Multiple Prayer for Leave to Appeal (PLA) briefs were filed yesterday with the Illinois Supreme Court stemming from the scandals exposed at the College of DuPage. The PLAs come after the Circuit Court denied motions to dismiss these cases under the Citizen Participation Act and the Appellate Court's minute order denying (without briefing or argument) the Petition for Leave to Appeal.
The Edgar County Watchdogs, Kirk Allen, Adam Andrezejewski, and Clair Ball filed their PLA briefs of which below are a few of the key points from the briefs.
- Pursuant to Rule 315(a), the questions presented involve important First Amendment considerations—namely, whether journalists may report on politicians engaging in favorable transactions with their friends, and label this behavior as “pay to play”, without having to prove that the subject politicians were engaged in criminal behavior.
- Pursuant to Rule 315(a), the circuit court’s erroneous holding—that “in Illinois…saying ‘pay to play’… [is] implying criminal conduct” (R. C00403 at110:11-19)—severely misinterpreted Illinois law on “innocent construction”. Review is essential because the law on “innocent construction” necessarily implicates important considerations of First Amendment jurisprudence.
- Pursuant to Rule 315(a), a conflict exists between the decisions rendered below regarding “innocent construction” and a long line of cases holding the opposite, as set forth herein. In effect, the courts’ rulings below erroneously rendered the phrase “pay to play” off-limits for use by journalists. Moreover, the trial court’s invocation of Illinois’ long history of political corruption as a rationale to forbid the use of the phrase “pay to play” is illogical, as the fact-based use of that term by journalists and others may expose further corruption.
- Pursuant to Rule 315(a), a conflict exists between the decision rendered below and McDonnell v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2355 (2016) which confirms that, irrespective of its unsavory nature, “pay to play” in American politics is not always illegal, and therefore, the term cannot serve as the basis for a defamation
- Pursuant to Rule 315(a), there is a need for the Supreme Court to exercise its supervisory authority, because the Second District issued a merits-based affirmance of the trial court’s denial of the Watchdogs’ CPA motion, without briefing, argument or apparent analysis.
- Pursuant to Rule 315(a), there is a need for the Supreme Court to exercise its supervisory authority, because, respectfully, the decisions of the trial and appellate courts have failed to give due consideration to the Illinois legislature’s determination that “the constitutional rights of citizens and organizations to be involved and participate freely in the process of government must be encouraged and safeguarded with great diligence.”
- Pursuant to Rule 315(a), the judgment sought to be reviewed is expressly contemplated as an enumerated basis for an interlocutory appeal.
- Pursuant to Rule 315(a), there is conflict of law between Stein v. Krislov, 2013 IL App (1st) 113806, ¶ 19 (a lawsuit filed just before the expiration of the statute of limitations is evidence of a plaintiff’s retaliatory intent) and Goral v. Kulys, 2014 IL App (1st) 133236, ¶ 55 (“[t]he relatively close proximity between the posting of defendant’s articles and plaintiff's suit suggests that it was retaliatory”)
- More specifically, by maintaining an artificial distinction between “actually true” statements and substantially true statements, the Circuit Court here and the Appellate Courts have turned the First Amendment on its head, placing a burden on CPA movants in conflict with the standards laid out in this Court’s seminal decision in Troman v. Wood and the United States Supreme Court’s defamation jurisprudence in Gertz and Hepps.
All three briefs can be downloaded or viewed below.