"The Brief" - The ALA Blog

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  • May 14, 2021 3:33 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The Appellate Lawyers Association’s Special Committee on E-Filing issued a report proposing some recommended changes to Illinois reviewing courts' e-filing systems based on feedback from ALA members.  The Administrative Office of Illinois Courts (AOIC) and the Clerks of the Illinois Supreme Court and the five Districts of the Illinois Appellate Court have provided a response to the report expressing the courts' appreciation for the ALA's meaningful feedback.

    The response also indicates that several changes in line with the ALA's recommendations are in progress or being taken under advisement.  For example, the response states that:

    • All reviewing courts intend to adopt the Illinois Supreme Court's e-filing manual to establish uniform e-filing standards across every reviewing court in Illinois; 
    • AOIC and Tyler Technologies are working to develop a method to allow for a window in which rejected e-filings may be corrected and resubmitted;
    • ALA members' concerns about unreliable service through the e-filing system were provided to the Illinois Supreme Court's e-Business Policy Advisory Board;
    • The Illinois Supreme Court hopes that all non-confidential cases and documents will be available through re:SearchIL by July 1, 2022;
    • Filing codes for oral argument acknowledgments, correspondence, and specific brief types were successfully added to the e-filing system;
    • AOIC and the clerks of the reviewing courts have submitted a request to Tyler Technologies to have all volumes of a record on appeal transmitted through a link in a single e-mail rather than separate e-mails for each volume; and
    • The recommendation for all districts requiring paper copies of briefs to require the same number of copies has been taken under further advisement.

    The full response to each of the ALA's recommendations may be found here

    The ALA expresses its gratitude to the Illinois Supreme Court, each of the Districts of the Illinois Appellate Court, their respective clerks, and AOIC for their thoughtful response to its report. 

    Additionally, the ALA wants to thank its members for their input; the report could not have been possible without them. 

  • April 28, 2021 4:09 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The Illinois Supreme Court's May Term begins Tuesday, May 11, 2021.  Oral arguments are scheduled for May 11, 12, 13, 18 and 19, 2021.  A total of 16 cases will be heard -- 7 civil and  9 criminal.  The following civil cases are scheduled for argument this Term:

    May 13, 2021

    Haage v. Zavala, No. 125918

    Guns Save Life, Inc. v. Ali, No. 126014

    May 18, 2021

    Western Illinois University v. The Illinois Education Labor Relations Board, No. 126082

    Cahokia Unit School District No. 18 v. Pritzker, No. 126212

    Board of Education of Richland School District No. 88A v. City of Crest Hill, No. 126444

    May 19, 2021

    Sproull v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., 126446

    McQueen v. Pan-Oceanic Engineering Co., Inc., 126666

    Below is a summary for one of those cases, McQueen v. Pan-Oceanic Engineering Co., 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.

    McQueen v. Pan-Oceanic Engineering Co., Inc., No. 126666

    This issue in this appeal is whether a jury verdict finding a truck driver not liable for an accident is legally inconsistent with a verdict holding his employer liable for the same accident.

    Plaintiff Fletcher McQueen, who was injured in the accident with the defendant truck driver, sued both the driver and the driver’s employer, Pan-Oceanic Engineering Co., Inc. (“Pan-Oceanic”) for negligence and also alleged that Pan-Oceanic failed to properly train the driver.  Pan-Oceanic admitted liability for the driver under the theory of respondeat superior. The jury returned a verdict against Pan-Oceanic for $167,227.45 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages, but found the driver not negligent.  Pan-Oceanic filed a post-trial motion, seeking judgment n.o.v. and a new trial, due to several alleged errors in the jury instructions. The court denied the motion and rejected Pan-Oceanic’s argument that, because it admitted agency, its liability could not exceed that of the driver. The trial court explained that the allegations of negligence and willful and wanton conduct against Pan-Oceanic focused on fault attributable solely to Pan-Oceanic for its own conduct and the allegations of negligent training and supervision were a separate, nonderivative tort. The trial court also held that Pan-Oceanic waived its objection to certain jury instructions because it did not object at trial or tender an alternative instruction. Pan-Oceanic appealed.

