Justia Illinois Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Fee-sharing provisions in otherwise valid retainer agreements between clients and two separate law firms are not unenforceable simply because the primary service performed by one firm is the referral of the clients to the other and the agreements fail to specifically notify clients that each firm has assumed joint financial responsibility for the representation. In 2007-2010, Plaintiff, a Gurnee law firm, was retained by 10 clients for representation under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Plaintiff contracted with attorney Esposito for assistance in representing the clients before the Workers’ Compensation Commission. A letter of understanding was drafted by defendant, confirming that the cases had been referred to defendant by plaintiff, outlining the parties’ respective responsibilities regarding representation of the clients, and specifying that the attorney fees obtained in each case would be split between Plaintiff and Esposito. The agreements did not specifically notify the clients that the lawyers in each firm had assumed joint financial responsibility for the representation. Plaintiff’s breach of contract suit against Esposito was dismissed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s reversal, rejecting an argument that the agreements’ lack of an express statement that the attorneys assumed joint financial responsibility violated Rule 1.5(e) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct and thereby rendered the agreements invalid. View "Ferris, Thompson & Zweig, Ltd. v. Esposito" on Justia Law

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Successor agent owed no fiduciary duties to principal before occurrence of contingencies stated in power of attorney. Ruth was named as executor of the estates of her parents, Thomas and Doris, following their deaths in 2012. As executor, Ruth filed two actions on behalf of the estates against her brother, Rodney, involving quitclaim deeds signed by Thomas in 2011 which conveyed farmland to Rodney. At the time of these transactions, Rodney was designated as the successor agent under both Thomas’s and Doris’s powers of attorney. The estates alleged that Rodney breached his fiduciary and statutory duties as an agent by personally benefitting from the real estate transactions. The Grundy County circuit court dismissed both actions. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal of the action involving Thomas’s estate and reversed with respect to Doris’s estate. The Illinois Supreme Court concluded that both actions were properly dismissed. The plain language of Thomas’s power of attorney appointed Rodney as agent only upon the occurrence of a specific contingency. Rodney’s authority to act on behalf of Thomas did not arise until Doris died, became incompetent, or became unwilling to act as an agent. Until that time, Rodney owed no fiduciary duties to Thomas. View "In re Estate of Shelton" on Justia Law
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Illinois High School Association (IHSA), which governs interscholastic athletic competitions for public and private secondary schools, is not a “public body” under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 ILCS 140/2. Founded in 1900, IHSA is a private, not-for-profit, unincorporated association with over 800 public and private high school members. IHSA establishes bylaws and rules for interscholastic sports competition, enforces those rules, and sponsors and coordinates post-season tournaments for certain sports in which member schools choose to compete. Any Illinois private or public high school may join IHSA if it agrees to abide by IHSA rules. There is no requirement that public schools constitute a certain percentage of IHSA membership and no requirement that public schools join IHSA. IHSA does not govern all sports or extracurricular activities of the member schools. It does not supervise intramural sports or most club sports. It is not involved in regular season interscholastic contests among the member schools. The Better Government Association submitted a FOIA request to IHSA for all of its contracts for accounting, legal, sponsorship, and public relations/crisis communications services and all licensed vendor applications for two fiscal years. The trial, appellate, and Illinois Supreme Court agreed that IHSA is a not-for-profit charitable organization and not subject to the FOIA. View "Better Government Association v. Illinois High School Association" on Justia Law

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Appellate court erroneously declined to consider ineffective assistance of counsel claim on direct review where record was sufficient for consideration of that claim. A Coles County jury found Veach guilty of two counts of attempted murder, rejecting his theory that someone else committed the crimes. On direct review, defendant argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for stipulating to the admission of recorded statements of the state’s witnesses. The appellate court affirmed, finding the record inadequate to resolve the issue. The majority encouraged defendant to raise the issue in a postconviction petition. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, holding that the record was sufficient for the appellate court to consider defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim on direct review. The state had conceded that the appellate court should have addressed the claim, but argued that counsel’s decision to stipulate to the witnesses’ recorded statements was not prejudicial nor was it deficient performance. In Illinois, a defendant must generally raise a constitutional claim alleging ineffective assistance of counsel on direct review or risk forfeiting the claim; issues that could have been raised and considered on direct review are deemed procedurally defaulted. View "People v. Veach" on Justia Law

