Articles Posted in Constitutional Rights

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has reversed a decision by a district court judge of the Southern District of Illinois. Reginald Pittman was a pretrial detainee in the Madison County Jail when he hanged himself from the bars of his cell with a blanket. He did not die, but he sustained brain damage that left him in a vegetative state, cared for entirely by his mother without any government benefits.

Pittman had left a suicide note in which he stated that he was killing himself because the guards were not letting him see crisis counselors. His mother brought this lawsuit against Madison County, as well as jail staffers, charging deliberate indifference by guards and other jail staff to the risk of his attempting suicide, in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In 2011, the federal district court judge granted summary judgment in favor of all the defendants, but the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed as to Randy Eaton and Matt Warner, two of the jail’s guards, on the ground that there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether they had been deliberately indifferent to the risk that Pittman would attempt suicide.

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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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The Illinois Supreme Court has handed down a decision that affirmed a December 2015 ruling by Cook County Associate Judge William E. Gomolinski. The original lawsuit was a medical-malpractice case filed no more than a month after the law, which permitted a unilateral decision by a party to empanel 6-person juries.

The law was approved in the days just after Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner defeated Democratic Gov. Patrick J. Quinn in 2014 and was seen by many as a gift from Democrats to their allies in the plaintiffs’ bar. The argument for the law was that jurors were not paid appropriately for missing work or taking time away from family and school. The law also had increased the rate the jurors were paid across the state from a high of $17.20 per day in Cook County to $25 on the first day of service and $50 each day thereafter.

It was also argued that federal courts and other states use 6-member juries without issue. But Section 1, Article 13 of the State Constitution says, “[T]he right to trial by jury as heretofore enjoyed shall remain inviolate.”

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Three Illinois workers and two public worker unions waited for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on a carbon copy of their union-fee dispute. The case they were waiting on from the Supreme Court was Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Because of the death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin G. Scalia, there was 4-4 split on the issue of whether mandatory payment of union fees for nonmember public workers is a First Amendment violation.

Because of the spit decision,  the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in Friedrichs stands, but does not create a national precedent.

“Our case is in a strong position to be the next case on this topic that the Supreme Court takes up,” said attorney Jacob H. Huebert of the Liberty Justice Center, which represents the three plaintiff workers challenging whether union fees should be paid for nonmembers.

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There’s a big difference in requiring a photo ID to board an airplane and the right to vote.  Voting in America is a precious right; eligibility is established in the United States Constitution, its amendments, by state laws and by various acts of Congress. Because the Constitution does not have particular language on voting except for the Fourteenth Amendment (1868), the Fifteen Amendment (1870) , the Nineteenth Amendment (1920), the Twenty-Fourth Amendment  (1964) and the Twenty-Sixth Amendment (1971), the states have wide discretion to establish the legal qualifications for voting.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a very hard-fought law that sought to end the decades of Jim Crow voting restrictions of African-Americans living in the South particularly. In 1964 fewer than half of all registered African-Americans living in the Jim Crow South were eligible to vote. Now 70% of African-Americans are registered to vote. About 65% of registered African-Americans voted in the last two presidential elections.

Even those statistics, being promising, are under a vicious attack in an effort to restrict voting. It is no  surprise that most of the states that have recently passed onerous voting restrictions have governments that are overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans. There are easily accessible videos to view in which state legislators in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and the Deep South have candidly said out loud that with voting restriction laws in place — laws shortening voter registration dates and times, laws eliminating or drastically curtailing early voting — African-Americans, Hispanics and persons of color, the disabled and the poor will not have the ability to cast votes.  The poorly hidden purpose of the voting restrictions is clear — to limit those who are more likely to vote Democrat.

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Under the Illinois Juvenile Court Act, a minor who is under 13 at the time of the commission of a serious crime must be represented by counsel during the entire custodial interrogation. 705 ILCS 405/5-170(a). When the minor under 13 is in custody, Miranda warnings are not necessary. The law requires that the police provide the juvenile with a lawyer.

A juvenile who is one day shy of 13 gets an automatic lawyer, yet a juvenile who is just one day older must navigate the Miranda warnings in the same way as a sophisticated adult would be required to do.

Surprisingly, statistics show that 80% of suspects waive their Miranda rights. That would apply to the juveniles 13 and over. In one recent Illinois Supreme Court case, a police officer questioned a suspect in his home concerning a possible murder. The police officer who did the interrogation was not in uniform. He did have a revolver in plain sight.

