WBEZ | Illinois Supreme Court http://www.wbez.org/tags/illinois-supreme-court Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Should ban on mandatory life without parole encompass old juvie cases? http://www.wbez.org/news/should-ban-mandatory-life-without-parole-encompass-old-juvie-cases-109516 <p><p>In the summer of 2012, in a case called <em>Miller v. Alabama</em>, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles are cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore unconstitutional.</p><p>The key word here is &ldquo;mandatory.&rdquo; In the 1980s and 90s there was a lot of talk about young &ldquo;super predators&rdquo; and almost every state enacted tougher punishment for juveniles who committed violent crimes. Illinois was no exception.</p><p>The Supreme Court said that mandatory sentences don&rsquo;t let a judge consider extenuating circumstances such as the person&rsquo;s age, home life, how involved he was in the crime,&nbsp; and the potential for rehabilitation.</p><p>But the decision didn&rsquo;t entirely rule out life without parole sentences for juveniles&mdash;though the Court said they should be used only sparingly.</p><h2><strong>Thorny legal question</strong></h2><p>In its wake, <em>Miller</em> has raised a thorny legal question: Should it also apply to people in prison who as juveniles received mandatory life without parole sentences but now their appeals are over, and their case is closed?</p><p>The question has come up because several such people have requested new sentencing&nbsp; hearings. And Illinois&rsquo;s Appellate Court, citing the Miller decision, granted at least five of them &ndash; unanimously.</p><p>One of those five people is Addolfo Davis. Davis was arrested two months past his 14th birthday and he&rsquo;s never seen the streets since.</p><p>Today he&rsquo;s 37 and has spent almost two-thirds of his life behind bars. It&rsquo;s Addolfo&rsquo;s case that will be presented in oral arguments today, January 15, before the Illinois Supreme Court.Patricia Soung, who will represent Davis, tells WBEZ that on the night of his crime he went with two older co-defendants, at their instruction, to rob an apartment.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Two people were shot and killed that night by the two older co-defendants,&ldquo; she tells us. &ldquo;Davis was convicted of double homicide as an accomplice,&rdquo; she says, and ultimately received a mandatory life without parole sentence.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MILLER%20NEW_1.png" style="height: 280px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="WBEZ/Patrick Smith" />Alan Spellberg, who&rsquo;s supervisor of the criminal appeals division of the Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney&rsquo;s office, will represent the State of Illinois at the oral arguments. He has a different version of what happened that night.Davis, he says &ldquo;was an active participant in the planning, as well as in the shooting and killing.&rdquo;</div><p>The lawyers won&rsquo;t just be arguing the facts of the Davis case this day. They&rsquo;ll also debate whether <em>Miller v. Alabama</em> is so ground-breaking that it should apply to cases that are already settled.</p><p>Patricia Soung explains that &ldquo;the United States Supreme Court created two categories of rules that should be applied retroactively &ndash; &lsquo;substantive&rsquo; and &lsquo;watershed&rsquo; rules of criminal procedure.&rdquo;</p><p>In her opinion Miller is so sweeping that it falls into both categories.But not everyone agrees.</p><h2><strong>High bar</strong></h2><p>How exactly the court differentiates substantive from watershed is complex and open to interpretation.</p><p>I&rsquo;m not the only one who thinks these definitions can get murky.</p><p>Matt Jones, associate director of the Illinois Office of the State&rsquo;s Attorney, Appellate Prosecutor, thinks so too.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a sort of, I know it when I see it,&rdquo; he says, talking about whether a rule rises to a level worthy of being considered retroactive. &ldquo;Can we have a fair criminal justice system without this new procedural change?&rdquo; Matt Jones asks. &ldquo;If we can&rsquo;t -- then it&rsquo;s the kind of rule that has to be applied retroactively.&rdquo;</p><p>However. If we can have a fair system without the change, he says, it&rsquo;s something that should be implemented moving forward to improve the system &ldquo;but not something that we should necessarily go back and undo every case that has been done,&rdquo; he explains. &ldquo;Even if there are questions about whether each and every case was fair.&rdquo;</p><p>Jones says the U.S Supreme Court almost never considers a new rule earth-shaking enough to actually do this.</p><p>&ldquo;And I will tell you that the only instance that they&rsquo;ve ever cited as an example of that was <em>Gideon</em> &ndash; the right to counsel.&rdquo;</p><p>Counsel, that is, for defendants in criminal cases who couldn&rsquo;t afford to pay for an attorney. That seems like a rather high bar. One that Miller doesn&rsquo;t reach, according to many prosecutors across Illinois. I asked Patricia Soung if she&rsquo;s worried that the Miller decision isn&rsquo;t significant enough to meet that standard.