"The Brief" - The ALA Blog

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  • September 26, 2020 8:37 AM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The ALA congratulates Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on her nomination for Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

    The Honorable Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed as a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in October 2017.

    Judge Barrett earned her B.A. in English literature, magna cum laude, from Rhodes College. She earned her J.D., summa cum laude, from the University of Notre Dame, where she served as executive editor of the Notre Dame Law Review. 

    Before joining the faculty of the University of Notre Dame Law School, where she was selected as "Distinguished Professor of the Year" by three of the Law School's graduating classes, Judge Barrett clerked for Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Judge Barrett has been a friend and supporter of the ALA, and if confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first U.S. Supreme Court justice since John Paul Stevens to have previously served as a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

    (Biographical information courtesy of the University of Notre Dame.)

  • September 20, 2020 3:15 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    By:  John M. Fitzgerald

    Much-deserved tributes continue to pour in for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  It is quickly becoming a cliché to call her an icon, a pioneer in the struggle for equal rights, and one of the most influential judges in recent American history.  Even those who vehemently disagreed with her in life now hail her, rightfully, as an American hero.

    On Friday night, shortly after learning of her death, I struggled to explain to my 12-year-old daughter exactly why Justice Ginsburg mattered so much.  My daughter, like others in her age group, was vaguely aware that Justice Ginsburg was a great judge who fought for the rights of women.  But that general notion does not do justice to her full legacy.  Those “Notorious RBG” t-shirts were delightful but not very informative.

    The most enduring legacy of any judge can be found in the bound volumes of reported decisions (or, in 2020, their digital equivalent).  And no single decision speaks more to Justice Ginsburg’s philosophy and legacy than United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996).

    That case can be distilled to its first three sentences, authored by Justice Ginsburg for the majority less than three years after her confirmation to the Supreme Court: “Virginia’s public institutions of higher learning include an incomparable military college, Virginia Military Institute (VMI). The United States maintains that the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee precludes Virginia from reserving exclusively to men the unique educational opportunities VMI affords. We agree.”  Id. at 519.*

    Perhaps sensing that she faced a historic moment, Justice Ginsburg took the opportunity to explain how the nation’s history led to a dispute over whether the equal protection clause prevented the Commonwealth of Virginia from barring female applicants from VMI.  After noting the modern legal standard — namely, that parties “who seek to defend gender-based government action must demonstrate an ‘exceedingly persuasive justification’ for that action” (id. at 531) — Justice Ginsburg explained:

    “Today’s skeptical scrutiny of official action denying rights or opportunities based on sex responds to volumes of history.  . . . Through a century plus three decades and more of that history, women did not count among voters composing ‘We the People’; not until 1920 did women gain a constitutional right to the franchise. And for a half century thereafter, it remained the prevailing doctrine that government, both federal and state, could withhold from women opportunities accorded men so long as any ‘basis in reason’ could be conceived for the discrimination.  . . .

    In 1971, for the first time in our Nation’s history, this Court ruled in favor of a woman who complained that her State had denied her the equal protection of its laws.  Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71, 73, 92 S.Ct. 251, 252-253, 30 L.Ed.2d 225 . . . . Since Reed, the Court has repeatedly recognized that neither federal nor state government acts compatibly with the equal protection principle when a law or official policy denies to women, simply because they are women, full citizenship stature – equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society based on their individual talents and capacities.”

    Id. at 531-32.  Justice Ginsburg had, of course, written the successful appellant’s brief in the Reed case.

    In the wake of Reed, Justice Ginsburg explained, the Supreme Court “has carefully inspected official action that closes a door or denies opportunity to women (or to men).”  Id. at 532.  Such action requires an “exceedingly persuasive” justification, and that justification “must be genuine, not hypothesized or invented post hoc in response to litigation.  And it must not rely on overbroad generalizations about the different talents, capacities, or preferences of males and females.” Id. at 533.