    The Illinois Appellate Court, First District, reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, finding errors in the jury instructions and holding that the verdicts were legally inconsistent.  The court explained that, under Illinois law, a plaintiff who is injured in a motor vehicle accident cannot maintain a claim for negligent hiring, negligent retention, or negligent entrustment against an employer where the employer admits responsibility for the conduct of the employee under respondeat superior. Gant v. L.U. Transport, Inc., 331 Ill. App. 3d 924 (1st Dist. 2002). A negligent entrustment claim is derivative of the employee’s negligence. The employer is responsible for all of the fault attributed to the negligent employee, but only the fault attributed to the negligent employee. As such, once an employer admits responsibility for its employee’s negligence, “then any liability alleged under an alternative theory, such as negligent entrustment or negligent hiring, becomes irrelevant and should properly be dismissed.”  The court declined to treat negligent training, as alleged in this case, differently from the other negligence claims that are barred once an employer admits liability under respondeat superior.  Accordingly, the appellate court held that the verdicts were irreconcilably inconsistent, and reversed and remanded for a new trial.

    Justice Mikva dissented, arguing that Gant was inconsistent with other appellate court decisions (Longnecker v. Loyola University Medical Center, 383 Ill. App. 3d 874 (2008) and Neuhengen v. Global Experience Specialists, Inc., 2018 IL App (1st) 160322), holding that an independent claim of negligence may be maintained against an employer even after it admits that respondeat superior applies.  Justice Mikva also explained that the verdicts in this case could be reconciled because the jury was instructed on theories of the employer’s liability — that it failed to follow its own policies in placing the load on the truck and that it ordered the driver to take the load despite it being unsafe — that were independent of the driver’s conduct.

    Appellate Court Decision:  2020 IL App (1st) 190202.  Connors, J., with Cunningham, J., concurring.  Mikva, P.J., dissenting.

  • April 27, 2021 6:13 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    By:  Linda Sackey

    Whether an accommodation will be considered reasonable for purposes of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a question of great importance to employers and employees nationwide. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently addressed the issue in EEOC v. Walmart Stores East, et al., 992 F.3d 656 (7th Cir. 2021).

    In that case, after Walmart offered Edward Hedican a position as one of eight full-time assistant managers, he informed the company that he was a Seventh-day Adventist. That meant that he could not work between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday.  The store’s human resources manager found that Walmart would have to assign the other seven assistant managers to extra Friday and Saturday night shifts to accommodate Hedican. She concluded that such an accommodation would disrupt the store’s regular system of scheduling assistant managers, and she determined that it would occasionally leave the store shorthanded.

    The human resources manager asked Hedican if he would instead apply for an hourly management position to avoid the rotation schedule that assistant managers are subject to. He declined and filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which prosecuted this lawsuit instead of Hedican.

    Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of his religion. “The term ‘religion’ includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.”  The district court granted Walmart’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the interference with the store’s regular system of scheduling would constitute more than a slight burden. The district court also concluded that even though the entry-level pay for an hourly management job was lower than that of an assistant manager, the hourly management position was a reasonable accommodation.

    On appeal, the EEOC argued that other accommodations would have enabled Hedican to work as an assistant manager. For example, the EEOC asserted that Walmart could have given him the job and allowed him to swap shifts with other assistant managers.  However, following Supreme Court precedent, the Seventh Circuit ruled that Title VII does not obligate employers to offer an accommodation that comes at other employees’ expense.  The burden of accommodation must fall on the employer, not on other employees.

