HB 3062 isn’t a gun control bill, at least on first glance. But the legislation, which cleared its final hurdle in the Illinois statehouse on Thursday, was very much written with gun control in mind; namely, an attempt to keep unconstitutional measures on the books and make it much more difficult to challenge them in court.
Under the bill, which is likely to be signed into law in the very near future, all lawsuits dealing with constitutional challenges to state statutes would have to be filed in either Cook County (i.e. Chicago) or Sangamon County, home to the capitol city of Springfield. During debate, the bill’s sponsor made it clear that the intent is to deny downstate judges the chance to weigh in on the constitutionality of the Democrats’ agenda, including their war on the right to keep and bear arms.
“Over the past three years, the attorney general’s office has been forced to respond to, I would say in many cases, frivolous lawsuits that have strained the office’s limited resources,” Hoffman said Thursday during floor debate. “Whether they were COVID-related restrictions, whether they were masks, whether they were vaccines, whether they were SAFE-T Acts, whether they were assault weapons bans, and the list goes on and on.”
Republicans said if the attorney general’s resources are spread too thin, the legislature shouldn’t have passed other bills allowing the office to sue the gun industry or to go after pregnancy resource centers that don’t offer abortions.
State Rep. Dan Ugaste, R-Geneva, said there are remedies if resources are stretched.
“A petition can be filed and the cases can be consolidated already in a venue of the [Illinois Supreme Court’s] choosing,” Ugaste said.
Limiting where lawsuits can be filed wouldn’t have any impact, at least in theory, on the number of legal challenges that could be brought, so Hoffman’s supposed rationale for the legislation doesn’t hold water. This isn’t about helping Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul manage his caseload. It’s about keeping constitutional cases away from downstate judges who tend to be more conservative in their judicial outlook than judges in the Democrat-controlled counties named in HB 3062.
By trying to limit those constitutional challenges, however, lawmakers are opening themselves up to a plethora of new lawsuits that will take on the new limits.
The legislation further makes clear that it would not matter how far away from Chicago or Springfield plaintiffs may live, or the difficulties involved for those attempting to press their constitutional rights claims, as the legislation states that “the doctrine of forum non conveniens does not apply” to such actions. The doctrine of forum non conveniens is a legal doctrine that ordinarily allows judges to dismiss certain lawsuits if they conclude the lawsuit has been filed in the wrong jurisdiction, or one that places too heavy of a travel burden on one of the parties.
A spokesperson for Harmon did not respond to questions from The Cook County Record concerning the need or purposes of such legislation, or why state lawmakers are refusing to allow elected judges in other parts of the state to hear constitutional questions, seemingly in venues empowered as courts of general jurisdiction under the state constitution, including in some of the state’s most populous counties.
John Fitzgerald, an attorney with the firm of Tabet DiVito & Rothstein, of Chicago, said he harbored “serious doubts” over the question of whether HB3062 could hold up in court.
Fitzgerald has been recognized as a top lawyer in Illinois, including serving as president of the Appellate Lawyers Association, a professional association of lawyers who practice before state and federal courts of appeal in Illinois, including the Illinois Supreme Court.
Fitzgerald’s practice includes a focus on constitutional and governmental litigation. He has prominently represented Illinois road construction contractors and related associations in successful lawsuits over the interpretation of Illinois’ constitutional amendment addressing transportation funding.
Fitzgerald said he believed it to be constitutionally questionable for the legislature to single out “a particular type of litigation against the State” and then tell Illinois citizens they “may file that type of lawsuit only in two of Illinois’ 102 counties.”
While state lawmakers may argue the law is intended to prevent “venue shopping,” but Fitzgerald said the state may be the one using its power to attempt to secure favorable courtrooms.
“This legislation would be on firmer ground if it applied to any litigation against the state,” Fitzgerald said. “Why should a constitutional claim and a non-constitutional claim against the same defendant be treated differently for venue purposes?
“The state may say that it has a legitimate interest in preventing forum shopping, but that interest must exist in all types of litigation, not just this one. Ultimately, this looks like forum shopping by the state, and that is not entitled to any deference.”
State Rep. Dan Caulkins, who has spearheaded one of the lawsuits taking on the state’s ban on “assault weapons” and “large capacity” magazines, compared the legislation to the Intolerable Acts imposed by Parliament and King George III on Massachusetts in the pre-Revolutionary period, and he has a point. This bill is a punitive measure meant to punish downstate residents for daring to object to the Democrats’ whims and to strip them of their ability to file these challenges in their own communities. It’s not quite at the level of suspending colonial legislatures and forbidding them to meet, but it’s not that far off either.
HB 3062 will undoubtably face lawsuits of its own once Pritzker signs it into law, and while I hope the courts will quickly undo the Democrats power grab their underlying hostility towards conservatives and their Second Amendment rights is going to continue to manifest itself in other infringements in the future. Their contempt for downstate residents and for the rule of law itself knows no bounds, and the fight to protect and secure our fundamental rights is just getting start in what used to be the Land of Lincoln.