"The Brief" - The ALA Blog

  • 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.

  • February 26, 2021 4:14 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    By:  Richard C. Harris, Adler Murphy & McQuillen LLP

    In Munoz v. Bulley & Andrews, LLC, 2021 IL App (1st) 200254, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, recently answered the question of whether a party is entitled to immunity under the exclusive remedy provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act based solely on its preexisting contractual obligation to cover benefits and insurance premiums. The First District  answered this question in the affirmative, even though the contractually obligated party was not the injured worker’s direct employer.

    Bulley LLC executed an agreement to be the construction manager for a project at a building in Chicago. The agreement required the LLC to purchase and maintain workers’ compensation insurance for the employees of its subcontractors. The LLC procured a policy and named Bully Concrete, among others, as additional insureds. Thereafter, the LLC hired Bully Concrete to perform work for the project. Although Bulley Concrete was a wholly owned subsidiary of the LLC, the companies were distinct and separate. They performed different specialties, had their own presidents, and employed different people.

    The plaintiff sued the LLC and alleged he was injured on the worksite during the course of his employment for Bulley Concrete. The LLC moved to dismiss the claim on grounds that it was legally obligated to pay the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation benefits and had, in fact, paid more than $76,000 in medical bills. In response, the plaintiff argued that his workers’ compensation claim was made only against Bulley Concrete. Moreover, the plaintiff argued, a parent company is not shielded under the Act from a lawsuit by an injured employee of its subsidiary.

    In affirming the circuit court’s dismissal, the appellate court noted that the Act’s exclusive remedy provision is part of the quid pro quo which balances the sacrifices and gains of employees and employers. In past cases, the Illinois Supreme Court held that allowing a party who paid nothing toward workers’ compensation benefits to escape tort liability under the Act’s exclusive remedy provision would be tantamount to allowing the party to “have its cake and eat it too.” Other cases held that a general contractor did not become an injured worker’s employer under the Act merely because it paid the benefits, reasoning that the aforementioned quid pro quo cannot be maintained if a party is permitted to selectively decide whether it will cover the benefits after an employee is injured.

    However, when a general contractor assumes a pre-existing contractual obligation to pay the premiums for every worker on the jobsite, and, in fact, pays the benefits for an injured employee, the general contractor may avail itself of the Act’s exclusive remedy provision. To hold otherwise would equate to “declaring that a party who has paid for the cake may neither keep it nor eat it.”

  • February 17, 2021 6:03 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The Chicago Bar Association In-Court Attorney Program is seeking qualified attorneys to be appointed to represent clients on appeal in Juvenile Child Protection cases.  Interested attorneys should complete an application that will be reviewed by The Chicago Bar Association In Court Committee.   Applicants will generally be required to have 5 years of legal practice experience with some experience in Juvenile Child Protection cases and some appellate experience.  This program offers an opportunity to get additional appellate experience, receive some monetary compensation, and help both parents and juveniles exercise their rights.

    Attorneys will represent both parents and minors in juvenile court appeals where the Public Defender’s office, which generally represents parents, or the Office of the Public Guardian, which generally represents minors, has a conflict. Most of the cases arise from Circuit Court orders terminating parental rights, but some arise from other orders, such as findings that minors should be made wards of the court or closing cases to guardianship. Appointed attorneys will be compensated in accordance with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 299. The costs of the appeal in these cases are waived, and transcripts and records are provided without charge.

    APPLICATION PREREQUISITES

    1. Member in good standing of the Illinois Bar.
    2. Completion of an accurate application for admission to the program.
    3. Acceptance by the Screening Panel.
    4. Agreement in writing to comply with the Regulations and Rules of the Program, the Code of Professional Conduct of the Illinois Supreme Court, and the Rules of the Circuit Court.
    5. Malpractice insurance (a copy of the Declarations Page must be attached to the application).
    6. Completion of right to privacy waiver.
    7. Acceptance by the Screening Panel of the application is subject to the approval of the Presiding Judge of the Child Protection Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
    8. If approved, attorneys will be required to complete a three-hour program entitled, "Effective Appellate Advocacy in Termination of Parental Rights Cases," which will be made available to them.
    9. There is no charge for application or admission to the referral program nor is there a requirement that applicants be a member of any bar association.

    To receive an application, or for additional information, please contact:

     Juli Vyverberg, Chicago Bar Association
     321 S. Plymouth Court
     Chicago, IL 60604
     jvyverberg@chicagobar.org
     (312) 554-2062

  • February 06, 2021 9:45 AM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    By:  Kimberly Glasford

    Recently, in People v. Kadow, 2021 IL App (4th) 190103, the Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District, considered a plain error argument raised by the defendant for the first time in his reply brief. The court also advised the defendant that the better practice would have been to raise plain error in his opening brief. But perhaps that depends on one’s perspective.

