Friday, October 29, 2010

NIU Law Review Online

For the past several months, Jason Meares, the 2010-11 Editor-in-Chief of the NIU Law Review, and the Board of Editors have been working on increasing the presence of the NIU Law Review on the internet. He follows in the footsteps of the previous boards who also aimed at increasing the Review's readership through the internet.

Last year, under the direction of the then Editor-in-Chief, Steve Boldt, the NIU Law Review published its first issue of their online journal, which can be found here. The online journal allows the Board to publish more content and make that content available to a large audience.

The Review's website has undergone some changes with web hosting and design over the past six months. Thanks to the efforts of the 2010-11 Board of Editors, volumes 26 through 30 are now available online.

Here are some highlights from these issues:
  • Alex Geocaris, 2010-11 Managing Editor, wrote about the new "search incident to arrest" exception to the warrant requirement of the 4th Amendment expounded by Arizona v. Gant.
  • Also writing about the warrant requirement of the 4th Amendment , Daniel Kegl wrote about the "single -purpose container" exception and the inconsistent application by the federal courts.
  • Jason Meares argues that the exclusion of settled defendants when determining liability pursuant to Illinois Code of Civil Procedure section 2-1117—as decided in Ready v. United/Goedecke Services, against the intentions of the statute and unsound policy.
  • And, my article about Illinois' Winery Shipper's License, Granholm v. Heald, and the dormant Commerce Clause can be found in volume 30 issue 2.

Victory!!!!! (Kinda)

The Illinois Second District Appellate Court has overturned the $100 trauma center fee that was assessed to Ernesto Valle of Aurora following his conviction for murder. Unfortunately for Mr. Valle, the Appellate Court upheld his murder conviction.

The trauma center fee applies to people receiving orders of supervision for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, people convicted of certain weapons offenses and people convicted of certain drug offenses — but not murderers. The appellate prosecutors admitted the fee was assessed in error.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I wish I could have met this guy.

This weekend I read the obituary of Nicholas G. Manos in the Chicago Tribune. I had not heard of Mr. Manos before, or the Rock Island Railroad bankruptcy case, but I guess that just shows my inexperience in these matters.

According to his daughter, who witnessed the incident, Mr. Manos delivered probably one of the greatest opening lines of all time at oral argument. Here is the story:

"On the day of final arguments in the Rock Island Railroad bankruptcy case in the late 1970s, attorney Nicholas G. Manos stepped up to the lectern for one of the biggest moments of his life.

Silence fell over the crowded federal district courtroom as Mr. Manos looked straight into the judge's eyes and said:

"Your honor, I can hardly wait to hear what I am about to say."

With that, the courtroom exploded with laughter. Mr. Manos' daughter, Stathy White, who witnessed the moment, said the comment illustrated her father's intelligence and charisma.

"That really says a lot about the confidence that he had," she said. "He had a wonderful wit about him, and his presence was unmatched."

After the trial, Mr. Manos drafted a reorganization plan for the ailing railroad that satisfied all sides. In 1983, the plan was approved by the Supreme Court and the Interstate Commerce Commission, making it one of the most successful railroad reorganizations in history."
Awesome. I wish I had the guts to pull off something like that.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Job opening: Chicago-based AMA seeks JD with bioethics experience

The American Medical Association (AMA), the nation’s largest professional Association of physicians, seeks a Senior Research Associate in Ethics Policy. In this role you will assist the Director of Ethics Policy and the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) in the development of ethics policy, educational outreach, Federation Relations, and Board of Trustees assignments.

  • Juris Doctor (JD) degree minimum with experience in bioethics law required. Additional experience in clinical ethics and/or physician education preferred.
  • Must have strong research, analytical, and writing skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to work with minimum supervision.
  • Strong interpersonal skills and verbal communication skills.
  • Strong organization and prioritization skills.
  • Ability to analyze changes in health care environment and develop appropriate policy responses.
For more information visit:  Senior Research Associate - American Medical Association

Monday, October 25, 2010


I hope everyone enjoys the new look of the Law Blog. One of the recent additions to the site is the counter that appears on the bottom right-hand side of the page. By the time you read this post, we will probably be over 10,000 hits.

