Articles Posted in Illinois Supreme Court

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The Chicago Inspector General initiated an investigation of possible improprieties in how a former city employee was awarded a city contract without the normal competitive process. Documents were sought from the city’s law department. Some furnished documents contained redactions, based on attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine. The Inspector General issued a subpoena, under the Municipal Code, but when the law department refused to comply, private lawyers were retained. The trial court dismissed, with prejudice, an action seeking an order to produce unredacted documents. The appellate court reversed and remanded for in camera inspection of the unredacted documents to resolve the claims of privilege. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal. Although the municipal code allows the Inspector General to conduct investigations and issue subpoenas, it does not confer the power to unilaterally retain private counsel to initiate enforcement proceedings or prosecutions in the Inspector General’s own name. The office of the Inspector General is a creature of municipal ordinance, not state statute, and has no legal status apart from the city. The Illinois Municipal Code gives that authority to Corporation Counsel. There are no statutory provisions for appointment of special counsel, even though Corporation Counsel, the one subpoenaed, has a conflict of interest in resisting production by claiming privilege. The Inspector General should look to the mayor for recourse. View "Ferguson v. Patton" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Julie was reported to the Department of Children and Family Services by her estranged husband concerning events involving alcoholism. After an investigation, DCFS made an indicated finding of child neglect and an ALJ issued an opinion that the mother had created an environment injurious to the health and welfare of her minor daughter under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act. The circuit court upheld the results. The appellate court reversed and the supreme court agreed. The Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act permitted a finding of neglect, prior to 1980, based on placing a child in an environment injurious to the child’s welfare. The “injurious environment” language was deleted in 1980 and was not restored until 2012, after the events at issue. During that time DCFS had promulgated rules describing specific incidents of harm constituting abuse or neglect that included “Substantial Risk of Physical Injury/Environment Injurious to Health and Welfare;” the court held that, after the legislature specifically removed the injurious environment language from the Act, DCFS was without authority to reestablish an injurious-environment definition of neglect. The fact that the Juvenile Court Act, a different statute, includes injurious environment in its definition of neglect does not mandate a different result. View "Julie Q. v. Dept. of Children & Family Servs." on Justia Law

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In 1996, Cruz was convicted of first degree murder and attempted first degree murder and was sentenced to consecutive terms of 60 and 30 years. The appellate court affirmed. In 1999, he filed an untimely post-conviction petition, alleging ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. In second-stage proceedings ordered by the appellate court after a supreme court supervisory order, counsel was appointed. Cruz subsequently decided to proceed pro se. In 2008, an amended petition was filed realleging the ineffectiveness claims and complaining about jury instructions given at trial. The court dismissed for untimeliness, rejecting both claims of “no culpable negligence: and ineffective assistance. On appeal, the state argued for the first time that the dismissal should be affirmed because Cruz had failed to attach a notarized verification affidavit to his supplemental petition alleging lack of culpable negligence, as required by the Post-Conviction Hearing Act. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal, finding the unverified pleading to be a “nullity.” It did not reach the claim of lack of culpable negligence. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed with Cruz that the state forfeited the issue and the appellate court must address allegations that lack of culpable negligence excused his late filing. View "People v. Cruz" on Justia Law

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Defendant was indicted for a 1998 murder, home invasion, residential burglary and two separate charges of aggravated criminal sexual assault. A conviction for sexual assault triggers mandatory consecutive sentences. The parties negotiated a plea agreement. The burglary charge was dropped, and the defendant agreed to plead guilty to murder, home invasion and one aggravated criminal sexual assault. The court imposed concurrent terms of 55 years for murder and 30 years for each other offense. An attempt to withdraw his plea resulted in reduction of the murder sentence to 50 years. In 2005, defendant filed an unsuccessful post-conviction petition and, in 2009, filed an unsuccessful petition for relief from judgment. The appellate court agreed that the concurrent sentencing structure was void, but not that the agreement was void, because the parties’ intent that 50 years be spent in prison could be implemented by resentencing in accordance with both that agreement and applicable statutes. The supreme court affirmed, holding that both parties were mistaken in thinking that the defendant could be sentenced to concurrent terms. The mutual mistake may be rectified by contract reformation because they were in actual agreement and their true intent may be discerned. The defendant would receive the benefit of his bargain for a total of 50 years in prison if consecutive sentences for a total of 50 years are imposed. View "People v. Donelson" on Justia Law

