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Illinois Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Illinois announced the filing of lawyer disciplinary orders on March 20, 2017, during the March Term of Court. Sanctions were imposed because the lawyers engaged in professional misconduct by violating state ethics law. 

DISBARRED

  • Joel Mitchell Bell, Chicago

Mr. Bell, who was licensed in 1975, was disbarred on consent. He misappropriated over $364,000 in client funds and lied to two of his clients about the status of their respective settlement proceeds. He was suspended on an interim basis on December 2, 2016.

  • Michael David Gerhardt, Forest Park

Mr. Gerhardt, who was licensed in 2003, was disbarred. He neglected two civil cases, resulting in two judgments totaling approximately $500,000 being entered against his clients in one case and $20,000 in settlement funds not being distributed to another client. He also failed to return an unearned fee and made misrepresentations to his client regarding the status of that client’s case. He failed to appear at his own disciplinary hearing.

Beginning with its March 2017 term, the Illinois Supreme Court is posting briefs for each case in the term’s Call of the Docket on the court’s website.

The briefs for the March term are available under Docket in the Quick Links tab. Briefs for upcoming terms will typically be available one to two weeks before each term starts.

“Briefs and oral arguments are the primary tools used by courts of review in deciding cases," Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier said in a court press release. "Our court has made videos of all oral arguments available online for several years now. We are very pleased that briefs will now be available online as well."

The change was made possible when the Illinois Supreme Court adopted Rule 364 to protect against identity theft and the disclosure of personal information in cases before the state's reviewing courts. The rule took effect July 1, 2016, and affects all documents and exhibits filed by paper or electronically in criminal and civil cases before the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts.

Leading appellate attorneys review the Illinois Supreme Court opinions handed down Friday, February 17. The cases are Stone Street Partners, LLC v. City of Chicago Dept. of Administrative HearingsWardwell v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.Grimm v. Calica, and, from the criminal docket, People v. Fort, People v. Ayres, and People v. Shinaul.

CIVIL

Stone Street Partners, LLC v. City of Chicago Dept. of Administrative Hearings

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

In Stone Street Partners, LLC v. City of Chicago Dept. of Administrative Hearings, a limited scope Armageddon was expected to occur concerning a claim of unauthorized practice of law, but by a vote of 4 to 3 that battle was called off.  Stone Street Partners, LLC brought this action in the circuit court to obtain administrative review and other relief after discovering that a judgment had been recorded against one of its properties for failure to pay $1,050 in fines and costs imposed by Chicago’s department of administrative hearings for alleged violations of the city’s building code, such as installation of carbon monoxide detectors, removal of garbage and debris, and the installation of lighting and exit signage.

Justice John J. Stamos
Justice John J. Stamos
Justice John J. Stamos, who served as an Illinois Supreme Court Justice from 1988 to 1990, passed away on Saturday, January 28, in Northbrook. He was 92.

“On behalf of the Illinois Supreme Court, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family, friends and former colleagues of Justice John J. Stamos," Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier said. "Justice Stamos was an outstanding lawyer and judge who distinguished himself both on the appellate court and as a member of the Supreme Court of Illinois.

"Justice Stamos is perhaps best known as the author of In re Himmel,  125 Ill.2d 531(1989).  Decided in the wake of Operation Greylord, In re Himmel affirmed that all members of the Illinois bar are under an obligation to report lawyer misconduct or the misconduct of others directly observed in the practice of law or the administration of justice. The case has been cited hundreds of times in the legal literature and has had a profound and positive impact on how lawyers conduct themselves in Illinois and throughout the United States. The people of our State owe him a debt of gratitude for his unwavering commitment to the highest principles of justice. He will be missed."

The Illinois Supreme Court announced rule amendments today that make Illinois the first state to adopt so-called “proactive management-based regulation” (PMBR), a system designed to prevent ethical missteps by requiring lawyers without malpractice insurance to review their operations. For the text of the changes, see Amended Rule 756(e).  

Beginning in 2018, Illinois attorneys in private practice who do not have malpractice insurance must complete a four-hour interactive, online self-assessment regarding the operation of their law firm. This self-assessment will require lawyers to demonstrate that they have reviewed the operations of their firm based upon both lawyer ethics rules and best business practices. The program will be administered by the ARDC.

Following a lawyer’s self-assessment, the ARDC will provide him or her with a list of resources to address issues identified during the self-assessment process, according to a supreme court press release. All information gathered in a lawyer’s online self-assessment is confidential, although the ARDC may report data in the aggregate.

Lawyers who do not maintain malpractice insurance are required to complete a self-assessment every two years. Other lawyers are encouraged to self-assess. Lawyers who participate in the PMBR self-assessment will earn free MCLE credits.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys reviews the Illinois Supreme Court opinions handed down Friday, January 20. The cases are The Hertz Corporation v. City of Chicago, Board of Education of Springfield School Dist. No. 186 v. Attorney General of Illinois, Village of Bartonville v. Lopez, and People v. Johnson.

CIVIL

The Hertz Corporation v. City of Chicago

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

The Supreme Court of Illinois announced the filing of lawyer disciplinary orders on January 13, 2017, during the January Term of Court. Sanctions were imposed because the lawyers engaged in professional misconduct by violating state ethics law.

DISBARRED

  • Sean Patrick Fleming, Barrington

Mr. Fleming, who was licensed in 2007, was disbarred. He neglected ten different bankruptcy matters, misappropriated over $3,000 in filing fees, made misrepresentations to his clients about the status of their legal matters, and failed to return unearned fees.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys reviews the Illinois Supreme Court opinions handed down Friday, December 30. The cases are Bremer v. The City of Rockford, Johnson v. Ames, People v. Price, and People v. Smith.

CIVIL

Bremer v. The City of Rockford

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

In three cases since 2003, the Supreme Court has construed the phrase “catastrophic injury” in the Public Safety Benefits Act (820 ILCS 320/10(a)) to be synonymous with an injury resulting in a line-of-duty disability pension under section 4-110 of the Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/4-110). The controlling issue in this case is whether that phrase is also synonymous with an injury resulting in an occupational disease disability pension under section 4-110.1 of the Pension Code. The court, with Justice Thomas writing, unanimously held that the legislature did not intend for that phrase to be synonymous with a disease  which resulted in the award of an occupational disease disability pension. The court stated that its prior cases were based on references in the legislative history to only the “line-of-duty” disability provision, and that nothing in the legislative history  indicated an intent to expand the definition of “catastrophic injury.”

Justice Rita B. Garman of the Supreme Court of Illinois has begun an application process for a Resident Circuit Court vacancy in the Sixth Judicial Circuit.

The vacancy will be created by the retirement of Chief Judge Dan L. Flannell on January 13, 2017. Judge Flannell has been a Resident Circuit Judge since 1988.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursdays's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the criminal case People v. McDonald and the civil cases Schweihs v. Chase Home Finance, LLC and In re M.I. 

CRIMINAL

People v. McDonald

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

Defendant Stanley McDonald stabbed his partner, Larry Gladney, resulting in Gladney’s death.  A paramedic who had responded to the scene testified that Gladney was very combative as they tried to treat him.  Gladney smelled of alcohol and had needle track marks indicative of drug use.  Later testing showed a BAC of .19 and cocaine in Gladney’s system.  Gladney died two days later, with the cause being a stroke resulting from a stab wound to his right cheek which had damaged his carotid artery and caused a blood clot.