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Defendant drove over the center line of a road and struck head-on a truck driven by Wood, causing Wood, who was pregnant, great bodily harm and permanent disability, and great bodily harm to defendant’s passenger, her 14-year-old son. Defendant consented to blood and urine samples on the day of the accident. The urine test revealed the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) metabolite, which results from cannabis use. Before trial, defendant acknowledged that the state was not required to show impairment, but argued that she should be allowed to rebut the presumption of impairment and present an alternative basis for the cause of the accident. No medical records were presented. The defense later asserted that it would have presented evidence that defendant’s low blood pressure might have caused her to lose consciousness. The court rejected defendant’s claim, finding that the Vehicle Code indicated a legislative intent to require “strict liability as to the accident.” Defendant was convicted of aggravated driving under the influence (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(6), (d)(1)(C)). After reversal by the appellate court, the Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court holding. The trial court erred in finding that defendant was barred, as a matter of law, from raising as an affirmative defense that the accident was caused solely and exclusively by a sudden unforeseeable medical condition that rendered defendant incapable of controlling her car. Defendant, however, failed to make an adequate offer of proof to support this affirmative defense View "People v. Way" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff (Carle Foundation) owns four Urbana parcels of land that are used in connection with the operation of plaintiff’s affiliate, Carle Foundation Hospital. Before 2004, the parcels were deemed exempt from taxation under the Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/15-65(a) because their use was for charitable purposes. From 2004-2011, the Cunningham Township assessor terminated plaintiff’s charitable-use tax exemption. For tax years 2004-2008, plaintiff filed unsuccessful applications with the county board of review to exempt the parcels. Plaintiff filed no applications for tax years 2009-2011. In 2007, plaintiff filed suit. In 2012, Public Act 97-688 (section 15-86) took effect, establishing a new charitable-use exemption specifically for hospitals. Plaintiff argued that section 15-86 applies retroactively. The court agreed, but held that it was “obvious that resolution of the question of whether the standard established by section 15-86(c) applies to plaintiff’s claims will not resolve the merits of those claims.” The appellate court reversed, finding that section 15-86 violated the Illinois Constitution. The Illinois Supreme Court vacated, holding that the court lacked appellate jurisdiction because the trial court erred in entering an order under Rule 304(a). Plaintiff’s exemption claims and plaintiff’s request for a declaration as to what law governs those claims matters are “so closely related that they must be deemed part of a single claim for relief.” View "Carle Foundation v. Cunningham Township" on Justia Law

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Officer Lenover was patrolling near Irving Elementary School when he noticed a car parked “partially in” a T-intersection, about 15 feet from school property. It was a weekday. There were 80-100 children playing in the school yard. Lenover ran the license plate and discovered that the car was owned by defendant, a registered child sex offender. Lenover approached and verified that the driver was defendant. According to Lenover, defendant admitted that he knew he was not supposed to be around the school. Lenover arrested him. Defendant later testified that he had driven a friend to the school, to deliver lunches to the friend’s grandchildren while defendant waited in the car. The friend stated that she had been inside the school for four to five minutes. Defendant denied telling Lenover that he knew he was not supposed to be near the school. The court found defendant had violated 720 ILCS 5/11-9.3(b), which makes it unlawful for a child sex offender to knowingly loiter within 500 feet of a school while persons under the age of 18 are present, and sentenced him to 30 months’ probation. The appellate court affirmed, holding that a child sex offender who is neither a parent nor a guardian of a school child “loiters” if he remains within “the restricted school zone for any purpose, lawful or unlawful, while children under age 18 are present,” rejecting defendant’s contention that the statute is unconstitutionally vague. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting defendant’s “legitimate purpose” defense. View "People v. Howard" on Justia Law

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In 2010, plaintiff (age 15) was playing floor hockey with 11 other students in his physical education class when a “squishy” ball bounced off his stick and hit him in the eye, causing permanent injury to his eye. Plaintiff alleged that Cunningham, the instructor, was willful and wanton in failing to require the students to wear protective eyewear. Goggles were available, but plaintiff testified that he probably would not have worn them, had he been aware that they were an option. Cunningham testified that she thought the use of plastic sticks and squishy balls negated the need for goggles and that there were safety rules in place. Defendants asserted affirmative defenses alleging statutory immunity under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/2-201, 3-108. The trial court directed a verdict for defendants. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, reinstating the directed verdict. There was no evidence that defendants were aware of facts which would have put a reasonable person on notice of the risk of serious harm from the activity, which would have triggered the “willful and wanton” exception to the Act. View "Barr v. Cunningham" on Justia Law

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Tuke and Heroy married in 1980 and divorced in 2006. Heroy was ordered to pay $35,000 per month in permanent maintenance, based on a finding that the couple had enjoyed a lavish standard of living while married. The court found that Tuke could reasonably be expected to earn $40,000-$50,000 per year, based on her prior experience as a law librarian and publisher of a law bulletin. Months later, Heroy sought to terminate or modify the award. Tuke sought contribution to her attorney fees. In 2012, the court concluded that Heroy had proven that his income had decreased, justifying reduction of the maintenance award to $27,500 per month. The court concluded that Tuke had some ability to pay her attorney fees but that if she were required to pay all of the fees, her financial stability would be undermined, while Heroy was able to pay Tuke’s fees. The court instructed Heroy to pay $125,000. Heroy appealed; the court ordered Heroy to pay $35,000 in prospective attorney fees. The appellate court concluded the maintenance award should be $25,745 per month but reversed the attorney fee awards. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court holding. That court properly considered the factors in the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act; the record supports that Tuke’s financial stability would be undermined if she were required to pay all of her attorney fees. The court carefully considered the factors set forth in section 510(a-5) of the Act, including Tuke’s efforts at supporting herself. View "In re Marriage of Heroy" on Justia Law
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In April 2011, Pearse, a convicted sex offender, registered the address of his Belvidere home under the Sex Offender Registration Act, 730 ILCS 150/3. In October, an officer verified his presence at that address, which had been entered into the state database. In January 2012, a police officer was dispatched to a Forest Park hospital and filled out an “initial” sex offender registration for Pearse, listing the hospital as Pearse’s address and his home as a “secondary” address. While the secondary address is entered on the form, it is not entered into the state database. About two weeks after his release from the hospital, Pearse was arrested at home for failure to register a change of address. The appellate court affirmed his conviction. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, noting the statute’s lack of clarity, but finding no statutory basis for imposing a duty to “reregister.” The Act requires notification of temporary absence from a registered address, which was accomplished in this case. The court noted that the form used for registration includes several terms that do not appear in the statute. View "People v. Pearse" on Justia Law
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