As I write this we are at 9,939 hits, most of them coming in the past couple of months. We are gaining more and more publicity every day. We are averaging about 110 hits per day considering that we have received 2,738 hits so far this month.

One of the other new features is an analysis of the Blog's visitors, including where they come from, how they got here, etc. I can tell you that A LOT of people find this blog through google searches. For those of you interested in growing your own practices, I can't stress enough the importance of having your name appear in a google search.  Did I mention that the Law Blog is currently accepting contributing writers?

How many of you have picked up a telephone book for information in the past month? Me neither. But I probably perform about 20 google searches per day. To illustrate how beneficial having your name attached to popular search terms is, I wanted to share the Top 5 posts in Northern Law Blog history. The vast majority of these hits came through google searches.  You will see that picking the right topic on which to write can make a Law Blog writer a de facto expert in no time.


1.  Illinois Vehicle Window Tint Law by Waseem Mateen - 2,616 hits.  (Wow.)
2.  Tips on the Oral Argument by Waseem Mateen - 206 hits.
3.  Foreclosure Mediation in Will County by Mike Huseman - 125 hits.
4.  New Subpoena Form by Mike Huseman - 115 hits.
5.  Pre-Foreclosure Grace Period in Illinois by Berton J. Maley - 114 hits.

(Click on the title of each post to re-visit them.  I am still working on making these links appear brighter without throwing off the color scheme of the whole page.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Restricted Drivers, Look Out: Illinois Police Have a Reasonable Suspicion to Pull You Over.

On October 21, 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court announced Illinois police can pull over drivers that are driving on a restricted drivers permit. Using Terry and its progeny, the Court reasoned that an officer has a reasonable suspicion that a driver is unlicensed when (1) the registered owner's license has been revoked and (2) the person driving the vehicle resembles the photograph of the owner. Being issued a restricted driving permit (RDP) does not negate the officer's reasonable suspicion.

Restricted driving permits are issued to “hardship” cases for under 625 ILCS 5/6-205. These licenses allow otherwise unlicensed drivers to drive for employment, emergency medical services, education, and alcohol treatment.

In People v. Close, LaSalle police pulled the defendant over for driving while license revoked. The arrest happened on a Sunday evening while the defendant was wearing a tank top, baseball cap, and sunglasses. The officer ran the defendant’s plates and found the vehicle owner’s license to be revoked. The officer’s mobile computer also indicated that the owner was issued a RDP; however, the computer did not indicate the terms of the RDP. The officer initiated a traffic stop to determine whether the driver was within the scope of his RDP. At trial, the officer indicated the day of the week and the defendant's apparel suggested that the defendant was not en route to work.

The Court was particularly swayed by the statutory construction of the RDP provision. Under 625 ILCS 5/6–303, an RDP is a statutory defense to the crime of unlicensed driving. Because the state can make a prima facie case of unlicensed driving despite the issuance of a RDP, the Court reasoned that officers have no duty to determine whether a driver is within the scope of his RDP before initiating a Terry stop.

The Court specifically rejected the Second District case, People v. Johnson, 379 Ill. App.3d 710 (2d Dist. 2008). The facts in Johnson are startlingly similar to those in Close. The officer ran the plates on a passing vehicle and discovered the owner’s license was revoked. The Johnson defendant also was issued a RDP. The officer noted that the arrest occurred on Sunday, which is not a traditional work day. Based on the officer's belief that the driver was not on his way to work, the officer conducted a traffic stop to determine the scope of the RDP. The Second District Court held that an officer did not have a reasonable suspicion.

Justice Burke issued the only dissenting opinion. She notes that the correct test to apply is the "totality of the circumstances" test, and the majority holding is out of line with this legal ruler. Under the "totality of the circumstances," an officer would have to take into account the driver's RDP and articulate facts that would suggest the driver was outside those terms.