    The Commonwealth of Virginia failed to meet that standard.  While Virginia claimed that it was important to offer its citizens the option of single-sex higher education, it offered no single-sex higher education opportunities to women.  “Virginia describes the current absence of public single-sex higher education for women as ‘an historical anomaly,’” Justice Ginsburg observed, “But the historical record indicates action more deliberate than anomalous: First, protection of women against higher education; next, schools for women far from equal in resources and stature to schools for men; finally, conversion of the separate schools to coeducation.” Id. at 538. While Virginia claimed (with no apparent sense of irony) that VMI’s exclusion of women served the goal of “diversity” by offering Virginia residents single-sex higher educational opportunities, Justice Ginsburg could not “extract from that effort any Commonwealth policy evenhandedly to advance diverse educational options.” Id. (emphasis added).  The goal of diversity was not served by excluding women from VMI.  “However ‘liberally’ this plan serves the Commonwealth’s sons,” Justice Ginsburg concluded, “it makes no provision whatever for her daughters.  That is not equal protection.” Id. at 540 (emphasis in original).

    To Justice Ginsburg, the case boiled down to this simple truth: “Neither the goal of producing citizen-soldiers nor VMI’s implementing methodology is inherently unsuitable to women.”  Id. at 520.  Even assuming that “most women would not choose VMI’s adversative method” of education, the question was simply “whether the Commonwealth can constitutionally deny to women who have the will and capacity, the training and attendant opportunities that VMI uniquely affords.” Id. at 542. Generalizations about the preferences and capabilities of most women were insufficient.  After all, “Virginia never asserted that VMI’s method of education suits most men.” Id. at 550. (emphasis in original).

    And the “notion that admission of women would downgrade VMI’s stature, destroy the adversative system and, with it, even the school, is a judgment hardly proved, a prediction hardly different from other ‘self-fulfilling prophec[ies]’ once routinely used to deny rights or opportunities.”  Id. at 543.  After all, similar self-fulfilling prophecies had been used in early stages of the country’s history to exclude women from the bar and from attending medical schools. Moreover, women’s “successful entry into the federal military academies, and their participation in the Nation’s military forces, indicate that Virginia’s fears for the future of VMI may not be solidly grounded.”  Id. at 544-545. (That was quite an understatement, as subsequent experience has shown.)

    Finally, Virginia did not cure the equal protection violation by creating a “parallel program” exclusively for women.  Even aside from the fact that the “parallel program” was significantly different in curriculum and educational methods from the experience offered to VMI cadets, VMI’s prestige was simply “unequaled.”  Id. at 556.

    Justice Ginsburg concluded: “A prime part of the history of our Constitution, historian Richard Morris recounted, is the story of the extension of constitutional rights and protections to people once ignores or excluded. VMI’s story continued as our comprehension of ‘We the People’ expanded. There is no reason to believe that the admission of women capable of all the activities required of VMI cadets would destroy the Institute rather than enhance its capacity to serve the ‘more perfect Union.’” Id. at 557-58.

    Justice Scalia’s dissent has not aged well.  Justice Scalia lamented the Court majority’s “destruction” of VMI.  Id. at 603.  His prediction was wrong.  As Justice Ginsburg understood, the inclusion of women would not ‘destroy’ VMI.  It strengthened VMI, which continues to thrive twenty-four years later.

    In a heartening postscript, Justice Ginsburg visited VMI in 2017.  Shortly after her passing, VMI released the following statement: “During her 2017 visit to VMI, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she knew that her landmark decision to allow women among the ranks of the Corps of Cadets would make VMI a better school. Nearly 25 years later, VMI’s female alumni are among our nation’s leaders in corporate boardrooms, within our military, and within our communities.  VMI is saddened to hear of the passing of Justice Ginsburg. She was a courageous legal scholar whose impact on our Institute and our nation is an inspiration for all.”

    How true.

    *Quotations in this article omit internal citations and footnotes.

  • September 17, 2020 7:31 AM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    From September 21 to October 23, 2020, the Office of the State Appellate Defender is presenting a free, five-week online training course for attorneys who want to participate in the Illinois Supreme Court's pro bono criminal appeals program.  The course will walk participants through a criminal trial in Illinois to assist them in spotting issues to raise on appeal, familiarize participants with relevant Supreme and Appellate Court rules, advise them about client relations, and more.  Completing the course will qualify you to participate in the pro bono program.

    The course schedule is flexible.  OSAD will release videos and supplemental materials once a week for five weeks.  Participants can review the weekly materials at their own convenience, and OSAD will hold "office hours" (via phone, email or Zoom) twice a week for participants to raise questions.  A detailed curriculum may be found here.

