Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
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Mother filed a contribution petition under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, 750 ILCS 5/513(a), requesting that Father be ordered to pay an equitable share of their daughter's college costs. The two were never married; although their 1997 agreed order addressed child-related issues, it was silent on college expenses. Father had the financial ability to pay but objected to paying because he had not been involved in the college selection process. The court stated: “People that are married ... have no obligation at all to pay for their children’s college education. Because of that, people who are married have input into where their children go to school. … The legislature has taken away that choice from people who are not married. The court ordered the parties each to pay 40% of their daughter’s college expenses. Father then challenged section 513 on equal protection grounds. The Illinois Supreme Court had upheld section 513 against an equal protection challenge in its 1978 “Kujawinski” decision. The trial court ultimately declared section 513 unconstitutional as applied, reasoning that Kujawinski's conclusion that section 513 satisfied the rational basis test because children of unmarried parents faced more disadvantages and were less likely to receive financial help with college from their parents than children of married parents was no longer viable. The Illinois Supreme Court vacated. Regardless of the impact of any societal evolution since the Kujawinski decision, that holding remains directly on point; the trial court lacked authority to declare that precedent invalid. View "Yakich v. Aulds" on Justia Law

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Defendant and Matthew lived together along with her children and shared an iCloud account. Matthew was aware of this data-sharing arrangement but did not disable it. Text messages between Matthew and the victim, who was a neighbor, appeared on defendant’s iPad. Some of the text messages included nude photographs of the victim. Matthew and the victim were aware that defendant had received the pictures and text messages. Defendant and Matthew broke up. Defendant wrote a letter detailing her version of the break-up and attached four of the naked pictures of the victim and copies of the text messages. Matthew’s cousin received the letter and informed Matthew., Matthew contacted the police. The victim stated that the pictures were private and only intended for Matthew but acknowledged that she was aware that Matthew had shared an iCloud account with defendant. Defendant was charged with nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images, 720 ILCS 5/11-23.5(b). The circuit court found section 11-23.5(b) an unconstitutional content-based restriction. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The court declined to find “revenge porn” categorically exempt from First Amendment protection, concluded that the statute is a content-neutral time, place, and manner restriction, and applied intermediate scrutiny. Stating that First Amendment protections are less rigorous where matters of purely private significance are at issue, the court found that the statute serves a substantial governmental interest in protecting individual privacy rights and does not burden substantially more speech than necessary. View "People v. Austin" on Justia Law

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Custer had already been convicted of several crimes when entered an open plea of guilty to unlawful possession of a controlled substance in 2010. Before his sentencing hearing, Custer was arrested again after an attack on a police officer and for possession of a knife while threatening people at a bar. Based on his many convictions involving “crimes of violence,” and being the subject of “a multitude” of protective orders sought by different women, the court sentenced him to six years’ imprisonment for the drug crime. In 2013, Custerer entered a negotiated guilty plea to the charges of aggravated battery of a police officer and unlawful possession of a weapon; the court imposed consecutive sentences of 4½ years and 5 years in prison and dismissed the remaining charges. Custer filed a pro se post-conviction petition, alleging that his private counsel in the 2010 drug case, Hendricks, was ineffective for failing to appeal or move to withdraw his guilty plea as requested. Appointed post-conviction counsel (Snyder) filed a supplemental petition, with four affidavits from Custer and his girlfriend, Colvin. Hendricks acknowledged telling Custer he had a “good chance” of receiving no more than four years in prison but he had explained that entering an open plea would make it difficult to challenge his sentence. He denied that Custer expressed a desire to appeal or withdraw his plea. Before the court entered an order, Custer sent the judge a letter claiming that Snyder failed to provide adequate representation by refusing to call Colvin as a witness. Stating that it found Custer’s testimony totally unbelievable, the court denied relief. After a hearing for which Custer was absent and Snyder appeared but did not present argument, the court denied a motion to reconsider. Custer filed a second post-conviction appeal, arguing the court erred in denying his reconsideration request without conducting a Krankel hearing. The appellate court acknowledged that Krankel has never been extended to post-conviction proceedings, but remanded. The state appealed. The Illinois Supreme Court declined to expand its holding Krankel, which established procedures to protect a pro se criminal defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of trial counsel. Extending those procedures to similar claims of unreasonable assistance by post-conviction counsel in statutory proceedings commenced under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act would be an unwarranted drain on judicial resources. View "People v. Custer" on Justia Law

