Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
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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

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Roddis was convicted of aggravated domestic battery and sentenced to six years in prison. The trial court dismissed as untimely Roddis’s pro se motion for reduction of his sentence that also alleged ineffectiveness of trial counsel. The appellate court upheld the conviction and sentence but remanded for a “Krankel” hearing. On remand, the trial court conducted a “pre-inquiry Krankel hearing” to determine if the allegations of ineffective assistance were founded, at which point the court would appoint separate counsel and proceed to a “full-blown” Krankel hearing. The court conducted a hearing with Roddis and his previous counsel, giving Roddis the opportunity to elaborate on his allegations and allowing counsel to respond. The court ruled that the allegations did not establish ineffective assistance. The appellate court, finding that the trial court should not have decided the merits at that initial hearing, remanded. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, reinstating the trial court judgment. Even in preliminary Krankel inquiries, a trial court must be able to consider the merits in their entirety when determining whether to appoint new counsel on a pro se posttrial claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. This serves both the ends of justice and judicial economy. After scrutinizing the record, the court found that Roddis received effective assistance and was not prejudiced by his attorneys’ performance. The court rightfully exercised its discretion to decline to appoint new counsel to address his pro se posttrial claims. View "People v. Roddis" on Justia Law

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The Department of State Police revoked Johnson’s Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card under the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act (430 ILCS 65/8(n) due to her conviction for a misdemeanor involving domestic violence. That conviction prohibited her from possessing firearms under federal law. Johnson sought judicial relief. The circuit court held that section 922(g)(9) of the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9), and several provisions of the FOID Card Act, which incorporate that federal statute, were unconstitutional as applied to Johnson. The court ordered the Department to reissue Johnson’s FOID card. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the judgment on different grounds, vacating the circuit court’s findings that the state and federal statutes are unconstitutional as applied to Johnson. Under the federal Act, “civil rights” include firearm rights and Johnson fits an exemption for those who have had their “civil rights restored” following a conviction for misdemeanor domestic violence. Illinois’s regulatory scheme (430 ILCS 65/10(c)(1)-(3), which affirmatively provides for a “status-altering dispensation” under section 10 of the FOID Card Act sufficiently fulfills Congress’s intent to “defer to a State’s dispensation relieving an offender from disabling effects of a conviction.” Granting Johnson relief is not contrary to federal law. View "Johnson v. Department of State Police" on Justia Law

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Ashley was convicted of stalking (720 ILCS 5/12-7.3(a)(2), (c)(1) and was sentenced to serve 18 months’ imprisonment. The appellate court and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting his arguments that the provisions of the stalking statute under which he was convicted are facially unconstitutional in violation of the first amendment and substantive due process guarantees of the U.S. Constitution. The statute is not unconstitutionally overbroad; it does not criminalize protected speech consisting of threats to engage in lawful, nonviolent behavior. The amended statute requires two or more threats that the defendant knows or should know would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress; the legislature intended that the term “threatens” refers to “true threats” of unlawful violence such as bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, and restraint, as set forth in other subsections. The statute that the accused be consciously aware of the threatening nature of his speech and the awareness requirement can be satisfied by a statutory restriction that requires either an intentional or a knowing mental state. The term “threatens” is readily susceptible to a limiting construction and does not cover negligent conduct. The statute is not susceptible to arbitrary enforcement. View "People v. Ashley" on Justia Law

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Rushton, an Illinois Times journalist, requested from the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) settlement agreements pertaining to claims filed in connection with the death of Franco, a former Taylorville inmate who died from cancer, including agreements involving Wexford, which contracts with DOC to provide medical for inmates. The DOC did not have a copy of the Wexford agreement. Wexford claimed that it was “confidential” and not a public record for purposes of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Wexford provided the DOC’s FOIA officer with a redacted version, which the DOC gave to Rushton. Rushton and the Times filed suit. The court allowed Wexford to intervene and ordered Wexford to provide an unredacted version of the agreement to the court under seal. Wexford argued that the agreement did not “directly relate” to the governmental function that it performs for the DOC because it memorializes its independent business decision to settle a legal claim, without mentioning Franco’s medical condition or medical care. The plaintiffs characterized the agreement as "settlement of a claim that Wexford failed to perform its governmental function properly" and argued that the amount of the settlement affected taxpayers. The Illinois Supreme Court held that the agreement is subject to FOIA. The statute is to be construed broadly in favor of disclosure. The contractor stood in the shoes of the DOC when it provided medical care to inmates. The settlement agreement was related to the provision of medical care to inmates, and public bodies may not avoid disclosure obligations by delegating their governmental function to a third party. View "Rushton v. Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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A pedestrian, was killed by a hit-and-run driver near a Chicago intersection; her six-year-old son was seriously injured. A jury convicted Eubanks of first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(2)), failure to report an accident involving death or injury (625 ILCS 5/11-401(b), (d)), and aggravated driving under the influence (DUI) (section 11-501(a)(6), (d)(1)(C), (d)(1)(F). Before trial, Eubanks had unsuccessfully moved to suppress the results of blood and urine testing. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s holding that section 11-501.2(c)(2) was facially unconstitutional, holding that it is unconstitutional as applied to this case. The statute includes the type of general rule that the Supreme Court held will almost always support a warrantless blood test but that rule does not apply in this case. The state conceded that exigent circumstances were lacking and that the police never attempted to secure a warrant. The police told Eubanks that the law required him to give blood and urine samples, but they were not facing an emergency and dissipation was apparently not an issue. Seven hours passed between his arrest and his blood sample, and nearly 8.5 hours passed before he gave the urine sample. It “defies belief that the police could not have attempted to gain a warrant without significantly delaying" the testing. Because the state cannot prove the aggravated DUI charge without the evidence that should have been suppressed, the court upheld the reversal of that conviction and the remand for a new trial on the murder charge. The court reversed the appellate court’s judgment reducing the classification of the failure-to-report conviction. View "People v. Eubanks" on Justia Law

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Morger, convicted of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and criminal sexual abuse of his teenage sister, challenged, as overbroad and facially unconstitutional, the probationary condition set forth in the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/5- 6-3(a)(8.9). He argued that the section’s “complete ban on accessing ‘social networking websites’ as a condition of probation is unreasonable and unconstitutional under the First Amendment.” The condition applies to all probationers who are convicted of a sex offense, whether or not a minor was involved and whether or not the use of social media was a factor in the commission of the offense. The appellate court rejected that argument. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, finding the condition overbroad. The court noted the absolute nature of the ban. Morger could not, without violating his probation, even access or use a device with Internet capability without the prior approval of his probation officer. Applying intermediate scrutiny, the court examined the nature of Morger’s offenses; whether the condition reasonably relates to the rehabilitative purpose of the legislation; and “whether the value to the public in imposing this condition of probation manifestly outweighs the impairment to the probationer’s constitutional rights. View "People v. Morger" on Justia Law

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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