Bad drug addict drug users and judges on top of it all .The appearance there will be some appeals coming down the pipe line as well as totable action of state actors….
April 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
lets fight the (ISBA) illinois state bar assoc. that does not care anything about our children they are a profit center for them just a meal ticket.
March 7, 2014 § Leave a comment
It was Martin Luther King who said, “We begin to die the day we begin to be silent on issues that matter.” IT WILL TAKE YOU LESS THEN 2 MINUTES PER PHONE CALL TO SAVE A CHILD’S LIFETIME BOND WITH THEIR PARENT. REPRESENTATIVES DO NOT EXPECT YOU TO BE AN EXPERT ON THE BILLS…THEY JUST NEED THE PHONE CALLS TO KNOW YOU WANT THEM TO SUPPORT HB 5425, HB 4459 AND HB 4458 and that you want the representative to make a special request that all 3 bills be passed out of rules committee immediately.
TOTAL success now depends on what YOU DO or not do in the next 48 hours. Countless volunteer hours at the capitol have carried the ball down to the current goal line but if you don’t pick up the phone then our 2014 legislative agenda may very well die. The DEADLINE to get our bills out of committee is March 28th.
We have worked very hard to this point and we have strong bi-partisan sponsors signed on to our bills so it is a BIG “mystery” as to why our bills are still waiting in the 5 person Rules Committee(the first committee for all bills which almost always passes on bills for further consideration – 3 Democrats, 2 Republicans) to be passed on for full consideration. We need our bills out of Rules Committee NOW to have time to make the March 28th deadline.
Priority Number 1: Call Rep. Monique Davis (217) 782-0010 AND CALL AT (773) 445-9700 and thank her for taking on the role of Chief Sponsor in SUPPORT of HB 5425, HB 4459 and HB 4458. If you say, “I heard Rep. Davis met with Richard Thomas yesterday(3/5/2014) and you agreed to take on bills HB 5425, HB 4459 and HB 4458, THANK YOU SO MUCH for supporting our bills and please do what you can to get our bills passed out of Rules Committee.” If you say these words to Rep. Davis or her secretary, they will know exactly what and who you mean. Be friendly but firm in your support of these 3 bills because your fair share of democracy is on the line.
Priority Number 2: Please call Representative Michael J. Madigan (D) at (217) 782-5350 or Secretary “April” at (773) 581-8000 and simply say “Children need BOTH parents now more than ever – Please SUPPORT HB 5425.” HB 5425 has strong bi-partisan support, but will die if Rep. Madigan doesn’t allow it to a vote. What is HB 5425? If the court determines that both parents are fit and good, then the non-custodial parent will be allotted/offered 35 percent minimum parenting time weekly to facilitate EVEN bonding. Parentlessness is killing this nation, please call today. Take the target off the backs of children, TODAY! BE a hero…CALL, CALL, CALL TODAY. Please also ask that HB 4459 and HB 4458 be special requested passed the Rules Committee. All 3 bills have bi-partisan support signed on.
Priority Number 3:
Please Contact These Members ASAP to SUPPORT HB 5425, HB 4458 and HB 4459 being passed into the next appropriate committee;
House Rules Committee:
Chairperson: Barbara Flynn Currie…D…phone: (217) 782-8121
Spokesperson: Ed Sullivan, Jr….R… phone: (217) 782-3696
Member: Lou Lang…D…(217) 782-1252
Member: David R. Leitch…R…(217) 782-8108
Member: Frank J. Mautino…D…(217) 782-0140
Priority Number 4: If you have time, please email me any responses you get on the above at NurseRichardThomas@gmail.com
I spoke with NAACP President Lloyd Johnston recently and he was very excited in favor of our bills. I’ve been informed that the NAACP is drafting its letter of support due within a day or so. But will that come in time to get our bills out of Rules Committee? Let’s not depend on it…make your calls today.
Spent all day at the capitol yesterday. We met with over 30 representatives, many high-ranking ones. Thanks to Brian Caldwell and Shane Bouvet who showed a lot of promise at the capitol yesterday. They will represent family law reform well in the very near future.