</p><p>Turns out, she&rsquo;s not.</p><p>&ldquo;<em>Gideon</em> provided due process where none existed before and<em> Miller</em> does the same thing,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It gives you counsel where you essentially had no counsel at sentencing. The proceeding was made hollow because you were denied an opportunity to have your counsel present, mitigating factors in the same way as in<em> Gideon</em> a defendant without counsel had no opportunity to provide an adequate defense.&nbsp; So in both cases we&rsquo;re talking about providing due process where no due process existed at all.&rdquo;</p><p>Introducing the possibility of re-sentencing hearings for juvenile life without parole cases from long ago introduces a difficult problem. There could potentially be hundreds of victims and first-hand witnesses who&rsquo;ve been assured that the perpetrators are imprisoned for life.</p><p>&ldquo;Not only are the family members dragged back through this process,&rdquo; Matt Jones explains, &ldquo;but now key witnesses who depended upon this certainty that a conviction means a conviction, that life means life-- are now going to have be dragged back potentially through the process. Now with a re-sentencing you may not have to have those key witnesses come back, but their lives are similarly put on pins and needles awaiting the outcome of this person getting out. And life doesn&rsquo;t necessarily mean life for those witnesses.&rdquo;</p><p>These are gut-wrenching concerns, and so the Illinois Supreme Court will be venturing into complicated and emotional territory.</p><p>Court watchers expect a decision by the summer.</p><p><em>Clarification: While today&rsquo;s oral arguments were pending, Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Alan Spellberg declined WBEZ&rsquo;s request for an interview. &nbsp;With permission from the Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney&rsquo;s office, WBEZ used tape of &nbsp;Spellberg from an interview conducted in March of 2012 whrn we were preparing a story about Addolfo Davis&rsquo; bid for clemency.&nbsp;</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 15 Jan 2014 01:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/should-ban-mandatory-life-without-parole-encompass-old-juvie-cases-109516 Cameras allowed inside DuPage County courtroom for high-profile arraignment http://www.wbez.org/news/cameras-allowed-inside-dupage-county-courtroom-high-profile-arraignment-103968 <p><p>Photographers were allowed inside a DuPage county courtroom Wednesday for the arraignment of Elzbieta Plackowska, who was accused of killing her son and another child in her Naperville home.</p><p>It was the highest-profile event yet for a pilot program that allows cameras in some Illinois trial courtrooms.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it advances our efforts to make sure that the public - and not just children - are more familiar with civics,&rdquo; said John Thies, President of the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA).</p><p>The ISBA supported Illinois&rsquo; pilot program that allows counties to apply to allow cameras inside courtrooms. Thies said media attention increases transparency and public engagement with the court system.</p><p>&ldquo;Most people never are there,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;but our courts play such an important role in society, and in our system of checks and balances.</p><p>When the Supreme Court of Illinois announced the program in January 2012, they pointed out that Illinois is one of only 14 states that generally prohibits cameras in trials courts.</p><p>DuPage County is the closest county to Chicago to give the program a try since it began in January. The program gives judges discretion over how much and what sorts of media will be allowed at courtroom events.</p><p>Judge Robert Kleeman only permitted one video camera and one still camera, and asked them to shoot from a distance. That means the <a href="http://www.wgnradio.com/news/top/wgntv-cameras-in-courtroom-for-arraignment-of-naperville-woman-20121121,0,1747945.story">three-minute video</a> mostly shows the defendant and lawyers from behind.</p><p>Plackowska pled not guilty to ten counts of first-degree murder.</p></p> Wed, 21 Nov 2012 12:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cameras-allowed-inside-dupage-county-courtroom-high-profile-arraignment-103968 Illinois court to rule on Cook County's assault-weapons ban http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/illinois-court-rule-cook-countys-assult-weapons-ban-97950 <p><p>The Illinois Supreme Court is about to weigh in on whether it's constitutional for Cook County officials to ban assault weapons.</p><p>The county imposed the ban back in 1993. It has been upheld by trial courts and appeals courts.</p><p>But opponents think their case gained new strength when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Chicago ordinance banning handguns. They hope the state's high court will agree and toss out the ban on assault weapons.</p><p>The state Supreme Court is scheduled to announce its decision Thursday.