    One judge dissented, observing that the human resources manager did not even ask the other assistant managers whether they would be willing to adjust their schedules to accommodate Hedican.  In the dissenting judge’s view, “[d]iscussion of the difficulty of accommodating Hedican brings to mind the sorts of excuses employers long trotted out for why it was impractical to hire women of child-bearing age: that employers could not afford to waste resources training employees who would quit as soon as they were pregnant; that projects and deadlines could not accommodate the gaps of maternity leave and the vagaries of daycare and school schedules; that client needs could not be met on a nine to five, Monday through Friday schedule.” The dissent observed that for situation, accommodations such as remote work and flexible work hours demonstrated that any challenges could be overcome.

    The dissenting judge found that in this case, a factual question remained as to whether Walmart did enough to accommodate the employee’s religion; therefore, the judge would have reversed and remanded for a trial.

  • April 15, 2021 5:33 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    By:  John M. Fitzgerald

    Words, like people, are known by the company they keep. This principle has been recognized in legal decisions for a very long time. This principle can help to unravel even the most perplexing ambiguities that appear on the face of statutes, regulations, contracts, wills, trusts, insurance policies, and even constitutional provisions. It is a principle with which more lawyers should be familiar.

    In its most narrow manifestation, the “doctrine of ejusdem generis provides that when a statutory clause specifically describes several classes of persons or things and then includes ‘other persons or things,’ the word ‘other’ is interpreted as meaning ‘other such like.’”  People v. Davis, 199 Ill. 2d 130, 138 (2002) (citation omitted). More broadly, “where general words follow particular and specific words in a statute, the general words must be construed to include only things of the same kind as those indicated by the particular and specific words, and this rule is enforced in the construction of a statute, unless there is something in the statute or its context which shows that the doctrine of ejusdem generis should not be applied.” Bullman v. City of Chi., 367 Ill. 217, 226 (1937) (internal citations omitted).

    “The reason for the rule is that if the legislature had intended that the general words apply without restriction, it would have used only ‘one compendious word.’” Brink's, Inc. v. Ill. Commerce Comm'n, 108 Ill. App. 3d 186, 190 (1982) (citation).  And the rule is versatile: “The application of the rule is not limited to statutes but extends to wills and other instruments.”  Id.

    By way of illustration, the Illinois Supreme Court was once tasked with deciding whether a BB gun constituted a category I weapon for purposes of the Criminal Code. The Code defined a category I weapon to include “a pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, spring gun, or any other firearm, sawed-off shotgun, a stun gun or taser as defined in paragraph (a) of Section 24–1 of this Code, knife with a blade of at least 3 inches in length, dagger, dirk, switchblade knife, stiletto, or any other deadly or dangerous weapon or instrument of like nature.”  People v. Davis, 199 Ill. 2d 130, 133 (2002) (quoting the Code; emphasis added).  A BB gun did not meet the statutory definition of a firearm, and applying the ejusdem generis doctrine and the rule of the last antecedent, the Supreme Court held that “any other deadly or dangerous weapon or instrument of like nature” referred “only to weapons or instruments ‘such like’ the class of blade-type weapons which immediately preceded the clause in the provision, i.e., weapons or instruments that are sharp and have the ability to cut or stab.”  Id. at 139.  Because a BB gun was not like any of those blade-type weapons, it did not fall within the statutory definition’s catch-all clause for “any other deadly or dangerous weapon or instrument of like nature” and did not qualify as a category I weapon.  Id.

    Similarly, when the Human Rights Act prohibited discrimination in a “public place of accommodation,” and that term was statutorily defined to include a long list of examples (such as “restaurants,” “hotels” and “public swimming pools”) as well as “other places of public accommodation and amusement,” that residual clause was held not to include an educational program at a university.  Bd. of Trs. of S. Ill. Univ. v. Dep't of Human Rights, 159 Ill. 2d 206, 211 (1994). The “examples listed in the Act are fundamentally different from institutions of higher education, which administer educational programs. The cited list of establishments are examples of facilities for overnight accommodations, entertainment, recreation or transportation. . . . Thus, what was anticipated by the General Assembly is a restaurant, or a pub, or a bookstore. What was not anticipated is an academic program of a higher education institution.”  Id. at 211–12. (The Human Rights Act was subsequently amended to expressly include undergraduate and postgraduate schools.)

