Illinois Supreme Court

A Sangamon County judge issued a preliminary injunction barring Illinois from collecting higher health care insurance premiums from retired state employees.

In a 6-to-1 ruling in July, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision allowing the state to require retirees to pay for a portion of their own health care. The court said state-subsidized health insurance is a protected pension benefit and the state cannot charge premiums for it.  

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court will start conducting its business in Springfield once again next month. The justices had been displaced for the past year while their building was renovated, restoring the building to many of its original design features.

For most of the last year, the court building, across from the State Capitol in Springfield, was separated from the public by orange plastic fencing and lots of construction dust.

Amanda Vinicky

  For the second time, a court has deemed unconstitutional a citizen's initiative to would limit how long Illinois lawmakers can serve.

First, it was a Cook County Circuit Court judge.

Now, the decision is from a state appellate court.

Both say the question of term limits for state legislators should not go before voters on the November ballot.

The state Constitution says citizen's initiatives, like this one, must be limited to "structural and procedural" changes to the legislature.

Amanda Vinicky

  Backers of a plan to institute legislative term limits in Illinois are putting public pressure on the state Supreme Court to get involved, and soon.

Republican candidate for Governor Bruce Rauner calls it "tragic" that the Illinois Supreme Court, as he put it, "went into delaying mode" instead of immediately taking up a case over the term limits initiative.

But Rauner, who has spearheaded the effort, stopped short of calling the court's choice political.

Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

  An effort to institute term limits in Illinois has hit a major road block. The state Supreme Court says it will not rush to hear the case.

 The Supreme Court's decision could be the end of Republican Bruce Rauner's term limits initiative.

Limiting how long legislators can be in Illinois' General Assembly has been a staple of his campaign for governor.

That takes a change in the constitution. Rauner's group collected over a half million signatures so that question could be put to voters on the November ballot.

Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court says free health care is a protected retirement benefit for certain government employees. It was cause for celebration among those who’ve opposed Illinois' attempts to save money by cutting retirement benefits. But Illinois' pension battles are far from over.

Many state retirees used to get premium-free health insurance. When the law was changed to make them pay, a group of them sued.

flickr/Brian Turner

A Cook County judge has ruled that signature-driven ballot measures calling for legislative term limits and a new political redistricting process can't appear on the November ballot.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary Mikva says in a Friday ruling the measures don't meet constitutional requirements to make the ballot.
The ruling is a setback for groups advocating the measures, including one led by Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner.  He's made term limits
a cornerstone of his campaign to unseat Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

Wikimedia Commons

  Since the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the state's eavesdropping law in March, it's been legal to record audio of someone without asking permission. But legislators are working on a replacement.

The Supreme Court found the old law overly broad. It was a crime even to record in public, where people shouldn't really have an expectation of privacy. Because of that, Illinois' law was considered one of the strictest in the nation.

Springfield attorney and Ward 5 alderman Sam Cahnman has received a censure from the Illinois Supreme Court.

The move follows a recommendation the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission made last year.  The Commission says Cahnman intentionally misled an Associate Circuit Judge about how he gained possession of a page from the judge's private calendar.  Cahnman has denied that charge.    

James Grogan is with the Commission.  He says Illinois' high court issues a censure when there has been a violation of the lawyer's ethics code.

Illinois Supreme Court
Brian Mackey / WUIS

A court case decided in Arizona Thursday could have implications for Illinois' ongoing legal battle over pensions. The decision (pdf), by the Arizona Supreme Court, struck down an attempt to reduce Arizona officials' retirement benefits.


A published report says groups with ties to the pension-reform law adopted last month have contributed close to $3 million to Illinois Supreme Court justices who might decide its fate.  

The Chicago Sun-Times reports ( ) that six of seven justices have taken money in the past 13 years from labor unions, business groups and a political committee controlled by Chicago Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.  
Retired teachers have sued to stop the pension-reform plan that cuts retiree benefits to reduce a $100 billion debt.  

Amanda Vinicky

  Illinois legislators may have passed a pension overhaul, but unions representing teachers and public employees have vowed to sue to stop it from taking effect. If they're successful, that could force lawmakers to go back to the drawing board.

Lawmakers made preemptive efforts to fend off a legal challenge. The measure contains a statement that details the terrible condition of Illinois' finances and what lawmakers have tried to do about it -- a clear attempt to justify cutting pension benefits.

Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday struck down the so-called "Amazon tax." The decision could pave the way for businesses to make more money online.

The law was intended to force Internet retailers to collect Illinois sales tax.

Even if such companies didn't have an office or physical store here, they might have had Illinois "affiliates." That would be a website that linked to a product on, say,, and got a small kickback for every sale.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

After the media frenzy at the 1930s trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann for kidnapping the Lindbergh baby, the American Bar Association enacted policies barring radio, newsreels and photo cameras from trials. Federal and state courts followed suit. For more than 70 years, reporters could only use pen and paper. But as technology changed, states began to allow electronic media into their supreme, appellate and circuit courts.

Illinois Supreme Court
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Retired state workers who collect pensions in Illinois started paying health insurance premiums this summer. That's because of a change in the law last year — previously health insurance was free for anyone who retired with at least 20 years of service.

