Articles Posted in Firm News

According to a recent American Bar Association Journal article written by Scott Carlson, trial consultants are turning to a proprietary software and technology information service for a product called Voltaire for jury selection. At least in my jury trial experience, selecting the jury is the most difficult and anxiety-ridden part of a trial. It must also be considered the most important aspect of the trial.

In practice, I have used trial consultants regularly to help select jurors who would be most receptive to the kind of case brought before them. Trial consultants are extremely objective in how they evaluate prospective jurors, their backgrounds, experiences, work histories and family backgrounds and are essential in the jury selection process. There’s been no practical way to search on the fly what the social media references show about a potential juror. That information could be especially valuable to deselect a prospective jury member.

The days of human-to-human contact in jury selection may be changing. Instead, lawyers could eventually rely on the technical information services of a software product such as Voltaire to pick appropriate jurors.

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The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has entered into a settlement agreement that will provide a process by which parolees will learn their rights and receive representation of lawyers during their parole revocation process.

There was no availability of assigned legal counsel for parole violators before this agreement.  This agreement was reached with the Department of Corrections in a case that was represented by Alan S. Mills of the Uptown People’s Law Center.  The U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve of the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago approved the agreement on a preliminary basis.

According to the lawsuit, the state cites a lack of funds when it denies any parolee’s request for appointed counsel during revocation proceedings.  But that practice violates due process requirements found in the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion, Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 411 U.S. 778 (1973).

It comes as no surprise for those who have any connection with or knowledge of the Cook County jail, but in a report from California states that more than 33,000 mentally ill inmates account for about 25% of the entire prison population in that state.  It is well- known in Cook County that many of the approximately 10,000 inmates squeezed into the Cook County jail are represented by at least 2,500 mentally ill persons.

In California, in recent years, the number of mentally ill inmates in its prison has nearly doubled.  The same may well be true in Illinois where the state has faced closings of mental health facilities and other state run hospitals that have cared for mentally ill patients in the past.  State budget cuts have crippled or closed many of these mental health facilities.  Those persons who are mentally ill literally have no place to go and are repeatedly picked up by the police locally, state-wide and imprisoned usually in the local county jail system.

Also adding to the prison population of the mentally ill is the fact that some states and the federal government have increased the penalties for drug use.  As a result, the mentally ill who often use drugs as a way to “self-medicate”, prisons in Illinois and around the country are filling up with these patients.

After much deliberation, two years ago Illinois lawmakers crafted a more lenient law for the transferring of juveniles to adult courts for some serious crimes. The idea was to give judges the clear opportunity to judge or to use their discretion for juveniles charged with serious crimes who were  16 years of age rather than to simply automatically transfer these juveniles to the adult court system. The new amendment increased the mandatory transfer age from 15 to 16 for crimes such as first-degree murder and aggravated sexual assault.

Ronald Patterson, a juvenile, was just 15 years old when he was arrested for allegedly committing rape.  He was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 36 years in prison in an adult court after he was automatically transferred there. The issue now is whether the new law on automatic transfers, part of the Juvenile Court Act, should be applied to juveniles retrospectively. The new law and the applicable age change would have made a significant difference had the law been applied back in 2014. Should Patterson be allowed to be re-sentenced under the current law?

The nine-page Illinois Appellate Court opinion written by Justice P. Scott Neville stated that in applying the Statute on Statutes, that unless the legislature specifically says the amended provision does not apply retroactively, it generally should apply in such fashion.

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About 1,000 prison inmates, some of whom have been in prison for more than 50 years for murders they committed as teenagers, may get a chance to be free.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Henry Montgomery, who has been in prison for more than 50 years for killing a sheriff’s deputy in Baton Rouge, La., in 1963. Montgomery was then just 17 years old and was playing hooky from school when he encountered Deputy Charles Hurt. Hurt was a truant officer. Panicked, Henry pulled a gun from his pocket and fatally shot Hurt.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing the majority opinion, said, “Prisoners like Montgomery must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored.”

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In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — considered by many to be the most effective piece of civil rights law ever passed in the United States. During the 50 years since its passage, it has been renewed by Congress several times without much alteration or resistance.

The purpose of the act was to make it unlawful to discriminate against minorities by state and local governments who had for all times made it difficult, if not impossible, for blacks and other minorities to register to vote and thus to vote at all. Before 1965, the registration of blacks in most of the Civil War southern states was below 10%. By the end of 1965 after the passage of the act, approximately 250,000 African Americans were newly registered voters. Just 3 years later, more than 700,000 blacks would be registered to vote. Steadily the numbers increased over the years.

And in fact — and most important — African Americans and other minorities in the South were being elected to local state and federal political positions. These advances took place even in the face of efforts to curtail registration and to gerrymander districts into places where blacks and other minorities were unelectable mostly because of the racial makeup of these districts where whites would never or most likely not vote for a black candidate.

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The United States Constitution and the Illinois Constitution have to credit many key provisions and the foundation of American laws and freedoms to the June 15, 1215 signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede, England, by then King John of England.

The origin of the 13th century Magna Carta began as the rebellion by numerous barons who found that King John’s tyrannical rule needed to be curtailed. The Magna Carta was drafted with some 63 individual clauses. When the final draft was finally completed, it was signed at Runnymede because it was located in a place that was far enough away from King John’s castle at Windsor and still far enough away from some who rebelled against the king to make it the ideal location for the sealing of the Great Charter.

Just six weeks after the Magna Carta was sealed, the Pope in Rome ordered that the Magna Carta be revoked calling it antithetical to the right of the kings of Europe and elsewhere. With the Pope’s order revocation, a civil war broke out in England. King John, however, died five months later and his eldest son Henry became the king. When King Henry took over the realm, he reinstated the Magna Carta to restore peace in the land, ending the English civil war.

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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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Retired United States Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens spoke at the 15th Annual Justice John Paul Stevens Award Luncheon. The Justice John Paul Stevens Award was conceived by Justice Stevens’s former law clerks. The first time it was presented was in September 2000. The award is given by both The Chicago Bar Foundation and The Chicago Bar Association. Justice Stevens, who is a Chicago native and practiced law in Chicago before his elevation to the bench, has been honored for his lifetime efforts to improve the system of justice and his active participation and dedication to The Chicago Bar Association.

The award that is given annually and is bestowed upon distinguished attorneys who exemplify Stevens’s commitment to integrity and public service in the practice of law. This year’s honorees included lawyers and judges from state court, federal court and the Illinois Supreme Court.

Justice Stevens has recently published one of his many books and this one is somewhat controversial but extremely well-written and provocative. It is titled,  Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. The book is an excellent summary of not just of the Constitution, but the rigors required to revise the Constitution, which has been done only 18 times during the nation’s history — revisions to the Constitution as opposed to the 27 Amendments to it.

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