</p><p>A key question is whether high-capacity, fast-firing weapons should be considered ordinary guns that get full Second Amendment protection or treated like machine guns and other special weapons that can be restricted.</p></p> Thu, 05 Apr 2012 09:21:56 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/illinois-court-rule-cook-countys-assult-weapons-ban-97950 What will cameras do to Illinois' courts? http://www.wbez.org/blog/bez/2012-03-12/what-will-cameras-do-illinois-courts-97207 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-12/3879627035_8eebbf2246.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" height="375" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-12/3879627035_8eebbf2246.jpg" title="A Cook County Criminal courtroom (Flickr/John W. Iwanski)" width="500"></p><div class="inset"><div class="insetContent"><p><span style="font-size:10px;">Listen to this conversation</span></p><p><span class="filefield_audio_insert_player" href="/sites/default/files/120312 cameras.mp3" id="filefield_audio_insert_player-127549" player="null">120312 cameras.mp3</span></p></div></div><p>In January, the Illinois Supreme Court <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/lawyers-group-supports-cameras-illinois-courts-97132">approved the pilot project</a> for allowing cameras in the courtroom, with the following rules:</p><p>• Jurors and potential jurors may not be photographed.<br> • Cameras and recording devices will not be allowed in juvenile, divorce, adoption, child custody and evidence suppression cases.<br> • No more than two television cameras and no more than two still photographers will be allowed in a courtroom at one time.<br> • Victims of violent felonies, police informants and relocated witnesses may request that the judge prohibit them from being photographed.</p><p>As drastic as this change might be for Chicagoland media, Illinois is jumping on the bandwagon of a practice that's allowed in many other states. "Until now, Illinois has been one of only 14 states where cameras in trial courtrooms were either dis-allowed or allowed on such a restrictive basis that they were hardly utilized," <a href="http://www.state.il.us/court/media/PressRel/2012/012412.pdf">said the Supreme Court in a press release</a>. However, "Illinois has allowed news cameras in the Supreme Court and the Illinois Appellate Court since 1983," and audio and video of oral reports are posted online.</p><p>The pilot program will be put in place in four counties -- Rock Island, Mercer, Henry and Whiteside. WBEZ&nbsp;criminal justice reporter Robert Wildeboer and Gene Borgida, a professor of psychology and law at the University of Minnesota, talk with<em> Eight Forty-Eight </em>about the effect this will have on the courts and on the media.</p></p> Mon, 12 Mar 2012 13:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/bez/2012-03-12/what-will-cameras-do-illinois-courts-97207 Ill. Supreme Court sides with CPS in laid off tenured teachers case http://www.wbez.org/story/ill-supreme-court-sides-cps-laid-tenured-teachers-case-96505 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-17/RS4958_AP111116039038-scr.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that laid off tenured teachers in Chicago do not have a right to be rehired later.</p><p>The 5-2 ruling Friday came after budget cuts in 2010 forced the city to lay off nearly 1,300 teachers. The Chicago Board of Education later recalled about 715 tenured teachers. But the Chicago Teachers Union sued when laid-off tenured instructors did not get first dibs on other open positions.</p><p>The court ruled the Chicago school board's layoff and rehiring procedures do not mimic those in other districts, and that state law does not require preference for out-of-work tenured teachers.</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union has expressed discontent with the court’s decision.</p><p>"We're disappointed that neither the board nor the court recognizes the value of experienced educators. At the very least, we wished they would’ve of shown us the respect that tenure teachers in every other district in the state get—which is the right to recall, if they've been laid off through no fault of their own," said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharke.</p><p>He said that teachers should have the right to recall.</p><p>“It’s a right that auto-workers get and I don’t see why it’s something a tenured teacher shouldn’t have,” said Sharke.</p><p>He said the union will use pressure politically and at the bargaining table to get fairness for its members.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Donald Moore is Executive Director of Designs for Change, a Chicago based organization that researches the practices of effective urban schools. His organization filed an amicus brief, in favor of CTU.</p><p>Moore said the board of Chicago Public Schools has been motivated to remove veteran teachers and replace them with younger, inexperienced ones for lesser pay. He acknowledged that the city may save money from this tactic.</p><p>“It takes seven years for a person who has teaching potential to become highly effective,” Moore said. He added that younger teachers have high turnover rates and tend to leave a school after two years.