(Chicago City Wire)—Legislation that Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, signed this week that limits challenges to his and the General Assembly’s Democratic agenda to circuit courts in Cook (Chicago) and Sangamon (Springfield) counties is in direct violation of the Illinois Constitution on at least two fronts, Jacob Huebert, president of the Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center (LJC), tells Chicago City Wire.
In an email, Huebert explained that Article VI Section 9 of the constitution gives original jurisdiction to the county’s circuit courts in all justiciable matters, with a few exceptions: when the Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction relating to redistricting of the General Assembly and to the ability of the Governor to serve or resume office.
“This new law effectively strips all circuit courts but two of jurisdiction over constitutional challenges to state laws,” Huebert said.
The law also limits challenges to executive orders; Pritzker’s repeated pandemic lockdown orders, for instance.
Huebert further noted that under the constitution, the General Assembly does have the authority to enact rules of civil procedure and that includes venue – where a lawsuit may be brought.
“Until now the rule for venue said that a lawsuit must be brought (paraphrasing) in a defendant’s county of residence, or the county in which the transaction underlying the lawsuit occurred,” he wrote. “That’s normal—it doesn’t govern what type of lawsuit a court can here but just requires plaintiffs to file their lawsuit in a county with some connection to the defendant or the underlying events.”
“This is different,” he continued, “because it’s based on a lawsuit’s subject matter and therefore, again, effectively strips all circuit courts but two of subject matter jurisdiction over state constitutional lawsuits. That’s contrary to the Illinois Constitution, which gives all the circuit courts jurisdiction over all justiciable matters.”
The new law also carves out unions in collective bargaining disputes.
“This may violate Illinois Constitution Article IV, Section 13, which prohibits ‘special legislation’–that is, as the Illinois Supreme Court has put it, ‘legislative classifications which discriminate in favor of a select group without a sound and reasonable basis.'”
Huebert said that LJC was looking into additional constitutional violations.
Of note, the cashless bail provision of the SAFE-T Act, approved last year, was rejected in early January by a Kankakee County judge. It’s now on appeal at the state Supreme Court.
LJC was behind the 2018 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Janus v. AFSCME, that freed public employees from forced union dues.