Democracy is now in yours hands…please print this off and call today!!! In Solidarity, Richard Thomas, Loves Park, (815) 690-5034.
Explanation of Bills:
HB 5425: Divorce in this country all too often means that children lose sufficient contact with at least one of their parents. Most people don’t know that the standard “visitation” schedule for non-custodial parents in the State of Illinois is 4 hours a week and every other weekend. No matter how good and participatory a parent has been this is the standard time allotted to almost all non-custodial parents. This makes bonding, especially even bonding, next to impossible, over the course of a child’s first 18 years of development. HB 5425 is a quantum leap forward towards a remedy. This bill takes the target off the backs of Illinois children going through divorce and custody. If a judge determines that both parents are good and fit, the non-custodial parent will be allotted at least 35 percent minimum parenting time weekly to facilitate, enable EVEN bonding with both parents. The bill has strong bi-partisan support and will die unless people call in support. I co-wrote HB 5425 along with Attorney Mick Gerhardt(then filtered through the Legislative Reference Bureau). So, if you have any further questions please contact us.
HB 4459: The bill basically states that if a court finds you innocent during an Order of Protection hearing, you can have that court proven false accusation expunged off your record so it doesn’t ruin your life and career. Innocent is innocent, so there is zero reason why you shouldn’t be able to expunge that proven false accusation. Even convicted criminals get to expunge their records if they keep their record clean for a certain period of time, so why shouldn’t the innocent get expunged? Furthermore, the threshold to obtain an Order of Protection is so low, if can’t get one there is extreme certainty there was no evidence in the first place.
HB 4458: This bill basically states that if a court finds that you have lied under oath while attempting to obtain an Order of Protection, you can receive a penalty for that false accusation. It’s only right and fair.
Special Note: NONE of these bills make ANY changes to the Order of Protection pursuit process for alleged victims of domestic violence.
(our guy in Springfield)
State Representative Josh Harms last year introduced a Right of First Refusal Bill and thanks to your efforts, Right of First Refusal is now law. We are pleased to report that the new law IS having an impact. We are hearing from at least one father that he gained significantly more time with his child when the father informed his lawyer about the new Right of First Refusal law. Subsequently, the lawyer informed the Judge, who at the time had not heard of the new law, however the Judge granted the father every Thursday visitation beginning after school and continuing overnight, in addition to the typical every other weekend schedule. In another case, a lawyer is using the Right of First Refusal law as leverage for an Illinois Father’s member who is pursuing more visitation time, and in this case, the member did not have to inform the lawyer about the new law. We hope their are more success stories out there for the new Right of First Refusal law. If you have a story of your own to share with us, firstname.lastname@example.org
Another positive is that our membership numbers are climbing. We believe this is due primarily to the efforts of numerous members to display the Illinois Father’s tri-fold brochure in public places. Our overall membership recently surpassed 400. If things continue at current pace, we hope to reach 1,000 members possibly before the end of 2014. Having a larger membership base makes the group more powerful and credible. Places to display the tri-folds are police stations, DCFS offices, court houses, offices of State Representatives and Senators, libraries, churches and other public locations. If you would like a box of approximately 250
pre-printed and pre-folded tri-folds to display in your part of the state, please e-mail email@example.com
Mr. Prentice Powell is a young father dealing with the courts who was recently featured on the Arsenio Hall show.
As you can see, he delivers a powerful and emotional presentation. It is also a huge positive for the movement
that his presentation is featured on a mainstream media outlet like the Arsenio Hall show. Currently, Illinois
Fathers is attempting to book Mr. Powell for upcoming April 7th rally in Springfield to support our bills, specifically
HB5425 which is in essence the 35 percent minumum time bill.
Dr. Baskerville’s latest article regarding the divorce industry can be viewed here http://washingtonexaminer.com/when-child-support-becomes-extortion-families-lose/article/2544942
With Illinois Fathers being founded in 2008, the group is now into its seventh calander year. Slowly but surely,
more and more people are learning about Illinois Fathers. All of these successes and efforts take alot of time and
a little bit of money. We would urge everyone reading this to consider taking on a more active role with Illinois
Fathers. If you can donate some money to help pay for printing costs, and costs associated with booking Mr.
