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Supreme Court Quick Takes

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's top Illinois Supreme Court Civil opinions in Valfer v. Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, Fattah v. BimRichter v. Prairie Farms Dairy and Commonwealth Edison Company v. Illinois Commerce Commission.

Valfer v. Evanston Northwestern Healthcare

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

This case explored the breadth of a hospital’s immunity under the Illinois Hospital Licensing Act. Following a peer review, the hospital revoked Dr. Valfer’s privileges to practice at the hospital. After Dr. Valfer sued, the hospital obtained summary judgment. The trial court agreed that the hospital was immune from damages under the Licensing Act and that it had complied with its bylaws and had not engaged in any willful and wanton conduct.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's top Illinois Supreme Court Criminal opinions in People v. Hernandez, People v. Cotto and People v. Grant.

People v. Hernandez

By Jay Wiegman, Office of the State Appellate Defender

In People v. Hernandez, 2016 IL 118672, the Illinois Supreme Court built upon its recent decision in People v. Ligon, 2016 118023, and determined that the elements of armed robbery are not identical to the elements of armed violence.  Because armed robbery does not have the same elements as the lesser Class 2 offense of armed violence with a Category III weapon, which carried a lesser penalty, the Class X sentence for armed robbery imposed upon Hernandez did not violate the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases State of Illinois v. American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Council 31, Vaughn v. City of Carbondale and Jones v. Municipal Employees' Annuity & Benefit Fund and the criminal cases People v. Timmsen and People v. Burns.

CIVIL

State of Illinois v. American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Council 31

By Karen Kies DeGrand, Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC

In one of two March 24, 2016, decisions that directly affect thousands of individuals working for the State of Illinois and indirectly affect all Illinois taxpayers, the Illinois Supreme Court vacated an arbitration ruling requiring the state to pay a 2% wage increase to state employees under a collective bargaining agreement between the state and the American Federation  of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31 (“AFSCME”).  The court ruled that the arbitration award, which required immediate payment of the wage increase, regardless of the legislative appropriation of funding for the pay raise, violates  Illinois public policy as determined by the General Assembly in section 21 of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act, 5 ILCS 315/21 (West 2014).   

People v. Boston

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

In 1997, Tonya Pipes was found stabbed to death in her bathtub. A bloody palm print, in Pipes’ blood, was recovered from the wall above the tub.

The print was not immediately matched to anyone.

People v. Ligon

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

Dennis Ligon was armed with a BB gun when he approached a woman exiting her vehicle and took it from her.  He was convicted of aggravated vehicular hijacking with a dangerous weapon other than a firearm (AVH/DW), a Class X felony.  He was sentenced to natural life under the Habitual Criminal Act.

Petrovic v. The Department of Employment Security

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

This case, involving a denial of unemployment insurance benefits based upon employee misconduct, provided an opportunity for the Court to clarify the type of misconduct required and the proof necessary to justify such denial.

Petrovic applied for unemployment insurance benefits after she was terminated by American Airlines for misconduct at work. Petrovic had requested that the catering department deliver champagne to a customer and had asked a flight attendant to upgrade that passenger to first class.

The Department of Employment Security denied the request for unemployment benefits and the Board of Review affirmed that determination. Following further review, the case proceeded to the Supreme Court.

Because the applicable statute required that an employee’s violation be “deliberate and willful,” it necessarily required evidence that the employee was aware that her conduct was prohibited. In this case, there was no evidence in the record of a reasonable American Airlines rule or policy prohibiting Petrovic’s conduct. The employer’s sole witness at the administrative hearing testified only that “policies and procedures were not followed” but did not identify any specific rule or policy. Further, statements contained within the employer’s written protest were not legally competent evidence. The protest was merely a pleading and any facts alleged within the protest had to be substantiated with competent evidence.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Friday's Illinois Supreme Court Civil opinions in Coleman v. East Joliet Fire Protection District and Klaine v. Southern Illinois Hospital Services.