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Chicago Ordinance 2012-4489 provides that “[n]o operator of a mobile food vehicle shall park or stand such vehicle within 200 feet of any principal customer entrance to a restaurant which is located on the street level.” Under a “mobile food vehicle stands program,” Chicago reserves designated areas on the public way where a certain number of food trucks are permitted to operate regardless of the 200-foot rule. Owners must install on their food trucks a permanent GPS device “which sends real-time data to any service that has a publicly-accessible application programming interface.” Plaintiffs alleged the 200-foot rule violated the Illinois Constitution's equal protection and due process clauses and that the GPS requirement constitutes a continuous, unreasonable, warrantless search of food trucks. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the circuit and appellate courts in rejecting those arguments. Chicago has a legitimate governmental interest in encouraging the long-term stability and economic growth of its neighborhoods. The 200-foot rule, which helps promote brick-and-mortar restaurants is rationally related to the city's legitimate interest in stable neighborhoods. The GPS system is the best and most accurate means of locating a food truck, which is particularly important in case of a serious health issue. The GPS device does not transmit the truck’s location data directly to the city; Chicago has never requested location data from any food truck’s service provider. Food trucks generally post their location on social media to attract customers, so any expectation of privacy they might have in their location is greatly diminished. View "LMP Services, Inc. v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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In 2014, the defendant was charged with four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse against a nine-year-old girl. During deliberations, the judge indicated on the record that she had received a note from the jury: “After deliberating for five hours, and despite our best efforts, we are at an impasse.” The judge explained that the jury had also, earlier, informed the bailiff that they were at an impasse. The judge questioned the foreperson in open court in the presence of the jury. After the judge conferred with the attorneys, the judge discharged the jurors and the court declared a mistrial. The prosecution announced its intention to retry defendant. The court notified the parties, without objection that the matter was continued to reset for trial. Thereafter, defendant unsuccessfully moved to bar further prosecution based on double jeopardy principles, arguing that there had been no manifest necessity to declare a mistrial. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the denial of that motion. When a mistrial is declared, a retrial may proceed without offending double jeopardy principles if the defendant consents or there is a manifest necessity for the mistrial. Manifest necessity was evidenced by two statements from the jury indicating. The judge initially urged the jurors to continue and subsequently took care to clarify where the jury stood with respect to the deliberative process. The judge specifically asked the foreperson whether additional time would be helpful and expressed concern about coercion. View "People v. Kimble" on Justia Law