</p><p>CPS called the court decision “historically significant” and said it empowers principals to make the best hiring decisions to boost student academic achievements.</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools are currently negotiating a new labor agreement. Sharke said it includes discussions about what happens to tenured teachers when they are laid off.</p></p> Fri, 17 Feb 2012 17:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/ill-supreme-court-sides-cps-laid-tenured-teachers-case-96505 Illinois Supreme Court election: Does anybody even know it's on the ballot? http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-supreme-court-election-does-anybody-even-know-its-ballot-96299 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-12/AP080908024351.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-13/IL Supreme Court_AP_Seth Perlman.jpg" title="Former Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald (right) retired in the 2010, leading to this year's election. (AP/Seth Perlman)" width="512" height="334"></p><p>Voters in Cook County this year will elect an Illinois Supreme Court justice. But with just over a month before the primary election, it's getting little notice.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size: 12px;">EXTRA: </span></strong><span style="font-size: 12px;">WBEZ host Steve Edwards talked with reporter Sam Hudzik about this election. Edwards also interviewed Albert Klumpp, a research analyst at the law firm of McDermott Will &amp; Emery. Klumpp has researched judicial primary elections in Cook County, and wrote his doctoral dissertation on retention elections.</span><strong><span style="font-size: 12px;"> <em>Listen below:</em></span></strong></p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332731805-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-march/2012-03-02/edwards-klumpp-hudzik.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p>Three of the seven spots on the court are reserved for Cook County, with one of the seats on the March 20 ballot. The Democratic Party contest includes Justice <a href="http://www.theisforjustice.com/">Mary Jane Theis</a>, who holds the seat by temporary appointment, along with two state appeals court judges, one of whom has a very familiar name.</p><p>Chances are you're like a lot of voters: If you got stopped on the street by a pushy guy with a microphone, you'd have a hard time naming the justices on the Illinois Supreme Court.</p><p>"I'm a lawyer, I couldn't name all the Supreme Court justices to be honest with you. Yeah, I doubt most people can," Jeremiah Posedel of Chicago said last week, standing in the underground tunnel near Chicago's Millennium Station.</p><p>"No, I don't think I do [know of any justices]," said Laura Kracke of Hyde Park. "Unless, what? Anne [Burke]?"</p><p>"Oh, yeah, [I can name them]: Kennedy, Breyer," answered Eleanor Truex of Homewood, making a commom mistake. "Oh, Illinois? No idea. Sorry."</p><p>So, it's no big surprise that a lot of Cook County voters are unaware they'll be asked to pick a state Supreme Court justice this year. The one guy I talked to who did know that election was coming couldn't name any of the candidates.</p><p>There's no judgment here. Reporters - myself included - normally provide relatively sparse coverage of judicial campaigns. But these elections couldn't be more significant.</p><p>Illinois Supreme Court justices last summer upheld the constitutionality of a major infrastructure plan funded by video gambling and a host of new taxes. Earlier this month, the court said criminal confessions obtained through torture cannot be used at trial. The justices are currently considering Cook County's assault weapons ban and parental notification for abortions.</p><p>"The Supreme Court of the United States gets all the publicity and applause or condemnation," said Thomas Sullivann, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. "But the Supreme Court of Illinois hears far more cases and deals with a far greater variety of subjects - just an incredible number of different areas of law."</p><p><strong>Partisan judges</strong></p><p>Sullivan was the opening speaker at a recent forum for Supreme Court candidates held recently at Northwestern University Law School.</p><p>Candidates for judge are not allowed to publicly say how they'd rule on any issue and for the most part these candidates followed that. So perhaps the most touchy and telling moment of the night came when the candidates talked about whether political parties should be involved in judicial elections.</p><p>A judge for nearly 30 years, Mary Jane Theis was appointed to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald's retirement. That was October of 2010.</p><p>A year later, when Democratic officials gathered to endorse a candidate for that seat, they gave the nod to Theis, backed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Mayor Richard Daley.</p><p>"This is a Democratic primary, and so certainly it would be helpful to engage in a discussion of what the Democratic Party means," Theis said at the Northwestern forum, defending her decision to seek the endorsement, and defending the party. "History has shown that - specifically for minorities - [the] Democratic Party has been a champion of their rights, and for those reasons I have very much respect for them. But I don't come as a partisan person. I am a judge."