CNI: Illinois Supreme Court Asked to Review Law Limiting Venues in Constitutional Challenges

By Benjamin Cox on March 19, 2024 at 12:31pm

The Madison County Courthouse is pictured in Edwardsville. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Beth Hundsdorfer)

The Illinois Supreme Court is being asked to decide on the constitutionality of a state law that says constitutional challenges to state laws and actions can only be filed in Cook or Sangamon counties.

Capitol News Illinois reports Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office on Monday filed an appeal directly to the Supreme Court after a Madison County judge last week ruled that the law violated the due process rights of one plaintiff in a lawsuit in that jurisdiction.

Last year, the General Assembly passed a bill with just Democratic support that would limit constitutional challenges to just those two counties after suits were filed in multiple jurisdictions challenging Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Covid-19 mitigation executive orders, as well as challenges to the SAFE-T Act and the assault weapons ban.

Democrats accused the plaintiffs in those suits of “forum shopping” in order to have their cases heard by judges friendly to their cause. The attorney general’s office complained that its resources were being stretched thin by having to defend those cases in courthouses scattered throughout the state.

In a March 4 ruling, however, Madison County Circuit Judge Ronald J. Foster said the new law imposed even more of a burden on a plaintiff bringing a suit against the Firearm Industry Responsibility Act, which subjects gun dealers and manufacturers to civil penalties for violations of the state’s consumer protection laws.

Just days after that law took effect, Piasa Armory LLC, a gun store in Alton, filed suit in Madison County challenging its constitutionality. The state then sought to move the case to either Sangamon or Cook County, but the gun store objected and argued that the law limiting where such cases could be filed should be overturned.

In his decision, Foster wrote the law was unconstitutional as it applied to Piasa Armory because moving the case to either Sangamon or Cook County would severely inconvenience the plaintiff. And even if the court proceedings were conducted remotely via Zoom or any other videoconferencing platform, he said, they could just as easily be conducted in Madison County as Sangamon or Cook County.

As of Monday afternoon, the Supreme Court had not yet issued a schedule for hearing the case.