Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
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Robinson and two others were charged with the 1997 shooting death of Giles. Tucker testified that Robinson told him that he had killed Giles and had given details about the killing and the disposal of the body and of evidence. Muhammad testified that she had driven the men to the scene where the body was burned. McClendon testified that she was Robinson’s girlfriend and that Robinson told her they had burned Giles’s body and that he had shot Giles in the head. McClendon identified a picture of a rifle and testified that she had seen that weapon twice within the month before the shooting. After being advised of his rights, Robinson, then 18, had confessed to shooting Giles and burning the body. The state did not present physical evidence linking him to the crime; Robinson did not present a defense. His convictions were affirmed. His first post-conviction petition, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, was unsuccessful. In 2015, Robinson sought leave to file a successive post-conviction petition, 725 ILCS 5/122-1, alleging actual innocence. He asserted that he was not involved in the crimes and that Giles was murdered by Tucker. He attached his own affidavit plus four others. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed and remanded, in favor of Robinson. The only issue is whether Robinson may file his successive post-conviction petition alleging he is actually innocent. The new evidence supporting the petition need not be completely dispositive of innocence but need only be of such a conclusive character as to probably change the result upon retrial. Robinson satisfied the pleading requirements for granting leave to file a successive petition, so his claim must be advanced to second-stage proceedings. The court noted reasons for questioning the credibility of the witnesses at trial and reasons why the affiants might be credible. View "People v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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The Pension Code allowed elected county board members to participate in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) if the participant occupied a position requiring 1000 hours of service annually and the public employee filed an election to participate. A 1968 administrative rule required the governing body of a participating employer to adopt a resolution certifying that the position of elected governing body members required the hourly standard. Williamson County complied with the 1968 rule. The plaintiffs satisfied the original requirements for IMRF participation, electing to participate in 2004, 2008, and 2012. In 2016, Public Act 99-900, amended parts of the Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/7-137.2(a), requiring, for the first time, that all county boards certify within 90 days of each general election that their board members were required to work sufficient hours to meet the hourly standard for participation and that members who participate in IMRF submit monthly timesheets. The Fund issued “Special Memorandum #334” to the authorized IMRF agent in every county, explaining the change: “If the County Board fails to adopt the required IMRF participation resolution within 90 days after an election, the entire Board will become ineligible and IMRF participation will end for those Board members.” The Fund also sent a direct mailing to individual county board members participating in IMRF. Williamson County did not timely adopt the required resolution. The Fund notified the plaintiffs that they were not eligible for continued IMRF participation. The Illinois Supreme Court found Public Act 99-900 invalid under Illinois Constitution article XIII, section 5. A public employee’s membership in a pension system is an enforceable contractual relationship; continued IMRF participation was protected from unilateral legislative diminishment or impairment when the plaintiffs became IMRF participants and began accruing the service credits. View "Williamson County Board of Commissioners v. Board of Trustees of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund" on Justia Law

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Essure--permanent birth control for women--originally was manufactured and developed by Conceptus, a California corporation. Bayer bought Conceptus. Bayer marketed Essure as safer and more effective than other birth control. Two residents of Madison County, Illinois, filed personal injury complaints, alleging that Essure caused debilitating pain, heavy bleeding that necessitated medication, and autoimmune disorders. including 179 plaintiffs from at least 25 states. Months later, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its “Bristol-Myers” decision. Bayer argued that, following Bristol-Myers, a court cannot exercise specific personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant as to the claims of out-of-state plaintiffs when the conduct giving rise to the claims did not occur in the forum state. The plaintiffs argued Illinois courts had specific personal jurisdiction over Bayer because it “created the Essure Accreditation Program and the marketing strategy for Essure in Illinois,” conducted clinical trials in Illinois, and used Illinois as a testing ground for its physician training program. The appellate court affirmed the denials of motions to dismiss: Bayer “conducted a part of its general business in Illinois, and [p]laintiffs’ claims arose out of" trials conducted, in part, in Illinois. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The nonresident plaintiffs identified no jurisdictionally relevant links between their claims and Illinois. The nonresidents have not explained how Illinois could be a convenient location for this litigation; they were not implanted with their devices here and have identified no other activity that would connect their specific claims to Illinois. Many nonresident plaintiffs initiated duplicate actions in California, indicating that the interests of judicial economy are not furthered by permitting their claims to proceed in Illinois. A corporation’s continuous activity of some sort within a state is not enough to render the corporation subject to suits unrelated to that activity. View "Rios v. Bayer Corp." on Justia Law