</p><p>"The Democratic Party in all likelihood, in all reality, has a very tight hold on who gets elected to the bench in Cook County," said appellate court Judge <a href="http://www.joycunninghamforjustice.com/">Joy Cunningham</a>, another candidate for Supreme Court.</p><p>Cunningham has the backing of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. If elected, she would become the first black woman to serve on the state's high court. Cunningham tried to get the party's support, but said she didn't expect it.</p><p>"It is my understanding that sometimes deals are made before the slating process even takes place," Cunningham said. "However, I felt that it was as a part of the process I felt that it was important to present my credentials in an open forum so that everyone within earshot could hear what my credentials are and give the party an opportunity to do the right thing."</p><p><strong>Impartiality or hypocrisy?</strong></p><p>Supreme Court hopeful <a href="http://www.pucinski.org/">Aurelia Pucinski</a> took a different tactic with the Democratic Party.</p><p>Pucinski served as Cook County Circuit Court Clerk for 12 years and as a judge since 2004. Her dad is the late congressman and Chicago alderman Roman Pucinski. Despite those Democratic roots, Pucinski said party endorsements for judicial candidates are a bad thing because judges are supposed to be nonpartisan.</p><p>"I have taken the stand that while we should be elected - because it forces judges to get out of their ivory tower - and talking to real people and answering real questions, which is good, that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans should endorse," Pucinski said at Northwestern.</p><p>That is the exact same message Pucinski told Cook County Democrats - to their face - when she went to the endorsement meeting in October.</p><p>But it's a hypocritical message, argued the chair of the party, county Assessor Joe Berrios. Berrios notes that Pucinski in the past has asked to be slated when she's run for judge.</p><p>"[This year] she knew that she didn't have enough votes in the room to get the slating, so she made the comment that there shouldn't be a slating, and that the Democratic Party, committeemen should stay out of this election," Berrios said in a phone interview last week.</p><p>There are a couple parts of "Aurie" Pucinski's biography that make it clear she was not going to win the party's support.</p><p>Case number 1: In 1998, she ran for Cook County Board President - as a Republican. She lost. Two: She's run against the party's endorsed candidate in judge elections before, including two years ago when she won a seat on the state appellate court.</p><p>"That's one thing that Aurie has done before. She's run against the party, and you know she's beat the party," Berrios said. "But we are working very hard for our endorsed candidate, Mary Jane Theis, and we will continue to do that."</p><p>But Pucinski begins the campaign with one big advantage: name recognition.</p><p>"I recognize her name, yes," Laura Kracke, of Hyde Park, said.</p><p>"Yes. Yes, because that's such an unusual name," said Eleanor Truex, of Homewood.</p><p><strong>Bar associations</strong></p><p>These voters said they'll do research before the election. Part of that could be looking at ratings from bar associations.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.chicagocouncil.org/">Chicago Council of Lawyers</a> last week finalized its ratings, finding Theis to be "highly qualified." Lawyers noted her "outstanding legal ability," scholarly writings and "unquestioned" integrity.</p><p>Cunningham was rated "well qualified" to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court. Council members called her a "solid, hard working jurist" who "asks good questions...and writes well-reasoned opinions."</p><p>The council had less praise for the two other Democrats, which it rated "not qualified." Pucinski was knocked for "play[ing] an advocacy role" from the bench, and lawyer <a href="http://www.tomforjudge.com/">Thomas Flannigan</a> (a self-described "longshot") was found to lack the broad legal experience necessary to serve on the state's highest court.</p><p>Ratings from other lawyer groups, including the Chicago Bar Association, are not yet available.</p><p><strong>TV ads and money</strong></p><p>Expect Theis and Cunningham to mention their ratings in upcoming TV ads. And while Theis' ads may not end up highlighting her Democratic Party support, the campaign says it will highlight another big endorsement: Mayor Emanuel's.</p><p>And she will have plenty of cash to buy ads. Theis' campaign reported having <span class="BaseText" id="ctl00_ContentPlaceHolder1_lblEndFundsAvail">$609,339 at the end of December and has raised at least $21,800 since</span> then, according to filings with the Illinois State Election Board. (see Theis' <a href="http://www.elections.il.gov/CampaignDisclosure/CommitteeDetail.aspx?id=23652">filings</a>)</p><p>Cunningham reported <span class="BaseText" id="ctl00_ContentPlaceHolder1_lblEndFundsAvail">$139,330 at the end of the year, raising more than $43,500</span> so far in 2012. (see Cunningham's <a href="http://www.elections.il.gov/CampaignDisclosure/CommitteeDetail.aspx?id=23691">filings</a>)</p><p>Pucinski had under $300 (see her <a href="http://www.elections.il.gov/CampaignDisclosure/CommitteeDetail.aspx?id=4689">filings</a>)<span class="BaseText" id="ctl00_ContentPlaceHolder1_lblEndFundsAvail">. Flannigan, who has publicly sworn off donations, has no open campaign committee.