"The Brief" - The ALA Blog

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  • December 01, 2021 7:35 AM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The Illinois Supreme Court has appointed retired Judge John L. Hauptman to replace Justice Vicki R. Wright, who retired from the Illinois Appellate Court, Third District, effective November 30, 2021.  Justice Hauptman's appointment is effective from December 1, 2021 through December 4, 2022.

    Justice Wright began her legal career as an appellate prosecutor in the Third District in 1982, after graduating from Loyola University School of Law in Chicago.  She became an Assistant State’s Attorney in Whiteside County in 1984 and was appointed as a Circuit Judge for the 14th Judicial Circuit in 1991.  She was the first female Associate Circuit Judge appointed to the 14th Judicial Circuit and, in 2006, became the first person from Whiteside County elected to the Third District of the Appellate Court.

    Before joining the bench, Justice Hauptman earned his Juris Doctor from the John Marshall Law School, worked in private practice for over 10 years, and served as an Assistant State’s Attorney in Whiteside County.  Justice Hauptman was first appointed to the bench in 1997 as an Associate Circuit Judge in the 14th Judicial Circuit.  He was elected as Circuit Judge in Whiteside County in 2004 and was retained for another term in 2010.  During his tenure as Circuit Judge, Judge Hauptman helped organize the first Drug Court in Whiteside County.  He retired in December 2016.  

    The Appellate Lawyers Association thanks Justices Wright and Hauptman for their many years of service on the bench and congratulates them on their respective retirement and appointment. 

  • November 18, 2021 7:42 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    By:  Carson Griffis*

    In Miller v. Thom, 2021 IL App (4th) 200410, the appellate court addressed whether forum non conveniens applied to a plaintiff's error in e-filing her complaint in the wrong county.

    The plaintiff e-filed her medical malpractice complaint in the circuit court of Sangamon County, but the complaint's caption indicated that it was being brought in St. Clair County.  The defendants filed their appearances in Sangamon County and a motion to dismiss the complaint for failing to attach the necessary affidavit under section 2-622 of the Code of Civil Procedure.  735 ILCS 5/2-622.  In response, the plaintiff filed the requisite affidavit in Sangamon County.

    The plaintiff then filed a motion to transfer venue, stating that her attorney inadvertently selected Sangamon County rather than St. Clair County in the Odyssey e-filing system.  The circuit court denied the motion but gave the plaintiff an opportunity to file a forum non conveniens motion instead.   The plaintiff then filed a forum non conveniens motion, which the circuit court granted.

    On appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 306(a)(2), which allows for interlocutory appeals from orders granting or denying forum non conveniens motions, the appellate court reversed the circuit court's transfer order.  Leaving aside the question of whether a plaintiff could bring a forum non conveniens motion at all, the court held that the plaintiff's motion did not implicate that doctrine because forum non conveniens applies when there is more than one proper venue for an action, but one venue is more convenient than the other.  In this case, Sangamon County was not a proper venue because it had no connection to the lawsuit -- the only reason that Sangamon County was involved was plaintiff's e-filing mistake.  So this was not a circumstance where both Sangamon and St. Clair Counties were appropriate venues, but St. Clair County was more convenient. 

    The court also held that the venue provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure did not justify the transfer of plaintiff's action.  The court noted that a defendant must file a motion to transfer venue "on or before the date upon which he or she is required to appear or within any further time that may be granted him or her to answer or move with respect to the complaint."  735 ILCS 5/2-104(b).  Because that time had elapsed by the time the plaintiff moved to transfer venue, the court held that it would be "unjust" to allow the plaintiff to seek to transfer venue, especially since the venue statute is "designed to protect defendants."

    *Carson Griffis is an Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Appeals Division of the Office of the Illinois Attorney General.  No comments made in this post are made on behalf of the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, nor do they reflect the views or opinions of the Office of the Illinois Attorney General.

  • November 01, 2021 5:47 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    As previously detailed, the Seventh Circuit had invited comments on its proposal to rescind Circuit Rule 57 because it conflicted with Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 12.1.  Having received no comments, the Seventh Circuit repealed that rule effective immediately.  

    Circuit Rule 57 provided that a party who filed a motion to modify a final judgment in the district court while an appeal was pending had to request the district court to indicate whether it was inclined to grant the motion.  If the district court indicated that it was, then the Seventh Circuit would "remand the case for the purpose of modifying the judgment" and a party "dissatisfied with the judgment as modified [had to] file a fresh notice of appeal."  Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 12.1 provides that, if the district court states that it would grant such a motion or that the motion raises a substantial issue, "the court of appeals may remand for further proceedings but retains jurisdiction unless it expressly dismisses the appeal."

    The court's press release regarding the rescission of Circuit Rule 57 may be found here.