    To register, email probono@osad.state.il.us.  Registration closes tomorrow, September 18.

  • September 14, 2020 5:22 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    By:  Carson Griffis*

    In Heartland Bank & Trust v. Katz, 2020 IL App (1st) 182259, the Illinois Appellate Court reminded litigants that an order disposing of a petition for relief from judgment under section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/2-1401, must be appealed within 30 days.  In that case, the plaintiffs obtained a default judgment, and the defendants later filed section 2-1401 petitions to vacate that judgment.  The circuit court granted the petitions and the case proceeded to final judgment, after which the plaintiff attempted to appeal the grant of the section 2-1401 petitions.

    The appellate court held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider that appeal, however, because the plaintiff did not file a timely notice of appeal.  The court noted that, under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(b)(3), a judgment or order granting or denying a section 2-1401 petition may be immediately appealed by filing a notice of appeal within 30 days, and the failure to do so deprives the appellate court of jurisdiction over such an order.  The appellate court emphasized that this conclusion was consistent with the nature of a section 2-1401 petition, which initiates new and separate proceedings attacking a final judgment rather continuing the same case.  Because an order disposing of such a petition ends those new proceedings entirely, it follows that such an order is final and appealable.

    *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.

  • September 10, 2020 5:33 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The Illinois Supreme Court's September Term begins Monday, September 14, 2020.  Oral arguments are scheduled for September 15, 16, 17, 22 and 23, 2020.  A total of 17 cases will be heard -- 12 civil and 5 criminal.  The following criminal cases are scheduled for argument this Term:

    September 25, 2020

    People v. Alejandro Reveles-Cordova, No. 124797 

    People v. Demario Reed, No. 124940

    People v. Justin Knapp, No. 124922

    People v. Shawn Marlon Brown, No. 125203

    September 23, 2020

    In re J.M.A., No. 125680

    Below is a summary for one of those cases, People v. Alejandro Reveles-Cordova.  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

    People v. Alejandro Reveles-Cordova, No. 124797

    The one-act, one-crime rule provides that a defendant cannot have multiple convictions stemming from a single act and that a defendant cannot be convicted of a greater offense and a lesser-included offense when there are multiple acts.  The abstract elements test is used to determine whether a charged offense is a lesser-included offense of another charged offense.  Here, the Court is asked to determine how the abstract elements test should apply: should the Court analyze only the elements of the offense for which the defendant is charged and convicted, or should the court analyze all ways in which the offense can possibly be committed to determine if it is theoretically possible to commit the second offense without committing the first.  Here, defendant was convicted of criminal sexual assault and home invasion predicated on criminal sexual assault.  The Court must decide whether, under the facts here, the criminal sexual assault is a lesser included offense of the home invasion.

    According to defendant, a split in appellate court authority has developed, reflecting the two approaches to applying the abstract elements test described above.  Defendant asserts that the Court should endorse comparison of the offenses only as charged.  Defendant claims this interpretation is more in line with how the Court has "historically" applied the abstract elements test and the one-act, one-crime rule, with apparent legislative acquiescence to case law holding that there can be no conviction for a greater offense and its predicate without expressed intent to do so, and with the goal underlying he one-act, one-crime rule: to prohibit multiple punishments for a single act.

    The State argues in support of the other interpretation, that the abstract elements test should examine all ways that an offense can be committed to determine whether it is theoretically possible to commit the second offense without committing the first.  The State disputes defendant's characterization of the Court's relevant precedent, noting that a 2010 case, Miller, adopted use of the abstract elements approach for determining lesser-included offenses so that older precedent is less helpful.  The State emphasized that here there are indisputably multiple acts involved because home invasion involves (1) entering the victim's home, and (2) committing criminal sexual assault therein.  And when the one-act, one-crime doctrine applies, to multiple act cases, there can be multiple convictions, even given interrelated acts, so long as one offense is not a lesser-included offense.

