Harmon bill ending ‘venue shopping’ for constitutional challenges passes Senate


Thomas DeVore, right, arrives to represent Tyson Skinner and his wife, Marcie Skinner, in Sangamon County Circuit Court at the Sangamon County Complex in Springfield on Sept. 3, 2021. Through House Bill 3062, constitutional challenge lawsuits would have to be heard either in Sangamon or Cook County.

There was a constitutional challenge to the SAFE-T Act heard in Kankakee County and several lawsuits against the state’s passage of its assault weapons ban heard in Macon and Effingham counties.

Opponents to this judicial process call this forum or venue shopping, where lawyers seek out parts of the state they think can grant favorable judgements. Through a bill passing in the Senate on Friday, Democrats think they have a way to reduce this practice.

Senate President Don Harmon introduced an amendment to House Bill 3062 earlier this week, which sets courtrooms in Sangamon and Cook counties as the only locations where actions alleging constitutional violation brought-on by legislation or executive orders can be heard.

Harmon, along with Gov. JB Pritzker, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, have often been at the center of recent constitutional challenge lawsuits. The bill passed on a 37-16 vote and now returns to the House for a concurrence vote as part of next week’s extended session.

Continued legislative action:Not done yet: General Assembly continues past scheduled adjournment

“These cases are all going to end up in Springfield or Chicago,” he said during floor debate Friday evening, referring to the Illinois Supreme Court’s presence in both cities. “It’s our judgment that it is best to simply, streamline that process and make sure these cases are all heard in an organized fashion.”

‘Affront to democracy’

Spirited debate led by Senate Republicans claimed the bill would be unfair to many downstate communities due to the extended travel time needed to make it to these courtrooms.

Democrats’ claim that the bill stops venue shopping was not true said Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville.

“The reality is we’re trying to legislate venue shopping because certain constitutional officers in the state, frankly, are having a lot of their decisions challenged by the people that they’re supposed to serve,” he said, later calling the legislation an “affront to democracy.”

Republican Caucus Whip Sen. Sally Turner of Beason asked if whether the bill would place more pressure on the Fourth District Appellate Court in Springfield in terms of an increased workload. Harmon noted that a number of these constitutional challenges are already consolidated in Sangamon County, so an increase in justices or staff would not be likely.

Unsuccessful Attorney General candidate Thomas DeVore did so last year in Sangamon County Circuit Court with challenges to the state’s COVID-19 policy requiring masks and schools.

The House could take-up concurrence action on HB 3062 as early as Wednesday.

Contact Patrick Keck: 312-549-9340, pkeck@gannett.com, twitter.com/@pkeckreporter.

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May 20, 2023 at 11:51AM

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