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Coty, who is intellectually disabled, was convicted of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and aggravated criminal sexual abuse for conduct committed against a six-year-old. Because Coty had a prior conviction for aggravated criminal sexual assault of a nine-year-old, the court had no discretion and sentenced him to the statutorily prescribed term of mandatory natural life in prison. Coty argued that the sentence violated the Eighth Amendment and the Illinois Constitution because it categorically forbade the sentencing judge from considering his intellectual disability and the circumstances of his offense. He also argued that the statutory scheme, as applied to him, violated the Illinois Constitution's proportionate penalties clause. The appellate court found the mandatory sentencing statute unconstitutional as applied. On remand, Coty, who was then 52 years old, was sentenced to 50 years in prison. The appellate court vacated, finding that the sentence amounted to an unconstitutional de facto life sentence, violating Illinois’s proportionate penalties clause. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, reinstating the sentence. The original sentence of natural life imprisonment did not violate the proportionate penalties clause. The penalty challenged in Coty’s initial appeal was not, as applied to him, clearly in excess of the legislature’s constitutional authority to prescribe. Some of the diminished capacity factors that the Supreme Court in Atkins found reduced culpability make Coty a continuing danger to re-offend. The purpose of the mandatory, natural life sentence for repeat sex offenders is to protect children by rendering it impossible for the incorrigible offender to re-offend. View "People v. Coty" on Justia Law

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Green, was convicted of two counts of the first-degree murder for the gang-related shooting death of Lewis and was sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment on one of those convictions. The conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. The trial court rejected a post-conviction petition alleging that Green’s trial counsel, Ritacca, labored under a per se conflict of interest because his trial counsel had previously represented Williams, the intended victim of the murder, who was in the vehicle with Lewis at the time of the shooting. Green neither knew about the conflict nor waived the conflict was rejected. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, finding no per se conflict of interest. Only three situations establish a per se conflict of interest: where defense counsel has a prior or contemporaneous association with the victim, the prosecution, or an entity assisting the prosecution; where defense counsel contemporaneously represents a prosecution witness; and where defense counsel was a former prosecutor who had been personally involved with the prosecution of the defendant. Ritacca’s representation of both defendant and Williams did not fit within any of those three per se conflict situations. View "People v. Green" on Justia Law

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Rock Island officer Muehler received information that the defendant was selling narcotics from a motel room. The defendant had an extensive criminal record, including two 2012 arrests for the manufacture and delivery of controlled substances. Another officer contacted the defendant, who stated that he had narcotics for sale and agreed to meet. Muehler surveilled the motel and observed the defendant drive away. Muehler knew that the defendant had a suspended driver’s license. Another officer stopped the defendant, who was arrested and signed a waiver of rights form. The motel’s staff stated that the defendant was staying in Room 130. Deputy Pena and his K-9 partner, Rio, went to the motel. Rio conducted a “free air sniff” in the alcove outside Room 130 and alerted to the odor of narcotics “within inches of the door.” Muehler obtained a search warrant. Inside the room, police found heroin and related items. The defendant admitted that the heroin was his. After the denial of his motion to suppress, the defendant was convicted. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the conviction. The government can violate the Fourth Amendment either by a warrantless intrusion onto a person’s property or by a warrantless infringement of a person’s societally recognized privacy. Even if the defendant’s motel room was his home, the alcove outside it was not curtilage; it was not put to personal use by the defendant. He had no ownership or possession of the alcove, only a license to use it. The defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the alcove. View "People v. Lindsey" on Justia Law