    The doctrine accommodates a “common drafting technique designed to save the legislature from spelling out in advance every contingency in which the statute could apply.” Pooh-Bah Enters., Inc. v. Cnty. of Cook, 232 Ill. 2d 463, 492 (2009) (citing 2A N. Singer & J. Singer, Sutherland on Statutory Construction § 47:17, at 370–73 (7th ed. 2007)). It is particularly appropriate because a drafter may not be able to spell out “every contingency” in advance, either because some contingencies are unforeseen, or because spelling out each contingency would have negative consequences.  For example, if the legislature is prohibiting something, spelling out each contingency might create “easy ways around the definition” and thereby provide a roadmap for evasion. Id. Citing the Singer treatise, the Supreme Court explained that the ejusdem generis doctrine “is justified on the ground that, if the general words were given their full and ordinary meaning, the specific words would be superfluous as encompassed by the general terms,” but if “the legislature had meant the general words to have their unrestricted sense, it would not have used the specific words.” Id.

    In short, the doctrine – like most canons of construction – reflects a judicial effort to recognize the limitations of language and the challenges inherent in drafting.

  • April 07, 2021 7:15 AM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    Today at 12 p.m. CST, the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law ACS Student Chapter and the ACS Chicago, DC, Madison, Michigan, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Northeast Ohio, Orange County, Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Diego, Tampa, and Virginia Lawyer Chapters, the Asian American Bar Association of Chicago, and the Women's Bar Association of Illinois are hosting a panel of appellate advocates, as they make the case for diversifying the appellate bar and discuss the critical importance of underrepresented law students and lawyers considering careers in appellate law.

    Featuring:

    Hon. Ann Claire Williams (Ret.), Of Counsel, Jones Day and former Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

    Brad Garcia, Partner, O'Melveny & Myers LLP

    Juvaria Khan, Executive Director, The Appellate Project

    Beverly Marie Jones, Assistant Appellate Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender

    Sopen Shah, Associate, Perkins Coie LLP; Member, ACS Madison Lawyer Chapter Board of Directors

    Moderated by:

    Shannon P. Bartlett, Associate Dean of Inclusion and Engagement and Instructor, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law

    Those interested in attending the Zoom webinar may register for free here.

  • March 31, 2021 8:48 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The Institute for Well-Being in Law is presenting Well-Being Week in Law from May 3 through 7, 2021.  The event involves daily activities designed to raise awareness about mental health in the legal profession and encourage action across the profession to improve well-being.  The Institute encourages individuals, law firms, corporate legal departments, government entities, bar associations, and other entities in the profession to participate.

    Guides for daily activities and other information may be found at the Institute's website

  • March 30, 2021 4:11 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    President Joe Biden has nominated Candace Jackson-Akiwumi to the current vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  Jackson-Akiwumi is currently a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, where she focuses her practice on complex civil litigation, white collar criminal defense, and investigations.

    Jackson-Akiwumi received her bachelor's degree from Princeton University and her J.D. from Yale Law School.  After graduating, she served as a law clerk to the Hon. Roger Gregory of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the Hon. David Coar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  She then entered private practice for three years, and later served as a staff attorney with the Federal Defender Program, Inc., in Chicago for 10 years.  She also served as an Adjunct Professor at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.

    If confirmed, Jackson-Akiwumi would be the second judge of color to serve on the Seventh Circuit after Judge Ann Claire Williams, who retired in 2018. 

    The Appellate Lawyers Association congratulates Candace Jackson-Akiwumi on her nomination to the Seventh Circuit.

