On February 19, 2014, at the Union League Club in Chicago, ALA President Brad Elward presided over a seminar and luncheon on two appellate specialty topics: judicial review of administrative decisions and worker compensation arbitrations.
The two-hour morning session was devoted to administrative appeals. Carl Draper of the Springfield law firm of Feldman, Wasser, Draper & Cox addressed the topic from the plaintiff's perspective. He supplemented the comprehensive written materials, which provide an excellent framework for understanding the administrative review process, with a "who, what, when, where" description of the issues that practitioners must consider in protecting the rights of those challenging administrative decisions in the circuit and appellate courts. Brett Legner, Civil Appeals Supervisor for the Appellate Division of the Illinois Attorney General's office, presented the defense perspective. Brett explained that, in seeking to uphold agency decisions, he hopes to defend the rulings without having to reach the merits, given the deferential standards of review that are applicable. Brett also addressed common law administrative review, which proceeds outside the Administrative Review Law, and the process for obtaining stays pending review. Justice Robert Gordon of the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, provided insights from the bench. He gave a candid assessment of the shortcomings on the part of attorneys that Justice Gordon has observed in his 18 years as a circuit judge or appellate justice. Justice Gordon also described the type of information that the court scours the record to find. For example, deference on credibility determinations may not be a foregone conclusion without some explanation by the decision maker below.
After the the morning session, attendees enjoyed a luncheon honoring the justices of the Illinois Appellate Court, Workers Compensation Division. Following lunch, President Elward moderated a panel featuring the appellate justices assigned to the Workers Compensation Division – Justice Thomas E. Hoffman (First District), Justice Donald C. Hudson (Second District), Justice William E. Holdridge (Third District), and Justice Thomas M. Harris (Fourth District). (Justice Bruce D. Steward of the Fifth District was unable to participate.) Providing sound advice that is applicable to any type of case, the panelists engaged in a lively discussion about presenting and defending workers compensation appeals. The justices commented on good brief writing and the art of responding to questions during oral argument.
The seminar concluded with President Elward speaking on judicial reviews from the Workers' Compensation Commission to the circuit court. Elward pointed out common pitfalls and offered practical advice on how to handle such cases on appeal.
The ALA thanks the Justices of the Illinois Appellate Court, Workers Compensation Division, and the other speakers for providing their unique insights during the informative seminar.