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A “paraprofessional” who, for 11 years, had worked in the elementary school library, helped at recess, and taught keyboarding classes, was a member of the union, which had a collective-bargaining agreement with the district. The CBA provided that when “a member of the bargaining unit is required to appear before the Board of Education concerning any disciplinary matter, the staff member shall be given reasonable prior written notice of the reasons for such meeting and shall be entitled to have a personal representative at said meeting.” In 2008, the school principal recommended the employee’s discharge. The employee spoke at the regular meeting of the board, although the concerns at issue had not been specified to her She was discharged. The matter then went to arbitration, as provided in the CBA. The arbitrator ordered a reinstatement. The school district did not comply. The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board confirmed the award. The appellate court held that the arbitrator’s award was “clearly erroneous.” The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the award. Judicial review of an arbitrator’s award is extremely limited; the question is whether the decision draws its essence from the CBA. The arbitrator had interpreted a quoted provision of the CBA as calling for a dismissal procedure that was not arbitrary, and he found arbitrariness in the lack of information given to the employee prior to her dismissal. View "Griggsville-Perry Cmty. Unit Sch. Dist. No. 4 v. IL Educ. Labor Relations Bd." on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with attempted murder, armed robbery, unlawful possession of a firearm, and aggravated battery with a firearm. A public defender was appointed, but defendant later successfully requested a different attorney. Defendant subsequently requested to proceed pro se. In granting this request, the trial court admonished him, and defendant waived his right to counsel. He then made motions, causing the matter to be continued. On the morning of trial, defendant stated that he no longer wanted to represent himself and requested a third appointment of counsel. The trial court, noting that defendant had refused to cooperate with two public defenders, viewed the request as a delaying tactic and denied it. The trial commenced with jury selection. Defendant refused to participate without counsel and remained in his holding cell. He later participated without counsel. He did not testify or call witnesses, but made an opening statement and closing argument and cross-examined prosecution witnesses, including four victims. Following conviction, the court imposed a 95-year term. The appellate court found plain error and ordered a new trial. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, finding the Code of Criminal Procedure (725 ILCS 5/115-4.1(a)) ambiguous, but concluding that “trial in absentia” provisions were not relevant. The trial court in this case was not statutorily required to appoint a third public defender simply because defendant decided to waive his right to be present during voir dire. View "People v. Eppinger" on Justia Law

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In 2005, defendant was convicted of aggravated battery with a firearm and sentenced to 12 years. The appellate court affirmed. In 2008, he filed, pro se, a post-conviction petition. It was dismissed; the appellate court affirmed. In 2009, again pro se, he sought leave to file a successive petition under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act. (725 ILCS 5/122-1(f)), alleging that he had just discovered that, after serving his sentence, he will be subject to an additional three-year term of mandatory supervised release (MSR). MSR was not mentioned when he was sentenced, which, he claimed, denied him due process. The trial and appellate court rejected his argument. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The Criminal Code states that for this offense, the three-year MSR term shall be included in the sentence “as though written therein.” The Post-Conviction Hearing Act states that a petitioner must show “cause” for failure to raise his claim earlier. This claimed defect can never be “cause” because the petitioner is presumptively charged with knowledge of mandatory supervised release as a matter of law. The court recommended that the legislature address more specifically how one seeking leave to file a successive post-conviction petition meets the statutory requirements of showing cause and prejudice. View "People v. Evans" on Justia Law

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Between 2002 and 2004, the defendant assaulted his 11-year-old stepdaughter and her 13-year-old friend. While in pretrial custody, before he was charged, defendant said he wanted to talk about what happened but that he wanted guarantees of probation. The officers doing the interrogating told him that they could not give him any guarantees. The state argued at closing that these conversations were inculpatory as admissions of guilt. Defendant was convicted of three counts of predatory criminal sexual assault, three counts of criminal sexual assault, five counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, and one count of possession of child pornography; he was sentenced to 75 years. The appellate court remanded for a new trial, finding plain error in the improper admittance of plea-related statements at trial, even though defendant had not previously raised this objection. The Illinois Supreme Court held that there was no plain error. For statements to be inadmissible as plea negotiations, it must be clear that an accused actually intended to plead guilty in exchange for a concession and that such an intention is objectively reasonable under the circumstances. This defendant’s intent to engage in plea negotiations was not shown. View "People v. Rivera" on Justia Law

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Defendant, charged with five counts of burglary, pled guilty in 2009 and received a sentence of 2 years’ probation and 180 days in jail. He was ordered to pay a public defender fee of $200 after the judge questioned him about his employment. In 2010, he was sentenced to six years in prison after having been found to have violated his probation. In his appeal, defendant contended that the hearing on his ability to pay the defender fee had been inadequate, that it was too late for a remand because the statute calls for a hearing within 90 days of judgment, and that no hearing could be held at all and that the fee should be vacated. The appellate court remanded for a new hearing. The supreme court affirmed. The perfunctory hearing was inadequate and the defendant was entitled to a new hearing of the quality set forth by statute. There is no reason why the trial court’s error should be uncorrectable on appeal. View "People v. Somers" on Justia Law

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Consolidated Grain maintains a grain elevator in La Salle County, sold Rogowski’s crops, and gave him the proceeds by checks paid directly to him. The bank had lent money to Rogowski for which he signed a note and granted the bank a security interest in his crops and any proceeds of their sale. The bank notified Consolidated of its lien by two written notices, one covering crop years 2004 and 2005 and the other covering years 2005 and 2006. The notices listed as covered agricultural commodities “all grain on hand, all growing crops,” without listing their amount or location. The bank obtained a deficiency judgment against Rogowski in 2008, which remains unsatisfied, then sought payment from Consolidated. The trial court ruled in favor of the bank. The appellate court reversed and the supreme court affirmed. The Federal Food Security Act of 1985 provides how notices of security interests are to be worded and provides that there must be a statement of “each county or parish in which the farm products are produced or located,” The court rejected a “substantial compliance” argument and held that the notices were insufficient for failing to strictly comply with the Act. View "State Bank of Cherry v. CGB Enters., Inc." on Justia Law