SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — On Tuesday, Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill into law that would limit lawsuits challenging the state constitution to be brought only in either Cook or Sangamon Counties.
The amendment to House Bill 3062 makes the counties that are home to Springfield and Chicago the only places that the state government will hear arguments that it violated the constitution after two high-profile cases — a challenge to Illinois’ no-cash bail law and its semi-automatic gun ban — were filed in Kankakee County and Macon County.
Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said his bill was intended to stop favorable “venue shopping” for lawsuits and would still allow individuals to bring cases against the state in local courts, but not cases that seek to overturn state law.
Sen. Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) told The Center Square that the law would tilt those cases in favor of the state, since Cook and Sangamon counties are heavily Democrat.
“And it’s time that you start showing some respect to the people of Illinois,” Plummer said. “Quit limiting their rights, quit taking their rights away, and frankly when you take their rights away, at least give them the decency and the respect to allow their concerns about their rights being taken away be heard in a local courthouse.”
“They all eventually end up in the (Illinois) Supreme Court,” Harmon said. “Which, by the way, sits in Sangamon County and Cook County.”
“One lawyer was charging people $200 just to have their name added as plaintiffs to the lawsuit,” said Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea), referencing several COVID-19 lawsuits brought by Attorney Thomas DeVore on behalf of small businesses that were shut down by the governor’s executive orders. DeVore, who is based out of Bond County, also was the lead attorney in challenging the semi-automatic weapons ban in Effingham County.
Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis), echoed Plummer’s sentiment, saying, “You know, where I live, I’m closer to the state capitol of Tennessee than I am Illinois, and I’m almost as close to Atlanta, Georgia, as I am Chicago, Illinois,” he said. “So to say if this body passes an unconstitutional law, in order for me or another person in my community to contest that law, I’ve got to travel a great distance and bear that expense that comes with that, is not fair to the individuals in these communities.”
The law takes effect immediately.