A number of retirees sued over the change. The case was argued Wednesday before the Illinois Supreme Court.

A few months ago, Illinois began collecting one percent of pension income from retirees who are eligible for Medicare, two percent from those who aren't.

Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

Illinois' old law banning the concealed carry of firearms took another hit Thursday. A federal court already found it unconstitutional last year. Now the Illinois Supreme Court has taken the same position.

Alberto Aguilar was 17 when Chicago police arrested him for having a loaded handgun with the serial number scratched off.

He was convicted of unlawfully possessing a firearm and sentenced to 24 months probation.

Illinois Supreme Court
Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in case that asks whether the Hartney Fuel Oil Company went too far in trying to secure a lower tax rate for its product.

Harney sells gas to big transportation companies — railroads, trucking firms, that sort of thing.

Until 2008, you could have been forgiven for thinking Hartney was based in Forest View, in Cook County. After all, the company had a building there where all of its employees worked.

Rita Garman
Illinois Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court returns from its summer recess next week, and one of the items on the docket could be the announcement of its next chief justice. The court appears ready to name Rita Garman to the post.

Garman would be the second woman to head the Illinois Supreme Court — and in fact, only the second woman to lead one of Illinois' three branches of government.

Based in Danville, Garman has been a lawyer since 1968, a judge since 1974, and on the Supreme Court since 2002.

Macon County Judges Now Open To Allowing Cams In Courts

Aug 8, 2013
WSIU/Illinois Public Radio

Video and still cameras could be allowed in circuit courts in central and east central Illinois within the next several weeks.

The Champaign News-Gazette reports judges in the Sixth Judicial Circuit approved the cameras during a meeting last week.

Chief Judge Dan Flannell says he submitted an application to the Illinois Supreme Court on Wednesday. The state's high court has the final say on whether the circuit will be included in the pilot program that was approved about 18 months ago.

Illinois Supreme Court
Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a law that requires young women to notify their parents before getting an abortion. The decision ends a legal fight that goes all the way back to the 1990s.

For the first time since the law passed nearly two decades ago, women 17 and younger who want to have an abortion will have to get their parents' permission.

Illinois' parental-notification law was passed in 1995, during a brief period when Republicans won control of the Illinois House.

This week, a new Illinois Supreme Court rule took effect that's intended to make it easier for spouses of military personnel to get a law license.

Angela Allen practices law in Chicago and, with a husband in the Illinois National Guard, she's one of about 800 members of the Military Spouse J.D. Network.

Allen says the job market for lawyers is tough enough as it is, but with the frequent transfers that are a part of military life, she says the time and expense of getting a new state law license made it even harder on the lawyer-spouses.

Jamey Dunn 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

While most of the focus on environmental issues this legislative session was on fracking, conservationist groups quietly celebrated the passage of a bill that would potentially open up more land in the state for recreation.

Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

Illinois lawmakers remain at odds over how to handle the state's $100 billion of pension debt.  But there's a chance that this spring the General Assembly may finally do something about it.  After years of no major action, there are not one, but two major packages designed to reign in Illinois' retirement costs.  The House and Senate passed competing plans.  Both of them seek to save Illinois money by cutting current and retired government workers' benefits.  But one important group of government workers are being left out of both deals - judges.

The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in case challenging the state's so-called "Amazon tax." The decision could change the way Illinois websites make money online. Brian Mackey reports.

When you click a product link on a website — like if a blogger links to a book she's reviewing — the blogger can make a deal with the retailer to get a cut of the sale.

The Illinois Supreme Court has announced the death at age 81 of former Chief Justice Moses Harrison.  
Harrison died Thursday at a St. Louis hospital. The cause of death wasn't immediately revealed.  
Harrison began his career on the bench in 1973 as a circuit court judge. He was serving on the 5th District Appellate Court when he was elected to the Supreme Court in 1992. He served as chief justice from 2000 to 2002.



Before state reforms in 2005, Dr. Richard Byrne considered leaving Chicago 's Rush University Medical Center to practice brain surgery in another state.

He says he didn’t think Illinois’ medical malpractice environment was likely to improve. He refers to rising medical liability insurance rates that peaked in 2003 and 2004. Physician groups called it a crisis. 

Brain surgeons were particularly hard-hit by the increasing cost of monthly premiums because everything they do or don’t do carries a risk for patients, Byrne says. 

The November election for the Illinois Supreme Court’s Fifth District will be about more than filling the high court’s sole vacancy.

To the lawyers, doctors, insurance companies and representatives of other special interests who have lined up on either side, it is perhaps the most important battle yet in the ongoing war over tort, or civil law, reform — a war in which the front lines were drawn through the rural towns and rust-belt river communities of southern Illinois long before this Supreme Court campaign began.

Illustration by Mike Cramer using photographs fo the newly elected justices taken by Terry Farmer, Todd Mizener and Paul McGrath
Mike Cramer

It's bound to be interesting. With four new justices and a high-profile docket, that's about as definitive a prediction as can be made about a politically reconfigured Illinois Supreme Court.