Powell, that would be huge. If you can distribute tri-folds, you will probably help us grow our membership. If you
can volunteer in another capacity, please let us know.
Thank you for being a part of Illinois Fathers
March 6, 2014 § Leave a comment
Saturday, November 23, 2013
I post this because I need to help. My kids need help. I am writing this as an affidavit of sorts.
In 2005 I left my abuser- I left in the middle of the night after he attempted to force himself on me- beat me- choke me- My infant son- age one- began to cry. My ex jumped up and grabbed the baby by the arms- throwing him around- I jumped up- and tried to protect him- I was able to free the baby. The ex then just left the house. Within minutes I had myself and 3 kids (ages 1,3, and 5) out the door. No shoes- no coats- in pajamas- we ran. Within an hour my ex had his crooked and bough police station at my mother’s home to take me into custody. He claimed I assaulted him. The local police refused to look at my injuries. They refused to enter a TRO until Monday (This occurred on Sat night).
I hired some great lawyers- spent my money and my family’s money. Every lawyer sold me out. Every lawyer wanted to endure their own paychecks- and could care less. My kids began to report abuse. The lawyers told me I had to keep sending them. DYFS came into the case a couple times- and all times the sitting Judges told them to take a powder- “this is a custody issue”. My kids were told to shut up- they were told to stop reporting abuse or they would go to foster care.
Hired guns were brought in from across the country to use the junk science PAS (parental alienation syndrome). They all claimed that the abuse was not “that bad”- The expert even wrote in his report- “the father forces affection on the kids when they are not in the mood”- He went on to write – “The paternal grandfather smacked the 6 year old across the face because he deserved it”- “The father sneaks into the daughter’s room at night to paint her toes because he loves her”- All the while the kids begged someone to protect them. They were ordered into more and more overnights with the father as punishment for reporting.
In 2011 I went to the FBI with a CD I had found where my ex makes a cash payment during a custody hearing I was told not to attend. The FBI opened the investigation and to my knowledge- those investigations are still ongoing. As a result- the Judge at that point was removed after his family was interviewed by the federal agency. The case was then transferred. The Court that got the case was already in bed with the father (the county had been paying him cash for snow removal for years- oh and this family was already indicted on bribery in 1997)
The new Judge was tainted because of the FBI case- and I no longer had a lawyer. I was run penniless. The Court held all kinds of ex parte conversations with the multiple lawyers of the father. At the same time- my daughter wrote a letter to our first judge who now retired. She also confronted her father about the abuse in detail. At that point- the court had no choice but to call CPS. The CPS people sent us to a regional trauma center- where the two girls gave statements- psych exams- physical exams- and the abuse was absolutely founded. (Despite the court’s claim it is not). The center promised the kids they would no longer be subjected to unsupervised visits with the father. That same center wrote a report- which I am not permitted to see. After speaking to the agency this week- it is clear that someone is lying. It is either the folks at Wynona’s House- the folks at CPS- or the court. My bet is on the Court- but no agency has formally stepped up to help us. Lots of empty promises- lots of approvals for federal grants to the Wynona’s house to help our family.
In court this week- I got a temporary stay of a restraining order- but after the sitting court spoke to the appellate court- it was thrown out. I was then confronted last night again by North Caldwell police- to “turn my kids over”- The one night between the stay and when he got the kids back- he was abusive again to the kids. I am afraid to give him the kids because he has often told me he would kill them before I would every get them. He has told the kids if they testify against him- he will kill them.