</span></p><p><strong>The sole GOPer</strong></p><p>Next November, the winner of the Democratic primary will face Judge James Riley, who was rated "not qualified" by the Chicago Council of Lawyers. Riley is running a spirited though probably futile campaign for this Cook County seat, as a Republican.</p></p> Mon, 13 Feb 2012 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-supreme-court-election-does-anybody-even-know-its-ballot-96299 Illinois Supreme Court candidates talk gay marriage, political endorsements and campaign contributions http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-supreme-court-candidates-talk-gay-marriage-political-endorsements-and-campaign-contri <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-27/gay cake toppers_getty_david mcnew.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Candidates for a Cook County vacancy on the Illinois Supreme Court will not say exactly what they'd do if asked to rule on gay marriage. But they offered strong hints during a forum at Northwestern University Law School on Thursday night.</p><p><strong>AUDIO: </strong>Listen to the full debate</p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483869-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-january/2012-01-26/fulldebate.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-27/gay cake toppers_getty_david mcnew.jpg" style="width: 400px; height: 300px; float: right; margin: 5px;" title="(Getty/David McNew, file) ">Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis holds a temporary appointment to the court and said it'd be inappropriate for her to say how she'd rule on gay marriage.</p><p>"You want judges who are fair, impartial, open-minded, and for that reason I am not going to comment," Theis said. "But it is true we have taken steps forward with the legislature passing the civil unions act."</p><p>Theis added that she had a role in changing some technical Supreme Court rules relating to civil unions.</p><p>Appellate Court Judge Joy Cunningham said she would not comment specifically on the issue, but left little doubt about her sympathies.</p><p>"I will say that I absolutely support equal rights on, you know, on all issues," Cunningham said. "And I also believe that it's important for us as a state and as a people to treat everybody equally, and that defines who we are not only as individuals but as [a] people."</p><p>Cunningham told the crowd she has performed civil union ceremonies. So did former Cook County Clerk of Court Aurelia Pucinski, now an appellate court judge, who said she's signed off on adoptions by gay couples.</p><p>"The law is evolving. It's evolving in the right direction," Pucinski said. "I think the life of families is changing, our definition is changing and we have to embrace that, welcome it, and be open to it."</p><p>Lawyer Thomas Flannigan said he thinks gay marriage will eventually become law, but he warned about making sure people who oppose it have rights.</p><p><strong>Political issues</strong></p><p>The candidates also debated the sticky issues of political party endorsements and campaign contributions for judges.</p><p>Theis, who is backed by the Cook County Democratic Party, said there is nothing wrong with a judge seeking a party endorsement.</p><p>"I'm trying to find as many people as I can to tell my story about my 28 years of service, and that includes elected officials," Theis said, adding that she has "very much respect" for Democrats because of the party's record on minorities' rights.</p><p>"But I don't come as a partisan person," she said. "I'm a judge."<img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-27/Il sup court_hudzik.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 225px; float: left; margin: 5px;" title="Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis (left) was appointed to the court in late 2010. (WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)"></p><p>Pucinski said she believed political parties should stay out of elections for judges.</p><p>"We are not only supposed to be non-partisan, we're required to be non-partisan," Pucinski said. "We're not supposed to have a partisan platform."</p><p>While several of the candidates talked of possible reforms to the funding of judicial elections, Flannigan, a self-described long shot, went the farthest. He said he's swearing-off campaign contributions.</p><p>"Puts me at a certain disadvantage," he said. "But that's how I'm going to do it."</p><p>The winner of the March 20th Democratic primary faces Judge James Riley, a Republican, in November.</p><p>The Supreme Court vacancy was created in the fall of 2010, when then-Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald announced his retirement.