    In Kadow, the defendant raised a Miranda violation under the ineffective assistance of counsel umbrella in his opening brief, but apparently did not raise the Miranda violation in its own right. In his reply brief, he then added that the Miranda violation itself amounted to plain error.

    The reviewing court stated:

     “We first note plain error was not argued in defendant’s opening brief and, as a result, the State has not had the opportunity to argue forfeiture. Although the better practice would have been to raise the plain error arguments in his opening brief, our supreme court has told us we may still conduct a plain error analysis even if it was raised for the first time in an appellant’s reply brief.” Id. ¶ 16.

    First, it bears mentioning that the plain error doctrine provides an exception to forfeiture, not the other way around. See People v. Caffey, 205 Ill. 2d 52, 103 (2001). While the court did not explain why the defendant’s omission of “plain error” arguments from his opening brief denied the State the opportunity to argue forfeiture, the State would likely have known to raise forfeiture had the defendant raised the Miranda violation in its own right in his opening brief, even without characterizing it as plain error.  More importantly, perhaps, it is well settled that the State may forfeit forfeiture. People v. Williams, 193 Ill. 2d 306, 347 (2000).

    Raising plain error in the opening brief may be better from the perspective of the State and the reviewing court, but a defendant may prefer to give the State the chance to forfeit any forfeiture. That said, as a practical matter, raising an error under the umbrella of ineffective assistance of counsel will likely alert the State that forfeiture has indeed occurred. And in that context, perhaps including a plain error argument in the opening brief is the better practice from any perspective.  

  • February 02, 2021 7:48 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The ALA wishes to congratulate Leah Bendik on her appointment as an associate judge in DuPage County.  Ms. Bendik is a past member of the ALA’s Board of Directors, a past co-chair of the ALA’s Moot Court Committee, and a dedicated ALA member.  She recently moderated the ALA's Illinois Supreme Court Year in Review: Criminal seminar. 

    Ms. Bendik received her undergraduate degree from Duke University, and her juris doctor from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois, in 2002. She currently serves as an Assistant Attorney General and supervisor in the Criminal Appeals Division of the Office of the Illinois Attorney General.

    The ALA wishes Leah the best as she embarks on this new chapter of her career.

  • January 29, 2021 6:51 AM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The National Black Law Students Association ("NBLSA") is seeking judges for its virtual 2020-2021 Regional Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition. 

    The NBLSA has been hosting the Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition (formerly known as the Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition) since 1975. Each year, law students across the country participate in six regional competitions and the top three teams from each region advance to the national competition. Each team consists of two law students who submit a brief and present a 30-minute oral argument before a panel of judges acting as the United States Supreme Court. This year all competitions will be held virtually.

    The NBLSA is seeking judges to assist with its Midwest Regional competition on the dates/times below: 

    Wednesday, February 3, 2021

    12:00 PM EST- 1:30 PM EST (11:00 AM CST - 12:30 PM CST)

    5:00 PM EST - 6:30 PM EST (4:00 PM CST - 5:30 PM CST)

    6:00 PM EST - 7:30 PM EST (5:00 CST - 6:30 PM CST)

    Thursday, February 4, 2021

    12: 00 PM EST - 1:30 PM EST (11:00 AM CST - 12:30 PM CST)

    5:00 PM EST - 6:30 PM EST (4:00 PM CST - 5:30 PM CST)

    Friday, February 5, 2021

    12: 00 PM EST - 1:30 PM EST (11:00 AM CST - 12:30 PM CST)

    ALA members interested in participating should contact mailto:mootcourt@nblsa.org.

  • January 27, 2021 6:18 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    On February 10, 2021, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) is presenting a virtual CLE providing a general overview of the civil appellate process. This information can help volunteers participating in the Illinois Free Legal Answers for Civil Appeals program, a volunteer help desk for self-represented litigants pursuing civil appeals.  0.75 hours of CLE credit have been approved for this event.

    Online registration is required.  Individuals interested in attending the CLE can register here.  Individuals interested in volunteering for the Illinois Free Legal Answers for Civil Appeals program can register here.  More information can be found on PILI's website.

  • January 23, 2021 8:53 AM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    By:  Linda Sackey

    In Conners v. Wilkie, No. 19-2426, the Seventh Circuit addressed what can be a thorny issue in employment law, namely, when an employee will be considered a “qualified individual with a disability” under the Rehabilitation Act.

    Beginning in 2006, Priscilla Conners was employed as a licensed practical nurse (“LPN”) at a facility operated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”). Among her duties were to treat and monitor patients, give immunizations, manage the front desk, teach classes, and complete paperwork. Conners also was expected to handle medical emergencies. Her job description specified that an LPN should have the physical ability to, among other things, lift, stand, bend, stoop, stretch, and pull without help from another patient care provider.