I had previously written about this case in the December 2009 issue of Kane County Bar Briefs. I argued that the Illinois Supreme Court should have rejected both the Third and Second District holding. Instead, I suggested that the driver's appearance and day of the week were articulable facts supporting an officer’s reasonable belief that the driver was acting outside the scope of his RDP. Neither the majority nor the dissenting opinion to that view.

Welcome Christopher Sparks!

The Northern Law Blog is pleased to announce the addition of Christopher Sparks as a contributing writer.  Chris graduated manga cum laude from the NIU College of Law in May 2010.  While at NIU, Chris was on the Law Review and participated in Moot Court.  

It is great to add another accomplished writer to the Blog.  We're glad to have you Chris! 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Kane County's New Domestic Violence Diversion Program May Not be Such a Good Deal

On October 1st, the Kane County State's Attorney's Office introduced a new domestic violence diversion program. It is supposedly the first of its kind in Illinois. According to State's Attorney John Barsanti, the program could provide counseling, supervision, and the eventual dismissal of charges for an estimated 180 first-time offenders per year if they successfully complete the program.

Potential diversion candidates must be first-time offenders and must apply for the program within three months of their arrest. In order to be accepted, the alleged battery must not have resulted in medical attention, not have involved a weapon, and not have been eligible to be charged as a felony. If the defendant meets these criteria, and if the alleged victim consents, the defendant could enter the diversion program.

If accepted, the defendant must plead guilty to the charges as they are written, pay $450 in fines, $200 to a domestic violence shelter, and consent to a plenary order of protection. Defendants must undergo counseling, receive medical or substance evaluations if necessary, and after the completion of the program the guilty plea will be vacated. If the program is not completed successfully, the defendant will be sentenced under the domestic battery statute, which is a Class A misdemeanor.

I am not so sure that this is such a good idea for domestic battery defendants. You know why I think that? Because the program was introduced by the STATE'S ATTORNEY'S OFFICE at a PRESS CONFERENCE!!! The State's Attorney's Office does not usually help people who are charged with crimes. And if they did, they wouldn't call in the media to witness it. The State's Attorney's Office is in the business of locking people up. They lock up people without any regard whatsoever to the effect it will have on the family, the costs involved to the county, or any other type of logic. They just want to lock people up.

Defense lawyers should not even think about this program without first considering the possible defenses to the charge. Remember the State must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. The diversion program requires an admission of guilt. You lose the case from day one.

You also need to determine whether the witness is prepared to testify at trial. I think the real reason behind this program is the reluctance of most witnesses/victims to testify at trial. If the State can't produce a witness, they can't secure a conviction. I wish I had access to the statistics, but I believe that many, many more domestic violence cases get dismissed than actually go to trial. Each time that I am in the domestic violence courtroom in Kane County, I see them dismiss at least a dozen cases per day. Maybe one or two actually go to trial.

Take your chances at trial. The State has the burden. Don't roll over on day one and subject your client to a plenary order of protection, anger management, etc., etc., etc. If the State wants to disqualify him or her from the program after several months, they will probably be able to do so. Then your client still gets the conviction after going through a year of court monitoring and aggravation.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Collecting from Cosigners

I never knew this before today, so I thought I would pass on the information.  It is unlawful to take collection actions against a cosigner without sending them a 15 day notice to pay pursuant to the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

The Act provides that "No person may .... take any collection action regarding a cosigner of an obligation unless prior thereto, such person has notified the cosigner by first class mail that the primary obligor has become delinquent or defaulted on the loan, that the cosigner is responsible for the payment of the obligation and that the cosigner must, within 15 days from the date such notice was sent, either pay the amount due under the obligation or make arrangements for payment of the obligation."  815 ILCS 505/2S.