  • March 30, 2021 6:50 AM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    By:  Carson Griffis*

    One of the key questions in perfecting an appeal is determining when final judgment is entered.  In most circumstances, it’s clear.  But in some cases, a judge’s oral pronouncement can it more difficult to determine if a final judgment has been entered.

    Rocha v. FedEx Corp., 2020 IL App (1st) 190041, illustrates such a situation.  In Rocha, the circuit court made an oral pronouncement that it was granting the defendant’s motion for summary judgment as to some of the counts of the plaintiff’s complaint, but also said that it planned to reduce that ruling to writing.  The remaining counts later went to trial, where the defendant prevailed.  The circuit court entered a judgment on the jury’s verdict, but still did not put its summary judgment ruling in writing.  More than 30 days later, the plaintiffs moved to vacate the judgment entered on the jury verdict and requested an extension of time to file a post-trial motion. The defendant then requested that the circuit court enter an order nunc pro tunc to reflect the oral summary judgment ruling and decline to exercise jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ post-trial motion because more than 30 days had passed since judgment had been entered.  The circuit court entered the order granting summary judgment nunc pro tunc, stating that its oral pronouncement was clear and plaintiffs should have taken its oral pronouncement as the entry of summary judgment at the time it was made.  Thus, the circuit court denied the plaintiffs’ motion to vacate and extend the time to file a post-trial motion. Plaintiffs then filed a notice of appeal.

    The defendant argued that the appellate court lacked jurisdiction because a final judgment disposing of all of the plaintiff’s claims had been entered when the court entered judgment on the jury’s verdict.  Accordingly, the defendant argued, the plaintiff’s failed to file a timely post-trial motion that would have extended the time to file their notice of appeal, thus rendering their notice of appeal untimely.  The plaintiffs, citing Illinois Supreme Court Rule 272, argued that the circuit court’s oral pronouncement regarding the defendant’s motion for summary judgment did not constitute a final disposition of those counts of its complaint.  Rather, final judgment had not been entered until the circuit court entered its written order granting the defendant summary judgment.

    The appellate court agreed with the plaintiffs because, while it was clear that the circuit court was going to grant the motion for summary judgment when it made its oral pronouncement, it was unclear that it intended to enter final judgment at that time.  Because the circuit court stated that it planned to later reduce its ruling to writing, it had suggested that final judgment would not be entered until it issued a written order.  And although the circuit court later entered its written order nunc pro tunc to the date of its oral pronouncement, the appellate court held that an order cannot relate back in time if doing so would render a notice of appeal untimely.  Thus, the appellate court concluded that it had jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ appeal.

    For practitioners, Rocha highlights the importance of seeking clarity in any oral pronouncements and, when appropriate, requesting that any oral pronouncements be reduced to writing as soon as possible.

    *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.

  • March 05, 2021 4:12 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    By:  John M. Fitzgerald

    In Shamrock Chicago Corp. v. Wroblewski, 2019 IL App (1st) 182354, the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court tackled two issues that commonly cause confusion in Rule 304(b)(5) interlocutory appeals from contempt findings: what is the scope of the appellate court’s review, and what is the applicable standard of review?

    The contempt finding in Shamrock Chicago arose from a discovery dispute: a defendant (Skyline) refused to turn over certain documents and information despite being ordered to do so, the plaintiff (Shamrock) filed a motion for a rule to show cause, and the circuit court held Skyline in civil contempt and imposed a monetary fine for its failure to comply with the discovery order.

    Scope of Review: Predictably, the plaintiff-appellee (Shamrock) wanted to restrict the scope of the appellate court’s review as much as possible.  “Shamrock argues that we cannot review the underlying discovery order, partly because the order holding Skyline in contempt constitutes the only order subject to review.”  Id., ¶ 17. Skyline, meanwhile, attempted to use its Rule 304(b)(5) interlocutory appeal to challenge a TRO that was related to the discovery order.  Id.