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When police responded to a call that Brown was shooting a gun inside her home, they found a rifle in Brown’s bedroom. There was no evidence that the gun had been fired in the house. Brown was charged with possessing a firearm without a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card, 430 ILCS 65/2(a)(1). Brown asserted that she kept the rifle for self-defense; that she was over 21; and that, although she did not possess a FOID card, she was a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record, history of mental illness, or other disqualifying condition and would have been eligible for a FOID card. She asserted that requiring her to go through the FOID process unconstitutionally infringed upon her fundamental right of self-defense in this “most private of areas.” The White County circuit court dismissed the charge, finding that, as applied to Brown, section 2(a)(1) was unconstitutional. The Illinois Supreme Court vacated, finding that the circuit court unnecessarily reached the constitutional challenge. The court held that the FOID Card Act did not apply to the act of possessing a firearm in the home as a matter of statutory interpretation and, therefore, could not apply to Brown. This was an alternative, nonconstitutional basis for dismissal. In addition, there were unresolved factual issues concerning Brown’s possession of the gun and eligibility for a FOID card, which were the basis of her challenge. View "People v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Officer Baker testified that he activated his lights to initiate a stop of Hill’s vehicle based on his reasonable belief that the passenger was a known fugitive, Lee. Hill finally came to a stop. Based on his experience and training, Baker knew vehicles that take a little while to stop often are concealing or destroying contraband or producing a weapon. Baker approached the passenger side of the vehicle and had the passenger lower the window. He immediately smelled the strong odor of raw cannabis. He saw a loose bud on the backseat. Baker could not recall when he realized the passenger was not Lee. Baker searched Hill’s vehicle based on the smell of raw cannabis. The search revealed cannabis and a small rock that tested positive for crack cocaine. There was a video of the stop. The trial court found the basis of the stop too tenuous and granted, in part, a motion to suppress. The appellate court reversed, finding Baker had reasonable suspicion to stop Hill’s vehicle and probable cause to search the vehicle. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed and remanded, noting the legalization of medical cannabis and decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis. Facts available to the officer would put a reasonably prudent person on notice that the vehicle contained contraband or evidence of a crime. View "People v. Hill" on Justia Law

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Burns sought to place on the March 2020 primary election ballot the proposal: “Shall the terms of office for those persons seeking nomination or election to, or who are holding the office of, Village President (Mayor) and Village trustee in the Village of Elk Grove Village, be limited such that, at the February 23, 2021 Consolidated Primary Election and all subsequent elections, no person shall be eligible to seek nomination or election to, or to hold, elected office in the Village of Elk Grove Village where that person has held the same elected office for two (2) or more consecutive, four (4) year terms?” An objector argued Municipal Code 3.1-10-17 provides that any term-limit referendum must be prospective only; a referendum can only consider terms in office served after the passage of the referendum to determine a candidate’s eligibility. Burns maintained that section 3.1-10-17 was unconstitutional, facially and as applied. The electoral board sustained the objection and ordered that the referendum not appear on the ballot. The circuit court reversed, finding section 3.1-10-17 unconstitutional. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the decision of the electoral board. Section 3.1-10-17 contains an express limitation on the power of a home rule unit to regulate matters involving term limits. The General Assembly has the authority to legislate in this area prospectively because it has expressly indicated its intent to do so; it may choose to “preempt the exercise of a municipality’s home rule powers by expressly limiting that authority.” View "Burns v. Municipal Officers Electoral Board of the Village of Elk Grove Village" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Moore was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) stemming from a traffic stop in Joliet. His prior felony was a 1990 murder conviction. The appellate court affirmed, rejecting an argument that defense counsel was ineffective for failing to stipulate to Moore’s felon status, thereby allowing the jury to consider highly prejudicial evidence that Moore’s prior conviction was for murder. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed and remanded. This type of prior conviction evidence generally has little probative value and creates a high risk of unfair prejudice to the defendant. The jury was faced with two plausible versions of events that depended on witness credibility. The evidence was closely balanced, so informing the jurors that the defendant was previously convicted of murder made Deputy Hannon’s version more plausible and tipped the scales against Moore. There was a reasonable probability of a different result, had defense counsel prevented the jury from being informed of the nature of the prior felony conviction. There was sufficient evidence that the jury could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, so double jeopardy does not preclude a new trial. View "People v. Moore" on Justia Law