Any person violating this Section commits an unlawful practice within the meaning of the Act and, in addition, is liable in a civil action for actual damages, plus reasonable attorney's fees.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity theft can happen to anyone, anytime. Identity thieves don’t just steal your property, they steal you! In our modern world, it is easy for someone to steal your social security number (SSN) to get a job, credit card, loan, or control of your records. Your social security number is the only means of identifying yourself to the IRS, credit bureaus, and other important financial entities. The damage caused by identity thieves is difficult to detect, can cost you thousands of dollars, and can take hundreds of hours to fix. Your SSN is your lifeline to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) because with your SSN, the IRS determines how much money you earned, for which credits and deductions you qualify for, and how much your refund should be.

One form of identity theft is employment fraud. People commit identity fraud when they steal your SSN to work under your name. When you file your income tax returns, the IRS will see the thief’s fraudulent use of your number and assume that you underreported your income. This will result in a higher tax liability, reduction of refund, and ineligibility for some tax credits, along with penalty and interest payments.

Thankfully, there are several easy ways to protect yourself, such as never carrying your social security card on your person. Also, photocopy both sides of all of your ID’s, credit, and bank cards, so that if your purse or wallet is stolen, you can prove your identity to banks and the government. Keep these items in a safe, preferably locked, place in your home or office. Write, “Please see ID” on the back of all your credit and bank cards, too, to protect yourself. To avoid phishing scams, remember that the IRS contacts taxpayers only through postal mail and will never send you an email or call you. Keeping all of this information in mind can help you to retain greater security over not only your financial and credit identity, but also your life.

If you think you are a victim of identity theft, call your local police station to file a report. After that, contact your bank and credit card companies, with photocopies in hand, to freeze or place a fraud alert on your accounts. Also try to contact the three major credit reporting bureaus to alert them that someone stole your SSN and request that a fraud alert or freeze be placed on your information. A fraud alert notifies financial institutions that someone may try to fraudulently use your SSN, whereas a freeze disallows any action taken under your SSN. When you have a fraud alert in effect, a business must call you at your home or work phone to verify any financial or credit action taken under your SSN.

Next, call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit (800-908-4490) to let them know of your suspicions. Finally, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 877-ID-THEFT; the FTC records all identity theft complaints so the issue can be monitored at the national level. Please note that action taken by the IRS and the FTC may take a considerable amount of time, so the faster you act, the faster you can get your life back.

If you are facing IRS or tax-specific identity theft problems, contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service (877-777-4778). The Taxpayer Advocate Service is designed to help analyze your tax issues and act as a go-between for you and the IRS. Always open all communication from the IRS and respond to it quickly.

Identity theft is a terrible crime, but knowing how to protect yourself and how to limit damage after an attack is the most important tool in the battle over you.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Site Maintenance

Please excuse the mess on the blog this weekend. As you can see, we are undergoing major design changes. Thank you for your patience.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Custer's Last Stand

Matthew C. Custer, pro se, appealed his speeding ticket conviction and won. The appellate court noted at the outset that Mr. Custer was prosecuted under a Rockford municipal ordinance which was punishable by fine only, so the proceeding was civil in nature, not criminal. Therefore, the City was not required to prove defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but only by a preponderance of the evidence. And he still prevailed. This guy is a local legend.

At issue was the Illinois statute which provides that electronic speed-detecting devices shall not be used within 500 feet beyond any speed limit sign. If a radar, or other electronic speed-detecting device, is used in violation of this section, evidence obtained thereby shall be inadmissible in any prosecution for speeding. 625 ILCS 5/11--604(b)(West 2008).

A Rockford police officer measured Mr. Custer's speed at 45 mph in a 30 mph zone using radar. The police officer, however, clocked the defendant while he was still within 500 feet of the speed limit sign. Mr. Custer attached to his brief photographs, maps, and diagrams showing that the location of his alleged speeding was less than 500 feet beyond a speed-limit sign, but the judge still admitted the radar evidence.

The legislative intent underlying the 500-foot rule was "to give a driver time to adjust to the speed limit before subjecting him to radar detection," which the Rockford police failed to do in this case.  For that reason, the judgment of the Circuit Court of Winnebago County was reversed.

City of Rockford v. Custer, 02-09-0743 (September 23, 2010).