    Appellate Court Decision:  2019 IL App (3d) 160418.  Schmidt, P.J., with Carter, J., and O'Brien, J., concurring

  • September 02, 2020 10:52 AM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The Illinois Supreme Court's September Term begins Tuesday, September 15, 2020.  Oral arguments are scheduled for September 15, 16, 17, 22 and 23, 2020.  A total of 17 cases will be heard --12 civil and 5 criminal.  The following civil cases are scheduled for argument this Term:

    September 16, 2020

    People ex rel. Lisa Madigan v. Stateline Recycling, LLC, No. 124417 

    People ex rel. David P. Leibowitz v. Family Vision Care, LLC, No. 124754

    Tzakis v. Berger Excavating Contractors, Inc., No. 125017

    Steed v. Rezin Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, S.C., No. 125150

    September 17, 2020

    Dameron v. Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, No. 125219

    Gillespie v. East Manufacturing Corp., No. 125262

    State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Elmore, No. 125441

    September 22, 2020

    Tirio v. Dalto, No. 125442

    Barrall v. The Board of Trustees of John A. Logan Community College, No. 125535

    Rehfield v. Diocese of Joliet, No. 125656

    Zander v. Carlson, No. 125691

    September 23, 2020

    Policemen’s Benevolent Labor Committee v. The City of Sparta, No. 125508

    Below is a summary for one of those cases, Dameron v. Mercy Hospital and Medical Center.  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. 

    Dameron v. Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, No. 125219

    The issue in this case is whether a party who has disclosed a witness as a testifying expert may thereafter redesignate that witness as a nontestifying consultant whose opinions and work product are privileged and protected from discovery unless there is a showing of exceptional circumstances by the opposing party.

    Plaintiff Alexis Dameron filed a medical malpractice action against the defendants, Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, Cordia Clark-White, M.D., Alfreda Hampton, M.D., Natasha Harvey, M.D. and Patricia Courtney (collectively, “Defendants”).  On May 30, 2017, in her answers to written discovery, Plaintiff disclosed Dr. David Preston as an expert witness. She also disclosed that Dr. Preston would testify as to the results of an EMG test he would perform on Plaintiff on June 1, 2017. On that date, Dr. Preston examined Plaintiff and conducted the test.  He also prepared a report in which he discussed his findings and opinions. Two months later, Plaintiff filed a motion to designate Dr. Preston as a nontestifying expert consultant pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 201(b)(3), claiming that the disclosure of Dr. Preston as a testifying expert witness was “inadvertent.” The trial court denied Plaintiff’s motion and ordered Plaintiff to produce Dr. Preston’s records and report regarding the EMG test. Plaintiff refused and the court found her in contempt and imposed a $100 fine, which was later reduced to $1.  Plaintiff appealed the interlocutory friendly contempt order pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 304(b)(5). 

    The appellate court reversed, explaining that, under Illinois law, a party may withdraw an expert witness as long as the opposing party is given clear and sufficient notice allowing it to take the necessary action in light of the abandonment of the witness. However, in this case, the court noted, Plaintiff did not merely seek to withdraw Dr. Preston as a testifying expert witness, but sought to redesignate him as a nontestifying consultant whose reports and opinions are protected from discovery pursuant to the privilege set forth in Rule 201(b)(3).  The court noted that this was an issue of first impression in Illinois and looked to federal cases for guidance.  Following Davis v. Carmel Clay Schools, No. 1:11-cv-00771-SEB-MJD, 2013 WL 2159476 (S.D. Ind. May 17, 2013), the appellate court held that “where a previously disclosed testifying expert witness has been timely withdrawn prior to disclosing his or her report in discovery, the expert may be redesignated a Rule 201(b)(3) consultant and entitled to the consultant’s privilege against disclosure, absent exceptional circumstances.” Because Plaintiff had not disclosed Dr. Preston’s report to Defendants prior to her motion to redesignate him as a consultant, the appellate court held that the trial court erred in denying Plaintiff’s motion.  Accordingly, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s order, vacated the contempt finding and remanded the case for further proceedings.

    Appellate Court Decision:  2019 IL App (1st) 172338.  Hall, J., with Rochford, J., and Hoffman, J., concurring

  • August 22, 2020 9:48 AM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    Chief Justice Anne M. Burke of the Illinois Supreme Court has invited the ALA's members to attend a memorial service in honor of the late Justice Charles E. Freeman at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, September 16, 2020. 