Coleman v. East Joliet Fire Protection District

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

In this divisive case, the Supreme Court departed from stare decisis and “determined that the time has come to abandon the public duty rule and its special duty exception.”

The public duty rule provided that local governmental entities and their employees owe no duty of care to individual members of the general public to provide governmental services, such as police and fire protection.

The Court based its ruling on three considerations: (1) the jurisprudence regarding the public duty rule was “muddled and inconsistent”; (2) application of the public duty rule is incompatible with the legislature's grant of limited immunity in cases of willful and wanton misconduct; and (3) determining public policy is primarily a legislative function and, by enacting statutory immunities, the legislature had rendered the public duty rule obsolete.

The special concurrence by Justice Freeman, joined by Justice Theis, agreed that the public duty rule must be abolished, but offered alternative justifications for the abolition. Justice Thomas, joined by Chief Justice Garman and Justice Karmeier, dissented, criticizing that the majority and concurring opinions were indefensible and that “both make a mockery of stare decisis.”

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Friday's top Illinois Supreme Court Criminal opinions in People v. Cummings, People v. Tolbert, People v. Chambers, People v. Sanders, People. v. Williams, People v. Lerma, People v. Thompson and People v. Salem.

People v. Cummings

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

Derrick Cummings was driving a van registered to Pearlene Chattic when an officer initiated a traffic stop because Chattic was the subject of an arrest warrant. The officer could not see the driver before initiating the stop. Upon approaching, he saw Cummings was a man and thus, clearly, was not Chattic. The officer asked Cummings for his license, and defendant responded he did not have one. Cummings was then cited for driving while license suspended.

The circuit court granted suppression, and the appellate court affirmed. Initially, the Illinois Supreme Court followed suit. On remand from the United States Supreme Court to reconsider its earlier opinion in light of Rodriguez v. U.S., 135 S. Ct. 1609, however, the Court reversed.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Bowman v. Ottney and Board of Education of the City of Chicago v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board and the criminal cases People v. Hughes, People v. Burns and In re Michael D.

Note: The authors of the summaries and the staff of Illinois Lawyer Now wish to honor the memory of Hon. Jean Prendergast Rooney, who passed away on December 8, 2015, and was a valuable original member of this team before becoming Circuit Judge. She is greatly missed.

CIVIL

Bowman v. Ottney

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

When a judge has made a ruling on a substantial issue in a case, followed by a voluntary dismissal without prejudice pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/2-1009, a party may not move for substitution of judge when the subsequently refiled case is assigned to the judge who presided in the first case. In Bowman v. Ottney, the judge ruled on substantial issues, such as the scope of discovery. Thereafter, plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her complaint and timely refiled her action. The refiled case was assigned to the original judge, and plaintiff immediately moved for substitution of judge pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/2-1001. Defendant objected, asserting that plaintiff had “tested the waters” during the first case. The circuit court denied the substitution of judge but certified the issue under SCR 308.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases 1010 Lake Shore Association v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Company and DG Enterprises v. Cornelius. and the criminal cases People v. Carter, People v. Schweihs, People v. Thompson and People v. Espinoza.

CIVIL

1010 Lake Shore Association v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Company

By Karen Kies DeGrand, Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC

A condominium association won summary judgment in a lawsuit it brought against a bank in a fight over whether the bank had extinguished the association’s lien rights following purchase of the unit at a judicial foreclosure sale. Interpreting two statutes, section 9(g)(3) of the Condominium Property Act and section 15-1509(c) of the Mortgage Foreclosure Law, the Illinois Supreme Court determined that a lien for unpaid assessments by a previous owner is not fully extinguished at a judicial foreclosure and sale unless the new owner “confirms the extinguishment” of the lien by paying assessments incurred after the sale. The lien is statutorily created upon a unit owner’s failure to pay common expenses when due. Even assuming that the condominium association was included as a party to the prior foreclosure action, the bank still was required to take the additional step to confirm the extinguishment by paying post sale assessments.