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Fillmore, an inmate at the Sumner, Illinois Lawrence Correctional Center, sued three Corrections officers for failing to follow mandatory legal procedures before imposing discipline upon him for violating prison rules relating to “unauthorized organizational activity” by “intimidation or threats” on behalf of the Latin Kings gang. Fillmore claimed violations of Illinois Administrative Code provisions relating to the appointment of Hearing Investigators to review all major disciplinary reports; service of the report no more than eight days after the commission of an offense or its discovery; provision of a written reason for the denial of his request for in-person testimony at his hearing; not placing him under investigation; failing to independently review notes, telephone logs, and recordings; denial of his requests to see the notes he had allegedly written; and lack of impartiality and improper refusal to recuse. Fillmore alleged he made a timely objection to the committee members’ lack of impartiality, but the committee failed to document that objection. The circuit court dismissed the complaint. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed that Fillmore failed to state a claim for mandamus or common-law writ of certiorari for alleged violations of Department regulations. Department regulations create no more rights for inmates than those that are constitutionally required. The court reversed with regard to his claim that defendants violated his right to due process in revoking his good conduct credits View "Fillmore v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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The 2007 Act, 40 ILCS 5/16-106(10), amended the Pension Code, which governs the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS): An officer or employee of a statewide teachers’ union was permitted to establish TRS service credit if the individual: was certified as a teacher no later than February 27, 2007, applied to the TRS within six months, and paid into the system both the employee contribution and employer (state) contribution, plus interest, for his prior union service. Plaintiff worked as a union lobbyist from 1997 until his 2012 retirement. In 2006, plaintiff obtained a substitute teaching certificate. In January 2007, he worked one day as a substitute teacher. Within six months, plaintiff became a member of the TRS. Plaintiff then contributed $192,668 to the system for his union service. In 2011, the Chicago Tribune published an article, identifying plaintiff and criticizing the law that allowed him to qualify for a teacher’s pension. In response to the negative media coverage, the 2012 Act repealed the 2007 amendment and provided for a refund of contributions. TRS eliminated plaintiff’s service credits and refunded his contributions. Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that the retroactive repeal violated the state constitution’s pension protection clause (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIII). The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of plaintiff. The 2007 amendment's inclusion of a cutoff date did not render it unconstitutional special legislation (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV); the amendment applied generally to all eligible employees who met its criteria. Under the pension clause, “once a person commences to work and becomes a member of a public retirement system, any subsequent changes to the Pension Code that would diminish the benefits conferred by membership in the retirement system cannot be applied to that person.” View "Piccioli v. Board of Trustees of the Teachers’ Retirement System" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with aggravated battery of a child, heinous battery, and aggravated domestic battery. The indictments alleged that defendant immersed his six-year-old stepson, J.H. in hot water. The court admitted J.H.’s out-of-court statement to his nurse at Stroger Hospital. The state also offered expert testimony from Dr. Fujara, a specialist in child abuse pediatrics and from White, a retired investigator with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Defendant acknowledged that he falsely identified himself at the hospital. The trial court found him guilty. The appellate court held that the trial court erred in admitting J.H.’s statement identifying defendant as the offender under the hearsay exception for statements made for the purpose of medical diagnosis and treatment and held that the double jeopardy clause barred retrial because the evidence was insufficient to prove defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, reasoning that J.H.’s hearsay statement was the only identification evidence placing defendant in the bathroom when the injury occurred. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the double jeopardy clause does not bar retrial. Dr. Fujara offered persuasive expert testimony that J.H.’s burns resulted from forcible immersion in hot water, ruling out alternative causes and rebutting defendant’s argument that J.H. may have been burned accidentally as a result of a faulty water heater. Defendant was the only adult present in the house at the time J.H. was injured and did not seek prompt treatment. View "People v. Drake" on Justia Law

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The circuit court found section 25(b)(2) of the Drug Dealer Liability Act, 740 ILCS 57/25(b)(2), facially unconstitutional. The Act provides a civil remedy for persons injured as a result of illegal drug use. Persons who may sue for damages include: a parent, legal guardian, child, spouse or sibling of the individual drug user, an individual who was exposed to an illegal drug in utero, an employer of the drug user, a medical facility, insurer, governmental entity, employer, or other entity that funds a drug treatment program or employee assistance program for the individual drug user or that otherwise expended money on behalf of the drug user, or a person injured as a result of the willful, reckless, or negligent actions of a drug user. Under section 25(b)(2), a plaintiff may seek damages from “[a] person who knowingly participated in the illegal drug market if: (A) the place of illegal drug activity by the individual drug user is within the illegal drug market target community of the defendant; (B) the defendant’s participation in the illegal drug market was connected with the same type of illegal drug used by the individual drug user; and (C) the defendant participated in the illegal drug market at any time during the individual drug user’s period of illegal drug use.” The Illinois Supreme Court concluded that the section is unconstitutional and severable. Section 25(b)(2) requires no relationship between the parties whatsoever for liability to attach and violates substantive due process protections. View "Wingert v. Hradisky" on Justia Law

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Webb was charged with misdemeanor unlawful use of weapons (UUW) statute (720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(4)) after he was discovered carrying a stun gun in his jacket pocket while in his vehicle on a public street. Greco was charged under the same section after he was found carrying a stun gun in his backpack in a forest preserve, a public place. No concealed carry permit is available for stun guns. Both defendants moved to dismiss, arguing section 24-1(a)(4) operated as a complete ban on the carriage of stun guns and tasers in public and was, therefore, unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. The circuit court and Illinois Supreme Court agreed with defendants. Stun guns and tasers are bearable arms under the Second Amendment and may not be subjected to a categorical ban. Section 24-1(a)(4) constitutes a categorical ban. View "People v. Webb" on Justia Law