  • October 27, 2021 6:58 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    Illinois Supreme Court Clerk Carolyn Taft Grosboll, who has served in that role since January 3, 2011, has announced her retirement effective November 30, 2021. Cynthia A. Grant, currently the Court's Assistant Clerk, has been appointed as the new Clerk of the Supreme Court effective December 1, 2021.

    Clerk Taft Grosboll's many accomplishments included developing the Court’s first e-filing process, migrating that process to the Court’s Statewide e-filing system, creating electronic sharing of documents among Court staff, and creating a method for law firms to register with the Clerk’s Office each year online instead of through the mail. She also increased public transparency by posting briefs in cases on the Court's Call of the Docket Online and developed new procedures to adapt to the difficulties created by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

    Cynthia Grant has served as the Assistant Clerk in the Supreme Court’s Clerk’s Office since 2013. She previously served for four years as legal counsel for various departments with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office and spent two years on the staff of the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.  Ms. Grant earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and her Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law.

    The Illinois Supreme Court's full statement on Clerk Taft Grosboll's retirement and Ms. Grant's appointment may be found here

    The Appellate Lawyers Association expresses its sincere gratitude to Clerk Taft Grosboll for her many years of service to its members and the public, and congratulates her on her retirement.  The ALA also congratulates Ms. Grant on her appointment as the Court's next Clerk.

  • October 26, 2021 4:03 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The Illinois Supreme Court's November Term begins Tuesday, November 9, 2021.  Oral arguments are scheduled for November 9, 10 and 16, 2021.  A total of 10 cases will be heard -- 4 criminal and 6 civil.  The following civil cases are scheduled for argument this Term:

    November 10, 2021

    Doe v. Lyft, Inc., No. 126605

    In re Application of the County Collector, No. 126929

    Suburban Real Estate Services v. Carlson, No. 126935

    November 16, 2021

    In the Matter of the Estate of John W. McDonald, III, No. 126956

    International Association of Firefighters, Local 50 v. City of Peoria, No. 127040

    Munoz v. Bulley & Andrews, No. 127067

    Below is a summary for one of those cases, Doe v. Lyft, Inc. Summaries for this case and others pending in the Illinois Supreme Court can be found in our Cases Pending publication, available to ALA members on the ALA’s website. 

    Doe v. Lyft, Inc., No. 126605

    This petition asks the Illinois Supreme Court to determine whether ride sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft may be held vicariously liable for the tortious conduct of their drivers against their passengers in the same manner as other common carriers or whether they are immune from such heightened standards under the Transportation Network Providers Act (“TNPA”).

    In 2017, Plaintiff was sexually assaulted by her Lyft driver. She sued Lyft, alleging, inter alia, that as the driver’s employer, it should be vicariously liable for his conduct. Lyft moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint pursuant to Section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure, arguing that it was a Transportation Network Company (“TNC”) within the meaning of Section 25(e) of the TNPA (625 ILCS 57/25(e)), and could not be treated as a common carrier subject to heightened standards of vicarious liability. In response, Plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of Section 25(e), arguing that it constituted special legislation and that its enactment violated the “three readings rule” found in Section 8(d) of Article IV of the Illinois Constitution.  The trial court granted Lyft’s motion to dismiss, finding that Section 25(e) plainly exempted ridesharing companies from common carrier status, meaning that Lyft may not be deemed a common carrier as a matter of law.  The court also certified two questions for immediate review under Supreme Court Rule 308: whether Section 25(e) of the TNPA “preclude[s] TNCs, such as Lyft, from otherwise being subject to the highest duty of care under common law, like that of a common carrier’s elevated duty to its passengers;” and, if so, whether it violates the Illinois Constitution’s ban on special legislation or whether the Act itself was passed in violation of the Illinois Constitution’s three-readings rule.

    The Illinois Appellate Court, First District granted leave to appeal and answered the first question in the affirmative and the second question in the negative. The court first held that Section 25(e) of the TNPA exempted Lyft from common carrier standards of liability. Rejecting Plaintiff’s argument that TNCs provide the same functions as common carriers—and finding that, but for Section 25(e), TNCs would be common carriers—the court reasoned that imposing common carrier liability on TNCs would render that section meaningless and concluded that the section “exempts TNCs from common carrier standards of liability.”  The court accepted Plaintiff’s argument that Section 25(e) discriminates in favor of ridesharing companies vis-à-vis taxicabs, but determined that such discrimination was not arbitrary under a rational basis review. The court justified this conclusion by noting: (i) the part-time nature of Lyft drivers and how the company’s “business relationship” with them differs substantially from taxicab medallion holders; (ii) its exclusive use of technological platforms to deliver their services; and (iii) the fact that TNC passengers receive “relevant information [about their driver] before they enter the vehicle.”

