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Illinois Bar Journal

Is It Time to Define ‘Beyond a Reasonable Doubt’?

Posted on July 17, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Illinois is one of only 10 states that do not define "reasonable doubt" for juries.

Illinois courts have a well-established precedent to refrain from defining for juries what "beyond a reasonable doubt" means. The principle also is baked into the Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions-Criminal, which informs trial courts to not provide a definition instruction, stating: "reasonable doubt is a term which needs no elaboration and we have so frequently discussed the futility of attempting to define it that we might expect the practice to be discontinued." 

Sued for the Policy That Wasn’t: Section 1983 after Glisson

Posted on July 9, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Leaders of an organization discuss a proposed policy at a meeting, but ultimately decide against it. Later, an incident occurs that may have been prevented had that policy been put in place and the organization is sued for dismissing the proposed policy. An article in July’s Illinois Bar Journal discusses the implications of Glisson v. Indiana Department of Corrections, which held that a municipality and private contractors may be liable for failing to adopt a policy that was considered, but not implemented. The Glisson case may have a profound impact on Section 1983 actions.

The Algorithm Behind the Curtain

Posted on July 2, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Computer algorithms guide and propel decisions we make every day, from the shows we choose on Netflix to the purchases we make on Amazon. Algorithms also operate behind the scenes of our professional lives. Susan Nevelow Mart, director of the University of Colorado Law School library, recently published a study (see that compared how six legal search platforms reacted to identical keyword queries. She and her team looked at the first 10 cases retrieved by Westlaw, Lexis Advance, Fastcase, Casetext, Ravel Law, and Google Scholar. She found, on average, that each platform listed four cases that did not appear within the first 10 results of any of the other platform’s top10 results.

Illinois Bar Journal Printing Error

Posted on July 2, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Some copies of the July edition of the Illinois Bar Journal were incorrectly stapled at the printers, resulting in pages being out of order. The ISBA apologizes for this inconvenience. The printers will resend the journal in its correct form to members beginning Thursday, July 5. Meanwhile, the Illinois Bar Journal is available online.  

Think Twice Before Responding to Negative Online Reviews

Posted on June 25, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

More than nine out of every 10 consumers use reviews to make decisions. Nearly as many trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Regarding the legal profession, of the 58 million people who sought a lawyer in 2012, more than 75 percent used online resources in their search.

Good online reviews can be a great thing for your firm; they essentially translate into cheap and effective advertising. But what happens when a negative review of your services lands online? How do you react? Should you react at all? 

The Folly of Overemphasizing Emphasis

Posted on June 18, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Justice Michael B. Hyman of the Illinois Appellate Court – and one of the Illinois Bar Journal’s regular columnists – has had enough of bold, underlined, italicized, and ALL-CAPPED words and phrases. Don’t even get him started on redundant exclamation points!!! 

We all may agree that such stylizations are all too common in our emails, texts, and social media posts. But Justice Hyman says such bad habits are making their way into legal documents meant to sway his opinion. In his June "Judging Your Writing" column, the justice – in no uncertain terms – says this isn’t a good idea. 

Depositions Under Illinois Law: The Federal Example

Posted on May 30, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Yes, you can depose a corporation. While Illinois courts have said little about obtaining deposition testimony from representatives of a corporation, several federal decisions are instructive. Corporations can designate a person to speak as the corporation — and not only regarding facts. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b) also extends testifying to subjective beliefs and opinions. 

Corporate designees may be held to a high standard when speaking on behalf of a corporation. Answers such as “I don’t know” may not only bind the corporation to the deponent’s ignorance but may also result in sanctions for failing to produce a witness with responsive knowledge. This places a burden on corporations to ensure individuals speaking on their behalf are adequately prepared. 

Sleuthing the ‘Net

Posted on May 25, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Investigative avenues have opened up considerably in the past quarter-century thanks to the internet and, more recently, social media. 

Half of all divorce cases use evidence obtained from social media, according to a study conducted three years ago by the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers. The internet and social media platforms contain a treasure trove of invaluable personal information that investigators and attorneys can use to disqualify jurors, confirm or question alibis, validate or disprove workers’ compensation claims, and generally smoke out the truth.

But getting a hold of this information depends not only on your knowledge of free and paid online resources, but also the creativity and thoroughness of your search strategies.  

Chicago ‘O’Keefe’ Firms Settle Naming Dispute

Posted on May 2, 2018 by Mark S. Mathewson

Two Chicago-based law firms recently settled an unusual trademark dispute. The firms have a name in common — O'Keefe. O'Keefe Lyons & Hynes, LLC ("OLH") filed a complaint against O'Keefe Law Firm, LTD ("OLF") in the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on July 21, 2017. The complaint alleged that OLF was violating OLH's federal and state trademark rights, in addition to violating federal and state unfair competition laws.

Grants Help Circuit Courts Serve Pro Se Litigants

Posted on April 26, 2018 by Mark S. Mathewson

As more and more litigants choose to represent themselves, Illinois courts continue their effort to adapt to this "new normal" (see the October 2017 IBJ cover story.) One such adaptation is a program launched by the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice late last year that gives grants to 13 judicial circuits to help them better serve pro se litigants and manage their impact on the justice system.