I HAVE NO LAWYER! IF ANYONE CAN CONTACT THE AMERICAN MOTHERS POLITICAL PARTY- THEY CAN PUT YOU IN TOUCH WITH ME IF YOU CAN HELP ME- I HAVE ASKED MY GOOD FRIEND LULA TO PUBLISH THIS FOR ME- I AM AFRAID FOR OUR LIVES- PLEASE HELP US GET A LAWYER- AND PLEASE HELP ME PROTECT MY KIDS-
ANONYMOUS NJ MOM
February 27, 2014 § Leave a comment
Controversial DCFS director resigns
|Arthur Bishop was appointed Friday to head the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. 2010 photo (Michael Tercha / Chicago Tribune / July 16, 2010)|
Ending weeks of speculation, Arthur Bishop today submitted a letter of resignation as director of the state’s child welfare agency.
Gov. Patrick Quinn appointed Bishop last month to lead the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
But, within weeks of the appointment, Bishop’s administration was dogged by controversy over revelations that he pleaded guilty in 1995 to misdemeanor theft for misusing money meant for patients at the Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Community Mental Health Center. Bishop also has been involved in a paternity case since 2003, according to court records.
In a letter to Quinn, Bishop, 61, alleged the governor’s political rivals were behind the controversy.
“I am aware that we are in the midst of a contested election, and that my documented accomplishments, dedication, and almost 20 years of exemplary work are in this environment, simply irrelevant,” he wrote in a letter to Quinn, obtained by the Chicago Tribune.
“While your political rivals may be willing to attack me in an effort to obtain some modicum of political advantage, I cannot agree to be used as a distraction to the real issues that face the State and the children that remain in State custody.”
His resignation is effective Friday.
Bishop, an ordained minister with more than 35 years in human services, began his career at DCFS in 1995 as a caseworker and rose to deputy director. He left the agency in late 2010 when Quinn chose him to oversee the state’s juvenile justice department.
Bishop’s 2010 appointment also was controversial because he lacked a corrections or juvenile justice background, but Quinn then defended his pick, arguing the department was moving in a new direction that focused more on rehabilitation. Facing the most recent criticism, Quinn again defended his pick.
Bishop said the governor did not seek his resignation. He had originally faced a felony in the 1995 theft case but, after two years of court proceedings, Bishop accepted a plea deal in which the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, court records showed.
February 16, 2014 § Leave a comment
Prenda saga continues as appeals over sanctions move forward
Steele, Hansmeier, Duffy
The days of Prenda Law filing copyright infringement and computer hacking suits may be over, but attorneys with ties to the now-dissolved Chicago firm still have a ways to go before they can close the book on the litigation practice that has received scrutiny from judges across the nation.
Since about 2010, Prenda has brought hundreds of complaints, accusing thousands of people of illegally downloading pornography by hacking into the computer systems of its clients, some of which have been called out by judges as shell corporations created to benefit the very attorneys representing them.
While the majority of these suits are now closed, the result of voluntarily dismissals by the plaintiffs, dismissals at the hands of judges, default judgments and settlements, Prenda-affiliated attorneys continue to fight a few suits and are appealing at least a pair of sanction orders handed down over their alleged misconduct.
And the reach of the nationwide litigation extends outside of the federal and state courtrooms that have served as backdrops for the battles between those believed to be behind Prenda’s practice – Paul Duffy, Paul Hansmeier and John Steele– and dozens of defense attorneys.
In May, these three attorneys and others were referred to the criminal investigation unit of the Internal Revenue Service, at least one U.S. Attorney’s office and the state and federal bars where they are admitted to practice. These agencies typically don’t comment on pending or potential investigations.
The referral came in what has since become a well-known and commonly cited order from U.S. District Judge Otis Wright II in California that sanctioned Duffy, Hansmeier, Steele, Brett Gibbs and Prenda Law, as well two of its clients: AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13.
Applying a Star Trek theme to his order, Wright accused the attorneys of engaging in “brazen misconduct and relentless fraud” and said they “outmaneuvered the legal system” with their practices, which have earned a reputation for attempting to coerce settlements from John Doe defendants and exploit the court’s subpoena powers.
Judges who sanctioned Prenda and its affiliated attorneys and firms since Wright’s order have made similar comments in ordering them to pay thousands of dollars in fees and costs to defense attorneys and defendants, including a few Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that fought to quash subpoenas seeking personally identifiable information on Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.
