Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
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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

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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