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Practice News

The new, improved Illinois Freedom of Information Act

Posted on August 28, 2009 by Mark S. Mathewson
In the latest ISBA Corporate Lawyer, Frank Grenard nicely summarizes the much ballyhooed beefing-up of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. The changes take effect January 1. As Frank notes, excuses for noncompliance will be harder to come by. "[T]he Act provides that irrespective of added cost to comply and technological advances, public records 'shall' be made available upon request except when denial of access furthers the public policy underlying 'a specific exception.'” And the new process will be more requester friendly, he reports. "The Act will prohibit public agencies from requiring the use of individualized FOIA forms, nor can the public agency require the requester to disclose the purpose for the request." Read all about these and other elements of the new FOIA law.

Red-Flag Rule suit filed

Posted on August 27, 2009 by James R. Covington
The American Bar Association filed suit today asking the federal courts to bar the Federal Trade Commission from enforcing its “Red-Flag Rule” against practicing lawyers that is to take effect Nov. 1, 2009. The FTC established the Red-Flag Rule to require certain “creditors” to develop and implement written programs to identify, detect, and respond to the warning signs (“red flags”) of identity theft. The FTC plans to apply this Rule to lawyers and other service providers such as doctors, dentists, and accountants. The ABA and other associations do not believe that these groups engage in the kind of commercial activity that was intended to lump them in with creditors as intended by this Congress. The ABA complaint, filed in the District Court in the District of Columbia, may be viewed at this link:

Immediate effective dates

Posted on August 26, 2009 by James R. Covington
Generally, immediate effective dates are a nightmare for those who must enforce, administer, or implement a new law. Three recent public acts with immediate effective dates amend the Residential Real Property Disclosure Act, the Health Care Surrogate Act, and the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity Form. This is a short summary of all three. Residential Real Property Disclosure Act. Public Act 96-232 (Smith, D-Canton; Sullivan, D-Rushville) requires the seller to disclose whether the property has been used for the manufacture of methamphetamine. Effective Aug. 11, 2009. Health Care Surrogate Act. Public Act 96-492 (Wilhelmi, D-Joliet; Ryg, D-Vernon Hills) does two things. (1) Requires that a health-care facility permanently maintain any advance directive of a patient or authorized person. (2) Authorizes a surrogate to make decisions for the patient until removed by the patient who regains decisional capacity, a guardian of the person is appointed, or the patient dies. Effective Aug. 14, 2009. Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity Form. Public Act 96-333 (Martinez, D-Chicago; Mell, D-Chicago) does three things. (1) The voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form prepared by Health and Family Services must be the same form in child-support collection or under the Vital Records Act. This form must inform the mother and putative father that they have the right to request DNA tests for paternity, and if they sign this form that they waive this right. This part of the form must be in boldface capitals and letters not less than 0.25 inches tall.

Loan-forgiveness program for public lawyers

Posted on August 25, 2009 by James R. Covington
Public Act 96-615 (Schoenberg, D-Evanston; Hoffman, D-Collinsville) creates the Public Interest Assistance Act to reimburse public-interest attorneys for debt incurred for attending undergraduate and law school. “Public-assistance attorneys” includes assistant state's attorneys, assistant public defenders, assistant attorney generals, assistant public guardians, and legal-aid providers. Loan repayment may be up to $6,000 per year to a maximum of $30,000 for the attorney's career. These bills simply create the program, and the General Assembly must appropriate funds to implement later. Effective January 1, 2010. Click here to read the full legislation.

Ungaretti & Harris launch gaming practice

Posted on August 24, 2009 by Chris Bonjean
Ungaretti & Harris LLP announced today that Litigation Partner Michael A. Ficaro has been named Chair of the firm's expanding Gaming Practice. Illinois lawmakers recently passed legislation legalizing video lottery in the state. "This new gaming industry will distribute up to 45,000 electronic devices in bars, restaurants, and fraternal and charitable locations. That means 9,000 new licensees, plus manufacturers, distributors, and terminal operators who will all need legal counsel," said Mr. Ficaro. Lawyers in the Ungaretti & Harris Gaming Practice will work in conjunction with its Sports and Entertainment and Government groups in order to meet the needs of this rapidly expanding industry. Mr. Ficaro is a member of the International Masters of Gaming Law and serves on the Board of Governors of the International Society of Barristers. Among his many distinctions are inclusion in: Illinois Super Lawyers every year since 2005 when he was named in the Top 100 of Illinois Super Lawyers for Litigation; Best Lawyers in America for Gaming Law (2006-2010); Gaming's Legal Eagles: A Guide to the World's Pre-eminent Gaming Attorneys; Leading Lawyers Network for Commercial Litigation, Criminal Defense, White Collar Defense, Gaming (2004-2009). Mr. Ficaro was formerly the First Assistant Attorney General of Illinois and the Chief of Criminal Division of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office.