Several defense attorneys involved in the litigation said they wonder why Prenda didn’t throw in the towel after being referred to the authorities in Wright’s order and slapped with subsequent sanctions by judges in California, Illinois and Minnesota.
“A sane person would have stopped a long time ago, but they just keep going,” said Jason Sweet, a Massachusetts attorney who represents several John Does and named defendants across the country. “Why these guys aren’t in jail yet, I have no idea.”
Illinois defense attorney Laura Beasley agreed, referring to Prenda’s litigation as “unbelievable” and “a horrible abuse of our judicial system.”
“They should be disbarred,” she said. “I can’t believe they aren’t already.”
Attempts to reach Duffy and Steele were unsuccessful.
A message left for Duffy, a Chicago attorney who is representing Prenda in a defamation suit in the Northern District of Illinois, was not immediately returned and several calls made to the number Steele, a former Chicago attorney who now lives in Florida, listed in recent court filings resulted in an automated message that said “We could not complete your call. Please try again.”
Hansmeier, who continues to practice in Minnesota, said “no comment” when reached by phone today.
According to other published media reports, Hansmeier helped start Class Justice, an advocacy organization in Minneapolis. The group’s website states it works to promote “accessibility for all people, consumer rights, and class action fairness.
A media report from November details a lawsuit alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) the group filed in October on behalf of a visually impaired woman who later said she had no idea her name was being as a plaintiff.
The woman was cited in the report as saying she thought she was helping her cousin, who asked her to evaluate websites for Class Justice, work she was told would be used to educate businesses about money they are losing by not making their sites ADA accessible.
Wright’s May order appears to mark the first of about a handful of orders imposing sanctions and fees on Prenda and some of its attorneys.
In Ingenuity 13 LLC v. John Doe, Wright doubled an award of attorneys’ fees and costs for defense lawyers to $81,319.72. After missing the deadline, he ordered Prenda, its affiliated attorneys and clients to pay an extra $1,000 per day, per person or entity.
California attorney Morgan Pietz, who represents some of the defendants in this case, previously said the sanctions eventually reached about $237,000 and after “after a bit of kicking and screaming,” they were ultimately paid.
Wright’s order is now on appeal before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The briefing schedule is underway and records show the court last month extended a deadline, giving the sanctioned parties until March 17 to file an optional reply brief.
Another sanctions order Prenda has appealed is now in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, where Hansmeier filed an opening brief last month on behalf of himself, Duffy and Steele.
This appeal is over since-retired U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy’s November order in Lightspeed Media Corp. v Anthony Smith, et al., requiring the trio to pay $261,025 in fees to the defendants in the southern Illinois computer hacking case.
The defendants in this case – Anthony Smith, AT&T and Comcast, as well as an unnamed representative from each of the ISPs — have until Feb. 26 to submit their brief to the Seventh Circuit.
In an argument over personal responsibility included in their opening brief, it appears the Prenda-affiliated attorneys try to pass off the blame to Belleville, Ill. attorney Kevin Hoerner, who they say filed the amended complaint in the case while serving as co-counsel, not local counsel.
Hoerner, who is not subject to the sanctions order, did not return a message seeking comment.
He is also mentioned in, but again not subject to, another recent order sanctioning Prenda and Duffy inPrenda Law v. Godfread, et al.
Earlier this month, U.S. Judge John Darrah of Chicago’s federal court granted a request for sanctions from Minnesota attorney Paul Godfread and his client, Alan Cooper, who are defendants in the consolidated defamation suit Prenda and Duffy brought last year.
In his order, Darrah called out Prenda and Duffy for lying and engaging in duplicitous behavior regarding remand motions filed in southern Illinois’ federal court and before him, as well as for “grasping at straws” in their unsuccessful arguments against sanctions.
He also mentioned alleged misrepresentations that Hoerner made prior to the case’s removal to federal court that attempted to get an amended complaint filed in the St. Clair County Circuit Clerk’s office without permission from the court.
The amended complaint named Alpha Law Firm in Minnesota as a plaintiff, an addition that would have destroyed the defendants’ diversity argument and potentially allowed the plaintiffs to remand the suit to circuit court.
