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Government LawyersThe newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Government Lawyers

April 2010, vol. 11, no. 3

News you can use

Modification of Federal Court’s Rules

On February 4, 2010, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois issued General Order 10-0001 which modified Local Rule 5.2. This Rule governs the form of documents filed with the Court. Most significantly, the Court now requires all documents to be double-spaced (2.0 line spacing) instead of the previous 1.5 line spacing. The Court also clarified that all paper copies delivered to judges’ chambers must comply with the requirements of L.R. 5.2 or are subject to being stricken by the Court. The changes went into effect immediately. The newly-modified L.R. 5.2 may be found on the Court’s Web site, <www.ilnd.uscourts.gov/home/>.

Court upholds admissibility of LIDAR evidence in absence of Frye hearing

In People v. Mann, case No. 2-08-1006 (2nd Dist., January 15, 2010), the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District, upheld the trial court’s decision that the State could introduce evidence resulting from the use of a Light Detection and Ranging device (LIDAR) without conducting a hearing under Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923). The court took judicial notice of judicial decisions from other jurisdictions regarding the reliability of LIDAR devices to measure the speed of a moving motor vehicle.

State civil commitment standard declared unconstitutional

In In Re Torski C., 395 Ill. App. 3d 1010 (2009), the Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District, declared Illinois’ modified civil commitment standard unconstitutional. With the passage of Public Act 95-602, effective June 1, 2008, the Illinois General Assembly lowered the threshold for involuntary commitment. In finding the revision unconstitutional, the Appellate Court held that the new standard allowed for a deprivation of liberty without a sufficiently compelling state interest.

The modified statute allowed for commitment when a person with a mental illness could be reasonably expected to deteriorate to the point that he would engage in “dangerous conduct,” defined as threatening behavior or conduct that places another individual in reasonable expectation of harm. The Appellate Court found the standard to be “impermissibly vague” in a manner that violates standards of due process, finding that the new standard would seem to allow commitment for virtually any conceivable harm, be it “psychological, emotional or financial harm, regardless of severity.”

The new commitment standard was enacted by the legislature after family members of persons with mental illness were unable to obtain help for their loved ones. Opponents of the legislation, including the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission’s Legal Advocacy Service (LAS), argued that the modified standard was unconstitutionally vague. LAS and other advocates believed that the change violated the United State’s Supreme Court’s decision in O’Connor v. Donaldson, 422 U.S. 563 (1975), which made clear that the state cannot constitutionally confine a person who is dangerous to no one and who can survive safely in freedom. In addition, opponents argued that the difficulty in obtaining help was attributable to other forces such as a lack of available services and a general misunderstanding of the previous commitment standard. The prior standard also resulted in large numbers of involuntary civil commitments and the focus on lowering the standard ignored other serious systemic problems in the Illinois mental health system.

The Legal Advocacy Service of the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission has also filed appeals in the Second and Third Appellate Districts challenging the law. ■


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