    In October 2011, Conners was struck by an automobile. She suffered severe injuries that required surgery and that hindered her performance of most of her nursing duties. At first, Conners’s supervisor limited her responsibilities to teaching and paperwork. But in March 2013, senior management at the healthcare facility discovered the full impact of her disability on her work and directed her to submit a formal accommodation request. Conners asked for five accommodations. She requested a private office, the option to elevate her leg for roughly 15 minutes every hour or so, a footstool, no standing for more than 15 minutes at a time, and a limitation on walking for more than 25 yards absent an emergency.

    Although it agreed to provide a footstool, the VA did not grant the other accommodations because a major component of an LPN’s job is to see patients and to administer immunizations, which require standing and walking. In June 2013, the VA determined that she could not perform the essential functions of an LPN even with reasonable accommodations. Conners later declined the VA’s proposed reassignment to a different position and its option of a medical-disability retirement. In January 2014, her employment was terminated.

    Thereafter, Conners sued the Secretary of the VA, claiming in part that the agency failed to accommodate her disability in violation of the Rehabilitation Act. The district court granted summary judgment in the VA’s favor, reasoning that Conners had not presented evidence that she was a qualified individual with a disability, an essential element of a failure to accommodate claim.

    On appeal, the Seventh Circuit observed that an employer may be liable for disability discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act if it fails to “mak[e] reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee,” unless the employer can show that “the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the [employer’s] business.” 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A). Further, the employer’s duty to reasonably accommodate a disabled employee may require a reassignment to a vacant position. Id. § 12111(9)(B).

    The Seventh Circuit noted that assessing whether an employee was a qualified individual with a disability generally involves a two-step inquiry. Courts first ask whether the plaintiff possesses the basic qualifications for the job. Next, courts ask whether the plaintiff can perform the essential functions of the job—as reflected in, for example, the employee’s written job description and the amount of time the employee spends performing the function—with or without reasonable accommodations.

    In this case, the Seventh Circuit found it undisputed that Conners satisfied the basic prerequisites for the position. However, the physical limitations that followed her accidence in 2011 prevented Conners from performing most of the responsibilities of an LPN. Her inability to stand or walk more than 25 yards at a time made it impossible for her to perform the physical requirements set forth in her job description. The Seventh Circuit rejected Conners’s argument that her ability to perform a reduced set of duties after the accident meant that she could perform the essential elements of the LPN position. The court found that an employer is not required to either create a new job or reduce the principal duties of an existing job to accommodate a disabled employee.

    Although she was not qualified to work as an LPN, the Seventh Circuit noted that Conners also could have shown that she was qualified to perform the essential duties of a different vacant position at the VA. Her failure to do so, the court concluded, meant that no reasonable jury could conclude that the VA discriminated against Conners when it failed to reassign her.

  • January 21, 2021 4:52 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    On January 18, 2021, retired Illinois Supreme Court Justice James D. Heiple, passed away in Peoria from complications following a brain hemorrhage.  He was 87.  During his time on the Illinois Supreme Court, Justice Heiple authored 175 majority opinions, 98 dissents, 27 special concurrences and 18 partial concurrences/partial dissents.

    Justice Heiple was born in Peoria in 1933, the son of attorney and banker Rae Crane and Harriet Birkett Heiple.  He received his undergraduate degree from Bradley University and and his law degree from the University of Louisville Law School.  Following service in the Army at Fort Knox, he joined the family law firm of Heiple & Heiple in Washington.  In 1959, he opened an office in Pekin, developing a practice in municipal law and as corporation counsel for several municipalities. He also served as an appellate law clerk, a public defender, and a Special Master in Chancery.

    In 1970, Justice Heiple won election to fill a vacancy on the Tazewell County Circuit Court and was retained in 1972 and 1978.  In 1980, he became a Justice of the Third District Appellate Court.  In 1990, Justice Heiple won election to the Third Judicial District seat on the Illinois Supreme Court.  Justice Heiple assumed a three-year term as Chief Justice in January 1997, succeeding Justice Michael A. Bilandic.  He did not seek retention at the conclusion of his 10-year term in December 2000.

    During his career, Heiple served as the Illinois Judges Association president, Tazewell County Bar Association president, held memberships in the Illinois, Kentucky, and federal bar associations, and chaired councils of the Illinois State Bar Association.

    The Illinois Supreme Court's statement on Justice Heiple's passing may be found here.  Justice Heiple’s memorial website is available at http://www.deitersfuneralhome.com where condolences may be sent to his family.

DISCLAIMER: The Appellate Lawyers Association does not provide legal services or legal advice. Discussions of legal principles and authority, including, but not limited to, constitutional provisions, statutes, legislative enactments, court rules, case law, and common-law doctrines are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

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