</p></p> Fri, 27 Jan 2012 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-supreme-court-candidates-talk-gay-marriage-political-endorsements-and-campaign-contri Ill. high court to allow cameras in courts http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-high-court-allow-cameras-courts-95765 <p><p>The Illinois Supreme Court is moving forward with a policy to start allowing news cameras and other media recording devices in the state’s trial courts.</p><p>The state’s seven Supreme Court justices voted unanimously to approve a pilot program that serves as a circuit-by-circuit experiment for how the state might permanently allow expanded media coverage in its lower courts.</p><p>“This is another step to bring more transparency and more accountability to the Illinois court system,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride in a statement issued Tuesday.</p><p>News recording equipment has been allowed in the Illinois Supreme Court and the state's Appellate Courts since 1983. In the same ruling, the court opted to continue its ban on cameras in trail courts. Up until Tuesday, Illinois was one of 14 states that didn't allow or severely restricted news electronic devices in its state trial county courts.</p><p>According to the statement, the state’s 23 county chief judges must opt-in to the program by petitioning for approval from the state Supreme Court. A spokesman for Illinois Supreme Court said the court may only approve a handful of petitions to determine whether media access and fair trials can co-exist.</p><p>Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans said he’s enthusiastic about the plan and plans to submit a petition soon.</p><p>“I believe in a democracy like ours, it’s best for the public to be well informed,” said Evans. “I want them to see the real court in action, and I believe we can do that in a professional way.”</p><p>In separate written statements, Lake County Chief Judge Victoria Rossetti and DuPage County Chief Judge John Elsner said they were reviewing the policy to determine if it was appropriate for their respective courts.</p><p>“If the decision reached is that Lake County apply, an application to the Supreme Court for approval to provide extended media coverage of judicial proceedings, on an experimental basis, shall be forwarded to the attention of the Clerk of the Supreme Court,” said Rossetti.</p><p>“I will be conferring with the other 14 circuit judges before making a decision in regards to this matter. No decision will be made until all of the circuit judges have been consulted,” said Elsner.</p><p>The new policy prohibits media coverage in any juvenile, divorce and trade secret cases, among other court proceedings. Extended media coverage of jury selection, the jury and individual jurors is also prohibited. The policy also allows judges to deny, limit or terminate media coverage without the possibility of appeal.</p><p>Witnesses may object to a request for media coverage, which would be granted at the judge’s discretion.</p><p>The ruling does not affect federal courts.</p></p> Tue, 24 Jan 2012 12:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-high-court-allow-cameras-courts-95765 Commissioners take aim at immigration ordinance http://www.wbez.org/story/commissioners-take-aim-county-immigration-law-95607 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-18/Schneider.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-18/Schneider.JPG" style="margin: 9px 18px 5px 1px; float: left; width: 264px; height: 276px;" title="Timothy Schneider, R-Bartlett, authored one of the proposals. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)">A debate about a Cook County ordinance that frees some inmates wanted by immigration authorities could get hotter. At its meeting Wednesday, the County Board agreed to consider two proposed amendments that would scale back the ordinance. Commissioners with opposing views of the measure also vowed to press the county’s top law-enforcement officials to testify about it at an unscheduled hearing.</p><p>The ordinance effectively bars compliance with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers, which are requests that the county’s jail hold specified inmates up to two business days after they post bond or complete their criminal cases.</p><p>One of the proposed amendments, introduced Wednesday by Timothy Schneider (R-Bartlett), seems to require compliance with the detainers for inmates listed on the federal Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment and for inmates charged with — though not necessarily convicted of — various felonies. Those felonies include certain drug offenses, crimes resulting in great bodily harm, and “forcible felonies,” which Illinois defines as involving the use or threat of physical force or violence against an individual.</p><p>“I know that my amendment will not pass,” Schneider told commissioners during their meeting. “But maybe with some input from some of the stakeholders, something will come out of this and we will pass a common-sense measure that creates greater justice for victims of crimes and also to improve public safety for the residents of Cook County.”</p><p>The other proposed amendment, filed by Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park) and John Daley (D-Chicago), would give the sheriff leeway to honor the detainers.