.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Bridgeview Health Care Center, Ltd. v. State Farm Fire and In re of Marriage of Donald B. and the criminal cases In re Brandon P., People v. Stahl and People v. Stoecker. The court also released In re Commitment of Fields, In re Rita P., People v. Bingham, WISAM 1, Inc. v. Illinois Liquor Control Commission and Nelson v. The County of Kendall.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the criminal cases People v. Clark, People v. Melongo, People v. Fernandez, People v. Easley, People v. Davis and People v. Cummings. In People v. Clark and People v. Melongo the Court unanimously held that the current eavesdropping statute is unconstitutional.

People v. Clark and People v. Melongo

By Jay Wiegman, Office of the State Appellate Defender