20 candidates chosen for 10 Cook County judge spots

Posted on August 20, 2009 by Chris Bonjean
Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans and the Nominating Committee today announced the names of the 20 candidates chose to appear on the ballot from which the circuit judges will select 10 new associate judges. Chief Judge Evans noted that the Nominating Committee interviewed 261 applicants over a five-week period and that the selection of the 20 candidates was unanimous. A total of 278 attorneys originally submitted applications for consideration - 19 of those later withdrew. At the request of Chief Judge Evans, all applicants were evaluated by the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening (including the ISBA) and the Chicago Bar Association. Each bar association issued its own ratings for individual associate judge applicants. The list of 20 candidates:
  • Carmen Kathleen Aguilar
  • Thomas M. Battista
  • Clarence Lewis Burch
  • Theresa Christine Ceko
  • LaGuina Clay-Clark
  • Neil H. Cohen
  • Stephen James Connolly
  • William Edward Gomolinski
  • William Richard Jackson, Jr.
  • Demetrios George Kottaras
  • Yehuda P. Lebovits
  • Lori Gail Levin
  • Linda Johanna Pauel
  • Vicki Faye Rogers
  • Bernard Joseph Sarley
  • Regina Ann Scannicchio
  • Andrea M. Schleifer
  • Richard Denis Schwind
  • Ketki Shroff Steffen
  • Jeffrey L. Warnick
The candidates will present their credentials to the circuit judges over the next few weeks.

When law school theory meets practice

Posted on August 19, 2009 by Mark S. Mathewson
"In theory, you should never ask a question unless you already know the answer (and, presumably like that answer)," Maxine Weiss Kunz writes in the latest ISBA Young Lawyers Division newsletter. "But in application, sometimes the opposite will get the job done just as succinctly. Sometimes there is no room for theory in practice." She goes on to tell a clever and instructive tale about the time she decided to “[p]ut Mom on the stand and ask her all of the questions you would find on a completed Financial Affidavit,” thus effectively "conduct[ing] a discovery deposition during cross-examination of the defendant." No, it's not a true story. But it's "based on the stringing together of numerous true stories." Read it here.

Attorney's fees in family law cases

Posted on August 19, 2009 by James R. Covington
Public Act 96-583 was signed into law on Tuesday, August 18. It does four things affecting the award of attorney's fees in family law cases: (1) limits the presumption in favor of summary hearings to prejudgment cases, (2) tolls the deadline for filing a final petition for fees in some instances and permits a stipulated deferral of one year for such a filing, (3) eliminates the requirement that the attorney must file billing statements in court if he or she is seeking a consent judgment, (4) and expands the applicability for fee awards for hearings that are prompted by improper purposes. Effective January 1, 2010.

Four must-have tech tools for solos

Posted on August 17, 2009 by Mark S. Mathewson
Naperville lawyer, ISBA member, tech expert, and Solo and Small Firm Conference presenter Bryan Sims (aka The Connected Lawyer) says there are four must-have tools for sole practitioners: a smart phone, a laptop, a scanner, and a good backup system. “Unless you’re going to be tied to your office, you should have some sort of smart phone,” such as an iPhone, a BlackBerry, or a PalmPre, Sims told Helen Gunnarsson in an interview for the yet-to-be-released September Illinois Bar Journal. “You need something that will allow you to get your e-mail, look at documents, and otherwise get some work done when you’re out of the office.” As for laptops, Simms recommends buying a business class model directly from the manufacturer instead of the cheapest thing available. “If you’re using your computer for your law practice, you can’t afford to have it out of operation for a week,” he says. A scanner will help you create a paperless and a portable office. “I recommend that you keep all of your documents in .pdf format. If you want to keep the hard copy too, fine, but scan everything,” Sims says. Scanned documents are easy to manage and disseminate. Finally, you need a good backup system.

543 new public acts - 200 more to come

Posted on August 17, 2009 by James R. Covington
Governor Quinn has signed 543 new public acts into law. He will have another 200 to sign in the next 30 days. You may want to go to the General Assembly's homepage at and click on "public acts." It lists them in chronological order in the order he signs them. Some of these new public acts take effect the day he signs them and could affect your practice area.