</p><p>“The sheriff should have greater discretion on holding people that pose a threat to society,” Silvestri said before the meeting. “The sheriff, as the chief law enforcement officer of the county, should develop a procedure for determining which individuals to keep and which to release.”</p><p>That idea is not going over well with the ordinance’s author, Jesús García (D-Chicago). “It would bring back a flawed program that has not succeeded in apprehending dangerous criminals, and has instead resulted in the detention and sometimes deportation of people with minor infractions, victims of crime, and even U.S. citizens,” a statement from García’s office said. “It would give the sheriff unbridled discretion to comply with ICE detainers.”</p><p>Commissioners voted Wednesday afternoon to send both proposals to the board’s Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, chaired by Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston), who supports the ordinance.</p><p>Sheriff Tom Dart’s office did not return a call about the proposals, but he has quietly urged commissioners to require compliance with ICE detainers for inmates who meet any of several criteria. Dart listed some of the criteria in a December letter to Silvestri: “[It] is my hope that you agree that those charged with a ‘forcible felony,’ those who have a history of convictions and those on a Homeland Security Terrorist Watch List should be held on an ICE detainer rather than released immediately.”</p><p>State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office did not return a call about the proposals.</p><p>The ordinance, approved in a 10-5 vote last September, has received increasing public attention in recent weeks as news outlets have focused on a convicted felon who was charged and jailed in a fatal Logan Square hit-and-run incident last year and named on an ICE detainer. After the ordinance passed, officials say, the inmate posted bond, walked free and went missing.</p><p>A letter this month from ICE Director John Morton to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle cites that case. “This ordinance undermines public safety in Cook County and hinders ICE’s ability to enforce the nation’s immigration laws,” the letter says.</p><p>Last week Preckwinkle said the hit-and-run suspect’s release “outraged” her, but she has stuck behind the ordinance. Instead of reconsidering it, she proposed a study of the county’s bail bond system for all criminal cases — no matter whether the inmate’s name appears on an ICE detainer. On Wednesday, the board approved the proposal, under which the county’s Judicial Advisory Council will undertake the study. That five-member panel, chaired by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, would recommend ways to improve pretrial services so judges can make better-informed decisions on bond amounts, according to the proposal.</p><p>ICE took custody of 1,665 Cook County inmates in 2010 and 721 in 2011, according to Dart’s office. Morton’s letter says ICE has lodged detainers against another 268 county inmates since the ordinance’s approval but the sheriff’s office has disregarded them.</p><p>The ordinance prohibits the jail from honoring the detainers unless the federal government agrees in advance to pay for the extended confinement — something ICE says it doesn’t do. García and others who back the ordinance say the detainers violated inmates’ due-process rights and eroded community trust in local police. A federal court ruling in Indiana last summer called compliance with the detainers “voluntary.”</p><p>The ordinance has reverberated beyond Cook County. In October, California’s Santa Clara County adopted a similar measure.</p></p> Wed, 18 Jan 2012 13:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/commissioners-take-aim-county-immigration-law-95607 Blagojevich's law license suspended http://www.wbez.org/content/blagojevichs-law-license-suspended <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/cityroom_20100908_tarnold_79560_Judg_large.png" alt="" /><p><p>Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's law license was yanked Wednesday by the state Supreme Court.</p><p>Blagojevich's legal career got off to a rough start. The ex-governor has described his first year at Pepperdine Law School as "almost catastrophic" because he was more interested in history books than law ones. It also took him a couple tries to pass the bar exam.</p><p>Twenty-seven years later, he's lost his right to be a lawyer. The Supreme Court issued an order suspending Blagoejevich "from the practice of law immediately." For now, it's a temporary suspension.</p><p>In recommending the suspension, the state's Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission noted Blagojevich was found "guilty of crimes that involve moral terpitude and reflect adversely upon his fitness to practice law."</p><p>It's not like this will have much impact on Blagojevich. He's been on "inactive" status as an attorney, and is awaiting sentencing for the 18 federal counts he was found guilty of.</p><p>Blagojevich's lawyers could not be reached for comment, and a publicist for the former governor had no immediate response.</p></p> Wed, 26 Oct 2011 21:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/content/blagojevichs-law-license-suspended