    Both parties were wrong.  First, Shamrock was wrong to suggest that the discovery order underlying the contempt finding was beyond review.  “The law is well settled that when a contempt order based on a discovery violation is appealed, the underlying discovery order is also subject to review.”  Id., ¶ 18.  Skyline was held in contempt for violating the discovery order, so the appellate court’s review encompassed both the contempt finding and the underlying discovery order.  Id.  Meanwhile, Skyline was wrong to use its Rule 304(b)(5) appeal from a contempt order (which was based on an underlying discovery order) as a vehicle for challenging a TRO.  “Rule 304(b)(5) provides limited jurisdiction that, as we said, involves just the contempt order and the underlying order on which it is based.”  Id., ¶ 19.

    Finally, Shamrock attempted to block review of the underlying discovery order by saying that it was something other than a discovery order.  Because the circuit court had appointed a CPA to monitor Skyline’s compliance, Shamrock argued that the underlying order was not a discovery order at all, but one appointing a receiver.  The circuit court and the parties had referred to the CPA as a “receiver,” but this was a misnomer  “Receivers have functions based on the relevant statutory schemes allowing for their appointment, but, generally, a receiver takes possession of and holds disputed assets pending resolution of the parties’ claims.”  Id., ¶ 22.  In this case, the court-appointed CPA took possession of no assets; his role was to analyze documents and to supervise Skyline’s compliance — “a role commonly referred to by judges in Illinois as ‘facilitator in discovery.’”  Id., ¶ 23.  Thus, the underlying order was, in fact, a discovery order and fell within the scope of the appellate court’s review.

    Standard of Review: The parties next disputed the applicable standard of review.  “We do not fault the parties for relying on disparate standards of review,” the appellate court explained, since “both parties cite cases that apply their proposed standard.”  Id., ¶28.  And, indeed, one case suggested an abuse of discretion standard while another suggested a manifest weight of the evidence standard.  As the Illinois Supreme Court held in In re Marriage of Logston, 203 Ill. 2d 266, 286-87 (1984), however, this apparent split in authority is not really a split at all:  both standards apply.

    Logston “makes explicit a system of double deference to the trial court in contempt proceedings,” the appellate court explained.  Id., ¶ 29.  “If the trial court’s factual findings are in dispute, we review the record and only reverse those findings that are against the manifest weight of the evidence.  If the trial court’s factual findings are not in dispute or if those findings are consistent with the manifest weight of the evidence, we review the contempt order for an abuse of discretion, considering the relevant facts.”  Id.  This “two-step” is “consistent with the role typical to each standard of review,” since the abuse of discretion standard “provides deference to the trial court’s ultimate conclusions,” while the manifest weight of the evidence standard “provides deference to the trial court’s fact-finding . . . .” Id., ¶ 30.  “So, where the factual findings are correct or if we determine they are not against the manifest weight of the evidence, we determine whether it was reasonable for the trial court to reach its ultimate ruling based on its factual findings.”  Id.  Since no one disputed any factual findings by the circuit court, “we need not review the factual findings, but decide whether the trial court’s contempt order constitutes an abuse of discretion.”  Id., ¶ 31.  Because the circuit court did not abuse its discretion, the underlying discovery order was affirmed.  Id., ¶ 47.

  • February 27, 2021 7:29 AM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    In times of crisis, the Illinois Bar Foundation's Warren Lupel Lawyers Care Fund provides economic aid to lawyers and/or their families to help ensure their needs for adequate housing, medical care, and other essentials are met. While funding is not intended to be long-term or a recipient’s primary form of support, monthly Lawyers Care payments fund necessities like physical therapy, treatment and counseling services, prescription medications, medical bills, rent and utilities, and more during trying times. Throughout the years, this resource has become a vital lifeline for many attorneys in need.

    The program is open for all attorneys admitted to practice law by the ARDC with a primary practice in Illinois. All applicant information is kept 100% confidential. For more information, visit the Fund's website.

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