Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois

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Nelson, and her codefendants, Hall, Cox, and Ball, were tried simultaneously but in severed bench trials for the armed robbery and stabbing death of Wilson. The prosecution produced five eyewitnesses, who gave generally consistent testimony. Police had followed a blood trail to the four defendants. There was DNA evidence linking defendants to the crime. All were found guilty. The appellate court rejected Nelson's argument that she was denied her sixth amendment right to conflict-free counsel where attorneys from the same law firm represented her and codefendant Hall and that the attorneys, in making their choice of defenses, decided to forgo asserting an innocence defense in favor of pursuing a joint defense of self-defense. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, finding that Nelson had not demonstrated an actual conflict. In light of the evidence, Nelson could not show that an innocence defense based on a lack of accountability was a plausible alternative defense. View "People v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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Fee-sharing provisions in otherwise valid retainer agreements between clients and two separate law firms are not unenforceable simply because the primary service performed by one firm is the referral of the clients to the other and the agreements fail to specifically notify clients that each firm has assumed joint financial responsibility for the representation. In 2007-2010, Plaintiff, a Gurnee law firm, was retained by 10 clients for representation under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Plaintiff contracted with attorney Esposito for assistance in representing the clients before the Workers’ Compensation Commission. A letter of understanding was drafted by defendant, confirming that the cases had been referred to defendant by plaintiff, outlining the parties’ respective responsibilities regarding representation of the clients, and specifying that the attorney fees obtained in each case would be split between Plaintiff and Esposito. The agreements did not specifically notify the clients that the lawyers in each firm had assumed joint financial responsibility for the representation. Plaintiff’s breach of contract suit against Esposito was dismissed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s reversal, rejecting an argument that the agreements’ lack of an express statement that the attorneys assumed joint financial responsibility violated Rule 1.5(e) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct and thereby rendered the agreements invalid. View "Ferris, Thompson & Zweig, Ltd. v. Esposito" on Justia Law

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In 2008, defendant was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced, as a habitual criminal, to natural life imprisonment. The appellate court affirmed. In 2011, defendant, through privately retained counsel, filed a postconviction petition, claiming due process violations and ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel on multiple grounds. The trial court advanced defendant’s petition to second-stage proceedings. The state moved to dismiss, arguing that the petition was not timely filed; that defendant failed to allege the untimely filing was not due to his culpable negligence; that defendant’s substantive claims were barred by res judicata and waiver and consisted primarily of unsupported, conclusory allegations; and that none of the claims made a substantial showing of a constitutional violation. Defendant’s postconviction counsel filed a response, arguing that the petition was untimely filed because trial counsel failed to inform defendant about the appellate court’s June 3, 2009, decision. In support, defendant attached evidence that the notice of appeal was mailed to his mother, not to defendant. The court dismissed, finding that the record did not substantiate defendant’s claim that his trial counsel suborned perjury and that counsel’s decisions did not rise to the level of deprivation of a constitutional right. The court did not reference timeliness. On appeal, defendant unsuccessfully argued only that his privately retained postconviction counsel did not provide the requisite “reasonable level of assistance” during second-stage proceedings because counsel failed to contest the assertion that defendant’s petition was untimely based on culpable negligence. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, stating the reasonable level of assistance standard applies to both retained and appointed postconviction counsel and that counsel met the standard. View "People v. Cotto" on Justia Law