The defendants’ attorneys, Erin Russell of Chicago and Sweet of Massachusetts, filed an itemization of fees last week, asking Darrah to make Prenda and Duffy pay them at least $26,452.50 for the 60-plus hours they spent working on the sanctions motion, as well as fighting Prenda’s remand requests.
Darrah has not yet attached a dollar figure to his sanctions order as Duffy and Prenda have until Feb. 20 to submit a response to the defendants’ itemization of requested fees.
Given the firm’s track record of appealing sanctions order, it would not be unlikely that Prenda and Duffy appeal this one to the Seventh Circuit.
Besides these three sanctions order, it also appears that federal judges in California have ordered Prenda-affiliates to pay nearly $10,000 attorneys’ fees in AF Holdings v. David Trinh and about $22,000 in AF Holdings v. Joe Navasca.
And last year, records show a state judge in Minnesota ordered plaintiff Guava LLC, its attorney Michael Dugas, and Alpha Law to pay more than $63,000 in attorneys’ fees in Guava LLC v. Spencer Merkel.
Court records show Dugas also represents Prenda-client AF Holdings in Minnesota’s federal court, where he sought to withdraw as counsel in the case last year.
An August 2013 order denying his request states his withdrawal would delay the progress of the case and noted he signed the complaint that allegedly forged documents were attached to. Records show he continues to represent AF Holdings, along with Hansmeier, in that suit.
Dugas did not return a message.
Although his request to withdraw didn’t appear to include a reason, he isn’t the only attorney involved in Prenda litigation who has tried to get out.
In an August 2013 motion seeking to withdraw as counsel in AF Holdings v. Sandipan Chowdhury,attorney Daniel Ruggiero told a Massachusetts federal court that “there are several things that have come to light regarding plaintiff and its related owners, officers and lawyers since counsel agreed to file and represent plaintiff in this case.”
“For the sake of brevity,” Ruggiero directed the court to read Wright’s sanctions order and added that “under the circumstances here, I believe the Rules of Professional Conduct are highly relevant here.”
He then cited rules stating that a lawyer should not represent a client or should withdraw as counsel if “the representation will result in violation of the rules of professional conduct or other law” and “the client has used the lawyer’s services to perpetrate a crime or fraud.”
Pointing to Wright’s findings, Ruggiero wrote in his withdrawal request that “it is clear that continued representation of” AF Holdings puts him at “a compromised risk.”
In addition, Gibbs, the San Francisco attorney who was sanctioned in the Ingenuity case in California, testified in March that he eventually left his position as of counsel to Prenda and the now-dissolved Steele Hansmeier firm in Chicago.
He told Wright that anything that may have been improper in these cases was done under the direction of his superiors and in response to a question from the judge over whether he felt like he was duped by Steele and Hansmeier, Gibbs said, “In a way, yes.”
Power of FOIA every meeting of public officials or state actors that posted or a special is all good to ask for info.
January 20, 2014 § Leave a comment
Aldermen’s texts, tweets during council meetings are ‘public records’
Put your phone down as soon as the meeting starts, a lawyer for local officials counsels his clients in the wake of City of Champaign v. Lisa Madigan.
In a decision that bolsters the strength and lengthens the reach of Illinois’ sunshine laws, an appellate court ruled that messages sent by aldermen on their personal electronic devices during a council meeting are “public records” and are subject to disclosure if they pertain to public business.
In City of Champaign v. Lisa Madigan, 2013 IL App (4th) 120662, a unanimous panel of the fourth district appellate court held that a municipality is required to disclose electronic communications between aldermen during a city council meeting if those texts, tweets, or e-mails were about city business, even if the communications were created on, sent by, or stored in the aldermen’s private phones or computers.
“To hold otherwise would allow members of a public body, convened as a public body, to subvert the Open Meetings Act and [Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)] requirements simply by communicating about city business during a city council meeting on a personal electronic device,” Justice M. Carol Pope wrote for the appellate panel.
