Articles Posted in Chicago Stories

In October 2017, Cook County’s chief judge, state’s attorney, sheriff, board president, public defender and the chair of the county board’s Criminal Justice Committee all petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court to issue a rule that would eliminate pre-trial incarceration due solely to the inability to pay a money bond.

The proposed rule has been supported by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Y. Raoul, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, dozens of other prominent members of the Illinois bar and other leaders of the legal community, including former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and more than 70 community organizations.

The rule would anchor the reforms implemented in Cook County, General Order 18.8A, which was issued by Chief Cook County Circuit Court Judge Timothy C. Evans in September 2017.

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The Illinois Supreme Court has held that sentencing a juvenile to a prison sentence of greater than 40 years violates his or her Eighth Amendment rights because it imposes a de facto life sentence.

The defendant in this case was a juvenile at the time of the offense. The juvenile was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder and discharging a firearm, which caused the victim’s death. The trial court merged the first-degree murder counts and sentenced the juvenile defendant to 25 years on the first-degree murder charges and 25 years for the mandatory firearm add-on.

The juvenile filed a pro se petition for post conviction relief, alleging that the sentence was unconstitutional and violated the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama, which stated that imposing a mandatory life sentence on a juvenile without consideration of the defendant’s youth and attendant characteristics violated the Eighth Amendment because it constituted a de facto life sentence that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

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On Aug. 29, 2017, the State of Illinois filed suit in federal court against the City of Chicago, alleging that the Chicago Police Department’s use-of-force policies and practices violate the federal Constitution and Illinois law. Two days later, the parties moved to stay these proceedings while they negotiated the consent decree.

Almost immediately after the State filed the complaint, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7 publicly indicated its opposition to any consent decree, citing fears that the decree might impair its collective bargaining rights. For months, the Lodge monitored the ongoing negotiations and met informally with the State’s representatives. The Lodge waited until June 6, 2018 to file a motion to intervene in the lawsuit.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied the motion to intervene as being untimely. The reason given was that because the Lodge had to know from the beginning that a consent decree might impact its interests but delayed its motion for nearly a year, and because its allegations with prejudice were considered speculative, the court of appeals affirmed that order.

This was a pretrial hearing on the motion to add a punitive damage count to a complaint against the Catholic Bishop of Chicago for alleged negligent conduct in hiring, supervising and retaining a priest who allegedly abused John Doe when he was a third-grade student at St. Agatha Academy. The archdiocese argued that Doe shouldn’t have to prove that representatives actually knew about the priest’s wrongdoing and wicked proclivities.

The trial judge ruled that Doe’s evidence about the “utter indifference” of archdiocesan employees’ safety for the young students could justify an exemplary or a claim of punitive damages. The judge certified the question of law for immediate appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court. The appeals panel concluded that the judge “used the appropriate standard” in concluding that Doe may demand punitive damages in his amended complaint.

“Simply put,” Justice Sheldon A. Harris explained, “the trial court may allow a claim for punitive damages if the evidence would reasonably support a finding that defendant acted willfully, or with such gross negligence as to indicate a wanton disregard of the rights of others.”

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The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners has been involved with the U.S. Department of Justice and Equip for Equality for the last ten months in an effort to evaluate what needs to be done to ensure that every Chicago voter is able to cast a ballot.

The U.S. Department of Justice was contemplating a lawsuit to make sure that the City of Chicago made voting accessible for all, including the disabled. According to the report on the threatened lawsuit and the headway made in resolving this dispute, it was noted that some polling places and early voting sites failed to pass muster under the federal voting accessibility laws that went into effect in 2016.

The City of Chicago should be required to modify polling places to ensure all disabled and handicapped voters are able to cast their election ballots. In some polling places, measures are needed to build ramps, widen doorways and make sure that doors are not difficult to open for voters who are blind or seated in wheelchairs.

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Cook County has the largest single unified court system in the United States. For the first time, on Jan. 5, 2015, the Circuit Court of Cook County began allowing media cameras in courtrooms. The pilot program has limited to the Leighton Criminal Court building at 26th and California streets in Chicago.

In order to take photographs or film in a Cook County courtroom, the media would have to request authority in advance. The privilege to photograph or videotape court proceedings was initiated by the Illinois Supreme Court’s Extended Media Coverage (EMC) policy and the court’s authorization, which extended media coverage in Illinois courts; it is referred to as M.R 2634.

The pilot program is designed to allow for increased transparency in the Cook County court system.

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It is perhaps a custom that grew out of an era nearly 200 years ago that elected judges would be better suited to carry out the law and protect the integrity of the United States court systems. The reason many states adopted the laws that would allow the election of judges was because so long ago, perhaps in the 1820s, judges were appointed by those in power and influence and thus judges were likewise influenced by those who appointed them. It was thought that the election of judges by the area’s residents would place the best qualified judges on the bench and thus render fair and reasoned opinions absent the influence of the powerful.

A 2007 University of Chicago Law School study found that appointed judges write fewer opinions than elected judges. However, the written opinions by appointed judges tend to be of a higher quality. “A simple explanation for our results,” wrote Stephen Choi, J. Mitu Gulati and Eric Posner, “is that electoral judgeships attract and reward politically savvy people, while appointed judgeships attract more professionally able people.”

The election of judges occurs in 39 U.S. states, including Illinois. Simply put, judges can earn a spot on the bench by winning an election — often, one that is partisan. In fact in some states, the elected judges do not need to be lawyers. This is unheard of throughout most of the civilized world.

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In July 2003, Evan Miller and Colby Smith killed Cole Cannon by beating Cannon with a baseball bat and burning his trailer. Cannon was inside. At the time, Miller was 14 years old. After Miller’s arrest, he was transferred from Lawrence County Juvenile Court to Lawrence County Circuit Court to be tried as an adult for capital murder. In 2006, a grand jury indicted Miller. At trial, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. The trial sentenced Miller to a mandatory term of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Miller filed a post-trial motion for a new trial. He argued that the sentencing of a 14-year-old defendant to life without the possibility of parole constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The trial judge denied the motion. Miller appealed to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed the lower court’s decision. The Supreme Court of Alabama denied Miller’s petition for writ of certiorari.

There was a companion case in whih the petitioner was also 14 years old at the time. He had robbed a local movie store in Blytheville, Ark., which led to the murder of the store clerk. There were three boys involved; all were 14 years old at the time. After a trial for the murder of the store clerk, one defendant was tried and convicted of capital murder and aggravated robbery. The trial court sentenced him to a mandatory term of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

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Over the last ten years, the City of Chicago has made inroads in reducing pollution in carbon emissions. According to a recent study, Chicago has used traditional planning and land-use authorities to become the North American leader in green building practices. Chicago has also aggressively been using its buying and convening power to lead as a model to other cities. Recently, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has led an effort to shut down the last remaining coal plants in Chicago. 

Like all cities, Chicago has limited authority to control climate change. Governments strive to regulate emissions or industry energy-efficiency standards. The federal statutes reserve most of the authority for national government on climate issues. In order for a city to fit into the federal regulations, it must take independent action to make an impact.

One way that cities work around the Federal Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency is to work with land-use regulation that cities do control. Zoning and planning allows each individual city to shape physical and economic development in its area. 

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