Madison-St. Clair Record

Liberty Justice Center Sues over Law Forcing Illinoisans to Litigate Constitutional Challenges in Chicago, Springfield

September 1, 2023

(Madison-St. Clair Record)—The Liberty Justice Center is suing Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul in St. Clair County Circuit Court, challenging a state law that requires all Illinois residents to file Constitutional claims against state laws, rules, or orders in Cook or Sangamon County Circuit Courts.

House Bill 3062 was passed by the 103rd General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on June 6. The law strips circuit courts in 100 of Illinois’ 102 counties of their power to preside over constitutional challenges.Prior to the new law, any party challenging the constitutionality of a controversial law had the authority to file their cases in any of the state’s 25 judicial circuits.

“The Illinois General Assembly is not allowed to cherry-pick the courts that will hear constitutional challenges to the laws it passes and other state rules and orders,” said Liberty Justice Center lawyer Jeffery M. Schwab.

Schwab, of Chicago, filed the lawsuit on Aug. 29 on behalf of St. Clair County residents Brad Weisenstein, Dawn Elliot and Kenny Cook. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against Raoul.

Schwab alleges in the two-count complaint that the Illinois General Assembly has no constitutional authority to determine venue based on a claims’ substance.

“The Illinois General Assembly does not have the authority to limit the subject-matter jurisdiction of the circuit courts in contradiction of the Illinois Constitution,” he wrote.

He argues that House Bill 3062 deprives Illinoisans of the freedom to file constitutional challenges in their home courts and deprives circuit courts other than Cook and Sangamon County from hearing such cases. The lawsuit, therefore, discriminates against residents outside of Cook and Sangamon Counties.

Schwab adds that House Bill 3062 disenfranchises voters “by forcing them to present their constitutional claims to judges in other jurisdictions, whom they were not permitted to vote for or against.”

“Voting is a sacred right that was secured by better people than I,” plaintiff Weisenstein stated in a press release. “To say my cause or case can only be judged by someone from Springfield or Chicago – whom I never had the opportunity to vote for – is just wrong. It’s a breach of our democratic values. It denies me my voice. It cannot be allowed to stand, and I’m grateful the Liberty Justice Center is willing to take on this fight.”

Schwab wrote in the complaint that House bill 3062 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Illinois Constitution because it impacts a fundamental right for certain Illinoisans based on residency.

“The state does not have a compelling governmental interest in limiting all constitutional claims against the state to courts in Sangamon County and Cook County,” Schwab wrote. “Even if it did have a compelling interest, the government’s limitation on where plaintiffs may bring constitutional claims against it is not narrowly tailored to further that interest.”

Schwab also argues in the complaint that the plaintiffs are injured when the state uses its general revenue funds – or taxes – for unconstitutional purposes.

“Thus, plaintiffs will suffer injury if the state uses their tax money to enforce HB 3062,” he wrote.

The plaintiffs seek a court order declaring that House Bill 3062 “violates Article VI, Section 9 of the Illinois Constitution because the Illinois General Assembly does not have the constitutional authority to enact venue rules that limit the subject-matter jurisdiction of some circuit courts in favor of others.”

They also seek to permanently enjoin the attorney general from enforcing House Bill 3062, plus reasonable costs, expenses, attorney’s fees and any other relief the court deems proper.

Another challenge to House Bill 3062 is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois after it was removed from Madison County Circuit Court. Wood River attorney Thomas Maag challenges the constitutionality of the state’s Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) card statute, but he also urges the court not to comply with the new law establishing fixed jurisdiction.

Maag argues that Pirtzker and the Illinois state legislature enacted the jurisdictional law after “having been successfully sued on multiple occasions in recent years for violating the constitutional rights of citizens of Illinois, and in violation of their oaths of office.”

“This action … is brought in a venue proper under the general venue statute, but in express and intentional violation of the void and unconstitutional 735 ILCS 5/2-101.5,” Maag wrote after filing his case in Madison County on June 7.