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Gutting Judicial Review in Illinois

Gutting Judicial Review in Illinois

July 20, 2023

 

Gov. Pritzker signs a law to prevent his policies from being overturned in court

Progressives are on the march in Illinois, and they want to make sure their new policies can’t be overturned in state court. Solution: Pass a law that requires any constitutional challenge to a state law, rule or executive order to be filed in only two counties.

Yes, that’s really happening, thanks to Illinois Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s brainstorm. Democrats in Springfield passed it, and on Tuesday Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed it. The bill means any constitutional challenge to the Democratic agenda can only be heard in Cook and Sangamon counties. Cook includes Chicago, and Sangamon surrounds the capital of Springfield.

The measure’s proponents were transparent in saying the change is meant to prevent conservative “venue shopping,” a tool pioneered by progressives and trial lawyers when seeking venues favorable to jackpot justice. In the case of conservatives, any choice of where
to file would be to seek judicial brakes on the Democrats’ legislative steamroller. 

Mr. Raoul’s spokesman says the change is appropriate because “inconsistent court decisions about important public issues have repeatedly caused confusion.” Yes, but that’s how the judicial system is meant to work. Conflicting lower-court decisions are resolved through appeals.

Mr. Pritzker’s infamous plan to end cash bail was rejected by Kankakee County Judge Thomas Cunnington, who ruled the law unconstitutional in December. It’s now on appeal at the state Supreme Court. Mr. Pritzker is expected to sign more than 500 bills this summer, according to Capitol News Illinois, and he wants to neuter the courts.

The change means a downstate farmer will have to travel to Chicago or Springfield to challenge a law but the same won’t apply to Illinois public unions. In true Springfield fashion, government unions received a special exemption. The venue changes don’t apply to “claims
arising out of collective bargaining disputes” between Illinois and the unions.

Senate President Don Harmon says that since the legal challenges end up in the state Supreme Court anyway, it’s a waste of money for the Attorney General’s office to argue the cases at multiple times. But lower court judges are supposed to be fact-finders in trials and provide important context and analysis that higher courts consider.

The Democratic definition of efficient government in Illinois is now lawmaking without judicial review. Downstate courts are often the only place where progressive laws encounter any resistance. Mr. Pritzker has eliminated them by fiat. 

Appeared in the June 8, 2023, print edition as 'Gutting Judicial Review in Illinois'.