    The appellate court further rejected Plaintiff’s argument under the three-readings rule, which requires the general assembly to read a bill three times before passage. The court acknowledged that the TNPA originated as a wholly different bill regarding public accounting. After two readings in the House, the text of that bill was completely eliminated and replaced with entirely new language which ultimately became the TNPA. The “new” bill was then read only once in the House. While recognizing that such a procedure violates the three-readings rule under Giebelhausen v. Daley, 407 Ill. 25 (1950), the court found that the enrolled bill doctrine—which prevents judicial inquiry into legislative bill-passing procedure—foreclosed any challenge under the three-readings rule.

    Concurring in part, and dissenting in part, Justice Robert Gordon agreed with the majority’s conclusion regarding Section 25(e), but opined that the section failed to pass constitutional muster under the prohibition against special legislation.

    Appellate Court Decision:  2020 IL App (1st) 191328.  Lampkin, J., with Burke, J., concurring. Gordon, P.J., concurring in part and dissenting in part.

  • October 19, 2021 4:34 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    By:  Kimberly Glasford

    Section 2-1401 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-1401) generally provides a vehicle for a petitioner to obtain collateral relief for a meritorious claim or defense, even in criminal cases. Subject to certain limited exceptions, a section 2-1401 petition must be filed no later than two years after the challenged judgment was entered. 735 ILCS 5/2-1401(c) (West 2016).

    On January 1, 2016, Public Act 99-384 took effect and added subsection (b-5), which recognizes a “meritorious claim” for a defendant convicted of a forcible felony where he or she was a victim of domestic violence by an intimate partner. 735 ILCS 5/2-1401(b-5) (West 2016).

    Subsection (b-5) requires the petitioner to show, among other things, that evidence of domestic violence was not presented at sentencing, and he or she could not have learned sooner through due diligence that such evidence was mitigating. 735 ILCS 5/2-1401(b-5) (West 2016).

    Public Act 99-384 did not, however, amend section 2-1401(c) to create an exception to the two-year statute of limitations for claims based on the new subsection. The upshot is that under the express language of section 2-1401(c), relief is largely unavailable to those defendants convicted in the decades before subsection (b-5) was enacted. Yet, that hasn’t stopped defendants from trying.

    Recently, in People v. Bowers, 2021 IL App (4th) 200509, the Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District, held that the two-year statute of limitations applies to claims under subsection (b-5). Because that defendant was convicted in 1990, the trial court properly dismissed her petition.

    The reviewing court found that the plain language of section 2-1401(c) clearly established a two-year statute of limitations and contained no exception for claims under subsection (b-5). Given that the legislature clearly would have been aware of the statute of limitations, this omission was unlikely to have been mere oversight.

    The court also rejected the defendant’s contention that the due diligence requirement set forth in subsection (b-5) was intended to take the place of the statute of limitations. The court noted that litigants frequently had to overcome multiple hurdles to obtain relief.

    While the reviewing court was sympathetic to the defendant’s argument that it was seemingly strange to limit relief to only those defendants who were recently sentenced, the court found the legislature may have started with a small number of eligible petitioners, lest the court be overburdened by a sudden rush of petitions. Thus, applying the statute of limitations would not produce an absurd result.

    Having already found that the statue was clear, the Bowers court did not delve into various legislators’ comments on the amendment. The court stated, “legislators can have differing interpretations of a law, and parties can have strong policy disagreements about the law without that law being absurd.” Bowers, 2021 IL App (4th) 200509, ¶ 42.

    It’s worth noting, however, that one legislator spoke directly to the statute of limitations. According to Representative Mitchell, “[i]t is an option for judges to provide post-judgment relief for up to two years after the original sentencing.” 99th Ill. Gen. Assem., House Proceedings, May 25, 2015, at 29. Additionally, “[t]he time lapse is because often, given the nature of domestic violence, it takes some time for a partner through counseling through time to understand what’s happened to them.” Id.

    Although not discussed in Bowers, it’s also worth noting that Public Act 99-384 amended the Unified Code of Corrections by adding a new factor that sentencing courts must consider as mitigating. Specifically, a mitigating factor exists if “[a]t the time of the offense, the defendant is or had been the victim of domestic violence and the effects of the domestic violence tended to excuse or justify the defendant’s criminal conduct.” Id.; 730 ILCS 5/5-5-3.1(a)(15) (West 2016). This may reduce the number of defendants who need relief under section 2-1401(b-5).

    The beneficiaries of subsection (b-5) may be few, but if the legislator intended something different, they’ll have to go back to the drawing board.

  • October 15, 2021 3:54 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The stated purpose of the Judicial Districts Act of 2021 (JDA) “is to redraw the Judicial Districts to meet the requirements of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 by providing that outside of the First District the State ‘shall be divided by law into four Judicial Districts of substantially equal population, each of which shall be compact and composed of contiguous counties.’”  Several justices of the Illinois Supreme Court and appellate court do not reside in the judicial district, as redrawn by the JDA, to which they were elected or appointed.