Public business on private devices
The case began when a reporter from The News-Gazette attended a public meeting of the Champaign City Council and noticed some aldermen using their personal cell phones and other electronic devices to send messages during the meeting. Curious about the contents of those messages, the reporter submitted a FOIA request to the city, seeking copies of: “All electronic communications, including cellphone text messages, sent and received by members of the city council and the mayor during the city council meetings…. Please note that this request applies both to city-issued and personal cellphones, city-issued or personal email addresses, and Twitter accounts.”
The city conceded that “there were electronic communications [that] would be responsive to [the reporter’s] request if they were required to be produced,” but the FOIA officer refused to produce any such documents, claiming instead that they did not meet FOIA’s definition of “public records” and that the individual members of the city council did not meet the definition of a “public body.”
The appellate court, however, disagreed. The court noted that section 2(c) of FOIA defines “public record” as documents “pertaining to the transaction of public business, regardless of physical form or characteristics, having been prepared by or for, or having been or being used by, received by, in the possession of, or under the control of any public body.”
The court further held that “public business” is an element of a public record, and public business can be easily summed up as “business or community interests as opposed to private affairs.”
Since the city had acknowledged that at least some of the requested records pertained to public business, and since the reporter conceded he was not seeking disclosure of any private affairs, the court was left with the issue of whether the individual aldermen constituted a “public body,” and whether the records created and stored on their personal devices were “in the possession of, or under the control of any public body.”
After analyzing prior appellate decisions, the fourth district held that an individual alderman is not a “public body” while acting alone, but is an integral component of a public body while acting in unison in the midst of a meeting of the entire board or council.
“Under this interpretation, a message from a constituent ‘pertaining to the transaction of public business’ received at home by an individual city council member on his personal electronic device would not be subject to FOIA,” the court explained. “However, that communication would be subject to FOIA if it was forwarded to enough members of the city council to constitute a quorum for that specific body, regardless of whether a personal electronic device, as opposed to a publicly issued electronic device, was used.”
Similarly, if the communications were created in the midst of a council meeting, or a meeting of any other public body, such communications would be subject to FOIA because the individual members were, at that time, acting together as the public body. When the individual members are acting as a public body, the court held that all records stored on their personal electronic devices are, as a matter of law, in the possession and control of the public body and must be disclosed if the records pertain to public business.
“For the reasons stated, communications ‘pertaining to public business’ and sent to and from individual city council member’s personal electronic devices during the time city council meetings (and study sessions) were convened should be turned over to the City’s FOIA officer for review of what information, if any, should be…provided to [the FOIA requester].”
A duty to store personal texts, emails?
This holding appears to place a duty on elected officials to provide copies to the head of the public body (or its FOIA officer) of all documents stored on their personal computers and phones that are related to public business and that were either created during a meeting of the public body, or that were distributed to at least a quorum of its members.
However, Bollingbrook-based local-government attorney John M. O’Driscoll, a partner with Tressler LLP, said the Champaign decision raises more questions than it answers, and all governmental bodies throughout the state should take a close look at their local practices and ordinances to make sure they are complying with the sunshine laws without also putting themselves at risk of having to disclose communications they intended to remain private.
“Everybody understands and appreciates the need for transparency in government, but trying to implement that in a fair and reasonable way is a difficult thing to do, especially with advancements in technology,” O’Driscoll said. “With my [village] trustees, I tell them to put their phone down and don’t touch it as soon as the meeting starts – it’s not worth the aggravation. But that can be a problem sometimes, because people are addicted to these devices.”
O’Driscoll said responding to FOIA requests that involve electronic communications has become “no easy task,” and the Champaign decision is only one step towards providing FOIA officers with the information they need to properly perform their duties. There will be future court decisions, O’Driscoll said, dealing with specific scenarios on a case-by-case basis.
“For example, consider a message that was sent before the meeting started but had an attachment that slowed the delivery until after the meeting started. How would that be treated?” he said.
The Champaign court didn’t have all the answers, but it did provide some advice for elected officials that echoes what O’Driscoll has been telling his governmental clients.
