The Illinois Supreme Court is set to meet in Springfield Monday to open its January term.
The justices are slated to hear arguments in 15 cases, the majority of which are criminal, starting on Tuesday and ending Jan. 24.
The court’s docket shows that no Fifth District cases are set for arguments this term. One Fifth District case is listed on the court’s advisement docket, which means it could receive an opinion in the coming weeks.
That case – People v. Elijah S. Lacy – was argued before the court in November and deals with whether the Jackson County Circuit Court erred in dismissing murder charges against the defendant based on a violation of his right to a speedy trial.
The justices will hear their first civil case of their January term on Wednesday in Michael M. McFatridge and the County of Edgar v. Lisa Madigan.
The case comes to the high court from the Fourth District Appellate Court, which reversed a Sangamon County ruling that dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint for a mandamus.
The mandamus sought an order directing the attorney general to approve payment of litigation expenses incurred by McFatridge, the former prosecutor of Edgar County, in defending actions filed by two men who were convicted of murder and later released.
McFatridge brought his complaint for a mandamus in 2010 in an attempt to recover litigation expenses associated with the defense of civil actions brought by Randy Steidl and Herb Whitlock, who were convicted of murder in 1987.
Steidl was convicted of the murders of Karen and Dyke Rhoads and received a death sentence, which was later reduced to natural life in prison. Whitlock was convicted of Karen Rhoads’ murder and given a natural life sentence.
In 2003, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois vacated Steidl’s conviction and four years later, the Fourth District Appellate Court granted Whitlock’s post trial motion and ordered his retrial or release.
Steidl filed a federal complaint in 2005 against McFatridge, the county and other officials involved in his prosecution. Whitlock filed a similar complaint in 2008.
Their suits included claims for malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, claiming their convictions were based on evidence fabricated by McFatridge.
Madigan declined McFatridge’s request for payment, saying that if the court finds the acts complained about in Steidl’s suit were not intentional, willful and wanton conduct, her office would reimburse the county for attorneys’ fees.
In 2009, the-then Edgar County State’s Attorney asked Madigan to represent McFatridge in the two suits and pay at least two-thirds of the county’s litigation expenses.
Madigan denied both requests.
The following year, McFatridge filed a mandamus complaint seeking an order directing Madigan to pay litigation expenses in the two suits.
Madigan sought dismissal of the complaint, asserting that it attempts to control the actions of state officials when the attorney general has discretion, was brought too late and that McFatridge’s claims were barred by sovereign immunity.
The Sangamon County Circuit agreed with Madigan and dismissed the complaint.
A panel of the Fourth District Appellate Court, however, reversed the lower court, determining that the complaint alleged sufficient facts to show a right of recovery on the plaintiffs' part and a clear duty on Madigan’s behalf to provide McFatridge’s defense costs.
The state high court will also hear arguments this month in People ex rel. The City of Chicago v. Le Mirage, which deals with criminal contempt convictions stemming from a 2003 incident at the E2 nightclub in Chicago that killed 21 people.
In addition, the justices will hear arguments in a Cook County product liability case against a company that made a part for a helicopter involved in a fatal crash. That case, John Russell, etc. v SNFA presents the justices with a question over jurisdiction.
Other civil cases set for arguments this month include: Julie Q. v. the Department of Children and Family Services (Second District); James Thomas DeHart v. Blanca DeHart (Third District); Mark Gruszeczka v. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission et al. (Second District); VC&M Ltd. v. Cindy Andrews, et al (Second District) and In re the Parentage of J.W. (Fourth District).
The court’s full January docket can be found at state.il.us/court.