    In light of COVID-19, guests will not gather in the Supreme Court Building, but the service will be streamed at:  https://livestream.com/blueroomstream/events/9226889.  A video recording of the service will be available on the Court's website for those who cannot watch live, and a program for the service may be downloaded from the Court's website (http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/Media/Video/Events/default.asp) a few days prior to the service.

    Justice Freeman was elected as the first African-American member of the Illinois Supreme Court in 1990, and also served on the Illinois Appellate Court from 1986 to 1990 and the Cook County Circuit Court from 1976 to 1986.  Before serving on the bench, Justice Freeman worked in private practice and various public service roles, including as an Assistant Attorney General, Cook County Assistant State's Attorney, Assistant Attorney for the Cook County Board of Election Commissioners, and arbitrator with the Illinois Industrial Commission.  During his 28 years as a justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, he was praised for drafting opinions upholding criminal defendants' rights, improving efficiency in the Family Violence Prevention program, and improving the Court's operations, including establishing its web page.  Justice Freeman received numerous awards throughout his distinguished career, including the Freedom Award from The John Marshall Law School, the Seymour Simon Justice Award from the Jewish Judges Association, the Earl Burrus Dickerson Award from the Chicago Bar Association, and the Ira B. Platt Award and Presidential Award from the Cook County Bar Association.

  • August 05, 2020 9:19 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The ALA is hosting a CLE Lecture featuring Professor Marcia Chatelain. Professor Chatelain, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of history and African American Studies at Georgetown University, is a frequent public speaker, media commentator, and consultant to educational institutions, delivering lectures and workshops on inclusive teaching, social movements, and food justice. Her lecture will explore a variety of cases in U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s career leading up to the landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.

    Date:  Thursday, August 20, 2020

    Time:  12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

    Location:  Online.  Attendees will receive a Zoom link after registering for the event.  (NOTE:  Only speakers will be visible, so participants need not dress formally.)

    Cost:  Free for ALA members; $25 for non-members

    CLE Credit:  1.0 hour, Diversity & Inclusion Credit

    Questions?  Call (630) 416-1166, ext. 303

    Register:  Use our online registration system here, or visit www.applawyers.orgPlease note that you will receive a Zoom link in your confirmation e-mail.

  • July 12, 2020 8:56 AM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The ALA is excited to announce a new pro bono opportunity for appellate lawyers that is launching this fall: Illinois Free Legal Answers for Civil Appeals. This American Bar Association project is sponsored by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice, and the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI). It operates as a virtual legal advice clinic for civil legal issues where low-income Illinoisans can submit a question about their civil appeal. It is a limited scope opportunity, and volunteer attorneys who provide brief advice and counsel through the website will be covered by professional liability insurance maintained by the ABA. Volunteer lawyers log on to the site at their convenience and answer questions waiting in the queue.

    The program is currently seeking volunteers who have experience in appellate practice. You can visit https://www.pili.org/appellate for more information and to sign up for updates.
  • June 30, 2020 7:34 AM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    In Davis v. Village of Maywood, 2020 IL App (1st) 191011, the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court held that a party demonstrated good cause to justify a late filing based on his attorney's "minor, understandable" e-filing error. 

    Plaintiff's counsel attempted to e-file a complaint on the morning of the day the statute of limitations was set to expire.  When submitting the complaint, he entered his Cook County Attorney Code in the "Lead Attorney" field but did not reenter it in the field labeled "Case Cross Reference Number."  Four days later, the circuit court clerk reviewed the submission and rejected it because counsel did not reenter his Cook County Attorney Code.  Counsel resubmitted the same complaint with the Code later that day, and it was accepted.  The circuit court later dismissed the complaint as untimely.

    The First District reversed, holding that plaintiff established good cause for the late filing under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 9(d)(2), which states that a party may "seek appropriate relief from the court, upon good cause shown" if an e-filed document "is rejected by the clerk and is therefore untimely."  The court emphasized that the complaint itself was substantively correct, that the e-filing submission contained all of the other necessary information, and that it was "neither . . . obvious nor intuitive" that counsel should have reentered his Attorney Code in the "Case Cross Reference Number" field.  The court also noted that the e-filing platform and Cook County circuit court clerk subsequently warned users about this very problem, showing that the field's label was unclear.  Because the name of that field was "confusing at best and misleading at worst," it contributed to counsel's error and constituted good cause. 

    The First District's opinion may be found here.

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