“We would encourage local municipalities to consider promulgating their own rules prohibiting city council members from using their personal electronic devices during city council meetings,” the court said.
Adam W. Lasker <firstname.lastname@example.org> is a lawyer in the Chicago office of Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Bush, DiCanni & Krafthefer.
December 2013 Lawpulse
The appearance of cannon violations .How long do we let these people that are public servants commit unethical and statutory fraud get away with it and the people they screwed over just suffer?
January 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
Embattled Family Court judge seeks re-election
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
A criminal indictment, a suspension and a finding that he committed professional misconduct did not stop embattled Family Court Judge Steven Jones from filing for re-election Tuesday.
Jones threw his hat into a ring with four challengers, even though his popularity has declined sharply in recent months because of a string of scandals.
Four lawyers — Rebecca Burton, Lynn Hughes, Michelle Mercer and Marsha Kimble-Simms — all have filed to run for his Family Court seat.
Jones was first elected to the bench in 1992.
“The guy’s got a lot of nerve,” said longtime child advocate Donna Coleman. “There is something to be said that there is no bad publicity.”
Coleman said Jones would not be in a position to run for re-election if the state appointed judges rather than elected them.
“I don’t think he could possibly win unless he gets the lamest opponents on the planet,” Coleman said.
Coleman said she doesn’t think Jones was a bad judge. But she added, “I just think he is a bad example for anybody because of his personal decision making.”
William Dressel, president emeritus of the National Judicial College in Reno, said all of Jones’ personal troubles aren’t going to play well with the voters.
“I think the voters would be very concerned with somebody like that being up for re-election,” Dressel said. “He’s going to have a lot of trouble raising money.”
The judge’s lawyer, James J. Jimmerson, could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Last month, the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline found that special prosecutors proved “by clear and convincing evidence” eight of the 12 charges filed against Jones in December 2012 stemming from his romantic relationship with the late former Deputy District Attorney Lisa Willardson.
Jones, who is under a federal fraud indictment, discovered Willardson’s body in the bathroom of her Henderson home on Dec. 26, the same day the commission’s decision was first made public in a Las Vegas Review-Journal story. There were no signs of foul play, and the coroner is waiting for toxicology results before ruling on the cause of her death.
The commission’s special prosecutors had accused Jones of violating rules of the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct that require judges to comply with the law, avoid the appearance of impropriety and conduct themselves in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.
He faces a Jan. 27 public hearing before the commission on a wide range of possible sanctions including another suspension and removal from the bench.
Special prosecutors proved all three counts were tied directly to the judge’s relationship with Willardson, which began in 2011, the commission ruled.
Two of the counts alleged Jones improperly maintained a “close social and personal relationship” with Willardson between October and December 2011 while she “actively litigated cases” before him and then did not disqualify himself from her cases.
The other count accused Jones of interfering with the efforts of then District Attorney David Roger to remove Willardson from a child welfare unit that prosecuted cases in the judge’s courtroom.
The commission also found that prosecutors presented strong evidence to sustain three counts accusing Jones of using his judicial office to help Willardson prepare a response to a State Bar of Nevada complaint against her stemming from their romantic relationship.
Jones was suspended by the commission after his November 2012 federal indictment. He has been receiving his $200,000 annual salary since then.
The indictment alleges Jones used the power of his Family Court office to carry out a $3 million investment fraud scheme with five other defendants between 2002 and 2012. His trial is in March.
The commission has been investigating similar financial fraud allegations against Jones, but that case, which dates to 2006, is tied up at the Nevada Supreme Court.
Jones traditionally has received high marks in the biannual Judicial Performance Evaluation sponsored by the Review-Journal.
In the 2011 survey, 70 percent of the lawyers who rated Jones said he should keep his position. But in the just-released 2013 evaluation, his popularity took a nosedive.
Only 30 percent of the respondents thought he should be retained. That was the lowest score of the 90 judges evaluated in the various local courts.
Contact reporter Jeff German at email@example.com or 702-380-8135. Follow him on Twitter @JGermanRJ.