    In their article in the Illinois State Bar Association’s Bench & Bar newsletter entitled “Justices Denied? Impact of the Judicial Districts Act on Incumbent Justices of the Illinois Supreme Court and Appellate Court,” former ALA President Steven Pflaum and Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP summer associate Andrew Hamilton dissect the statutory and constitutional issues confronting Illinois justices who wish to run for retention but, due to redistricting by the JDA, no longer reside in the district to which they were previously elected.

    Click here to read the article.

  • October 05, 2021 5:02 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    Justice Kathryn Zenoff of the Illinois Appellate Court, Second Judicial District, is seeking a judicial law clerk/secretary for an opening in early November in her chambers in Rockford, Illinois.  Remote with in-chambers-as-needed working arrangements considered.  The position offers an annual salary of $84,681 and an attractive judicial branch benefits package.

    The judicial law clerk/secretary will conduct legal research and draft memoranda, orders, and opinions for the Justice.  Duties also include reviewing and editing the work of other clerks, and administrative duties.

    The position requires graduation from an ABA-accredited law school.  Law Review/journal experience and prior experience as a judicial law clerk or appellate lawyer are strongly preferred, but all applicants with an outstanding academic record in core courses and superior research, analytical, and writing skills will be considered. 

    Instructions on how to apply, as well as other details about the position, may be found here.

  • September 22, 2021 9:31 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    By:  Linda Sackey

    In Wadsworth v. Kross, Lieberman & Stone, Inc., 2021 WL 3877930, at *1 (7th Cir. Aug. 31, 2021), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit addressed “a problem that has become familiar to our circuit: alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act that have not caused the plaintiff any concrete harm.” Concluding that Article III prevented it from adjudicating such claims, the court reversed and remanded the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

    In September 2016, a healthcare research company hired plaintiff as a study manager responsible for developing clinical trials. The company offered plaintiff a $7,500 signing bonus, half of which would be payable after 30 days of employment and the other half would be payable after roughly six months’ employment. That said, the company provided that if plaintiff left her position or if it fired her for cause within 18 months of the second payment, she would have to repay the full bonus. Plaintiff agreed. In September 2017, after one year on the job, the company discharged her.

    The following week, the company hired a debt-collection agency to retrieve the bonus payments. The agency mailed plaintiff a collection letter shortly after she was fired, and one of its employees called her by telephone four times in the weeks after that. Plaintiff sued the debt collection agency, arguing that its letter and phone calls violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA” or “the Act”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et seq.

    Both parties moved for summary judgment. The agency did not dispute her allegations about its conduct but argued that the Act was inapplicable because (1) the signing bonus was not a “debt” within the meaning of the Act, and (2) the agency was not acting as a “debt collector” under the Act because plaintiff’s debt was not in default at the time of the letter and phone calls. The district court rejected both arguments and entered summary judgment for plaintiff.

    On the agency’s appeal, the Seventh Circuit found that plaintiff had not suffered a concrete injury traceable to the agency’s alleged violations of the Act; therefore, she lacked standing to sue. The court explained that to establish standing in federal court, a plaintiff must have (1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the defendant’s conduct, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.

    On the first prong, the court noted that an injury must be concrete to be cognizable in federal court. In other words, it must be real, and not abstract. A plaintiff cannot establish standing simply by pointing to a procedural violation of a statute; instead, she must show that the violation harmed or presented an appreciable risk of harm to a concrete interest that Congress sought to protect.

    In this case, the Seventh Circuit found that plaintiff had not established that the agency’s communications caused her any harm under the Act. Plaintiff alleged that she suffered personal humiliation, embarrassment, mental anguish, and emotional distress because of the agency’s conduct. The court concluded that anxiety and embarrassment were not injuries in fact. Rather, it determined that stress and embarrassment were “quintessential abstract harms” that were beyond its power to remedy.

  • September 21, 2021 8:24 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The Seventh Circuit is seeking public comments on its proposal to rescind Circuit Rule 57.  That rule currently provides that a party who files a motion to modify a final judgment in the district court while an appeal is pending should request the district court to indicate whether it is inclined to grant the motion.  If the district court indicates that it is, then the Seventh Circuit "will remand the case for the purpose of modifying the judgment" and a party "dissatisfied with the judgment as modified must file a fresh notice of appeal."  

    The Seventh Circuit has stated that it intends to rescind that rule because it conflicts with recently adopted Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 12.1. 

    Persons interested in submitting a public comment on the proposed rescission may e-mail them to mailto:USCA7_Clerk@ca7.uscourts.gov.  Or they can mail them to:  Advisory Committee on Circuit Rules c/o Clerk of Court, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 219 South Dearborn Street, Room 2722, Chicago, IL 60604.

    The Seventh Circuit's press release regarding the proposed rescission may be found here.

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