Lawsuits against state can be filed in only two counties under measure signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday signed into law a measure that requires lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of executive orders or state laws to be filed in either Cook or Sangamon county.

The Democratic-controlled state legislature passed the bill along party lines last month. Democrats who supported the legislation said it was necessary to prevent people with a grievance against the state from selecting the county in which to file a lawsuit based on where they think they can get a favorable ruling.

Supporters also said the measure will conserve resources for the attorney general’s office, which represents the state in court. Sangamon County is home to the state capital, Springfield, while Chicago in Cook County is a second base for state government.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, lawsuits have been filed in multiple counties challenging Pritzker’s executive orders related to the pandemic as well as recently enacted state laws abolishing cash bail and banning certain high-powered semi-automatic firearms and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

“One attorney was charging people $200 to have their names added as plaintiffs to (a gun ban) lawsuit,” Democratic state Rep. Jay Hoffman said last month in reference to the numerous lawsuits filed by unsuccessful Republican attorney general candidate Thomas DeVore.

Republicans called the measure a power grab by the Democratic majority. Senate Republican Leader John Curran of Downers Grove said in a statement on Tuesday it “is clearly an attempt by the governor and the attorney general to send constitutional challenges to courts that they believe will be more favorable to the Administration.”

“In doing so, they are discrediting judges in suburban and downstate Illinois, and creating geographic barriers to citizens accessing our court system,” Curran said.

State Rep. Dan Caulkins of Decatur, who has sued the state over the sweeping gun ban signed into law in January, voiced similar objections during the floor debate on the bill last month.

“They pass unconstitutional laws to make law-abiding citizens criminals, and then they make those same citizens travel hundreds of miles to a kangaroo court that they control,” Caulkins said of Democrats. “Tyrants are always the same, whether kings or lawless Chicago politicians.”

Hoffman, who is from Swansea, a town in the Metro East area outside St. Louis, noted during the debate that the Circuit Court in Sangamon County is dominated by Republican judges.

The new measure takes effect immediately.