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Cook County Judge William Gomolinski ruled that the language in the Illinois Constitution, Section 1, Article 13, “The right to trial by jury as heretofore enjoyed shall remain inviolate,” prevails and thus the law adopted for 6-person juries is unconstitutional. What the judge wrote in his opinion was that the right to a jury as it existed in 1970, with 12 jurors, cannot be changed without a constitutional amendment. That does not mean that the parties, should they agree, could not limit the jury size to a smaller number. However, litigants — according to Judge Gomolinski’s opinion — have a constitutional right to demand a 12-person jury in their cases.

The change to the Illinois jury system was proposed and passed during the last days of former Gov. Patrick J. Quinn’s second term in office. The law went into effect June 1, 2015.

In this particular case, a medical-malpractice case filed in Cook County on June 30, 2015, the defense counsel filed an appearance on behalf of his defendant clients, a doctor and a neurosurgery professional corporation, and requested a 12-person jury. A motion was filed for leave to file a 12-person jury demand with the court. The motion was assigned by the presiding judge in the law division to Judge Gomolinski. The opinion of Judge Gomolinski referred to the 1870 Illinois constitutional convention when a 12-person jury was a given right although the parties as now could waive their rights to a 12-person jury if they agreed on a smaller jury size.

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The beneficiaries of the Barbara B. Kaull Trust included the biological children of Mark James Kaull’s father, Mark Kaull, who died in 2010. Mary Kaull, acting as trustee of the Barbara B. Kaull Trust, petitioned the court for a ruling on whether Mark, the elder, was also the father of Ryan Donald Schrader. Mark James Kaull might be the brother of Ryan Donald Schrader. To determine whether they were in fact brothers, Mary Kaull asked the court for an order compelling Mark James Kaull to submit to a DNA test. Mark James Kaull refused and was held in contempt of court. Mark James Kaull argued that the Illinois Supreme Court Rule 215 as revised and amended in 1996 is unconstitutional under the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions.

Mark James claimed that the revised Rule 215 violated the prohibition on reasonable searches and seizures under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, plus his right under Article 1, Section 6 of the Illinois Constitution to be free from unreasonable searches, seizures and invasions of privacy.

This case, which was set in Winnebago County, Ill., granted Mary’s request for the DNA testing. Mark appealed from that order which fined him $100 and a dollar a day for declining to obey.

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In this year 2015, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (“VRA”) was heralded as “the most effective civil rights law in the history of the United States,” Richard L. Engstrom, Race and Seven Politics, 10 ELECTION, L.J. 53, 53 (2011). The 50 years since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was made law was predated by many U.S. Congressional acts or attempts to enact protection of the voting rights of all American citizens. In fact, in 1870, Henry Cabot Lodge proposed a “Forced Bill,” a law that would reinforce an 1870 law that gave force to the federal government to make sure that all phases of registration and voting, particularly in Southern states, was protected. This bill passed the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate. From that time, through the 1880s, right up to the present day and including 1965, the right to vote has been under attack or has been in some places limited by voter IDs and other state law measures to limit the number of poor, elderly, convicted felons and others from voting in local, state and national elections.

In the 2013 decision of Shelby County, the 1965 Voting Rights Act was weakened by a 5-4 decision in the U.S. Supreme Court that held that Section 4 coverage formula was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court asserted that that section was not adequately grounded in “current conditions.” Shelby County, 133 S.Ct. at 26-29.

Interestingly enough, the Supreme Court, in limiting the impact of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, did so even though Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Acts in 2006 by overwhelming votes in both the U.S. House and the Senate. There were reports that Congress reviewed 15,000 pages of evidence showing persistent discrimination in voting in the 9 southern states of jurisdictions that were covered under the Act.

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On Sept. 27, 2011, Darius Young, who was 15 at the time, participated in a dice game on a Chicago street with several individuals. One of them, Daniel Glen, who was in a wheelchair, won all of Young’s money during the game; however, he began to suspect that another individual, Jonathan Harris, was trying to cheat him.

When Glen rolled the wheelchair into an alley “to relieve himself,” he claimed that Harris approached him holding a 9 mm handgun and demanded money. Glen stated that Harris put the gun to his back and directed Young to search him for the money he lost. Young grabbed the money from Glen’s pocket, and he and Glen “tussled,” according to his trial testimony, knocking Glen out of his wheelchair. Glen testified that Young and Harris fled, but returned a few minutes later.

Young then put Glen back in his wheelchair and threw $45 at him stating, “I just wanted my birthday money back, my $120.” The incident was reported to the Chicago police by Glen, who identified Young by his nickname and Harris from a lineup.

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