State denies accusations of ‘forum shopping’ in Bailey lawsuit

(The Center Square) – Attorneys representing Gov. J.B. Pritzker are scheduled to appear in a Clay County Courtroom on Thursday afternoon to defend the state’s closure orders before a judge who had previously issued a scathing opinion unfavorable to the governor.

After seeking to have the case heard elsewhere, Pritzker was accused of “forum shopping” by opponents.

Here’s what that means. When a lawsuit is filed, the plaintiff gives an explanation to the court about why their venue is the most appropriate. The defendant is able to ask other courts to hear the case, arguing why that venue is a more appropriate place to hear the suit.

When state Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, challenged Pritzker’s extension of the shutdown order he had enacted in March, attorneys for the governor asked that the case be moved to a federal courtroom in East St. Louis.

Bailey’s attorneys responded.

“At the end of the day, Defendant is forum shopping,” they said. “He sought relief in the Illinois Supreme Court and was rejected there. He filed a motion to transfer Plaintiff’s Clay County, Illinois, case to Sangamon County, and the Circuit Court denied that motion. Facing a hearing on Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, Defendant then concocted a removal to this Court.”

The attorneys representing Pritzker said because Bailey had repeatedly referred to his rights under the U.S. Constitution, a federal court was the proper venue.

“Although Bailey asserts in his remand motion that his requested relief is not predicated on alleged deprivations of his constitutional rights, Bailey separately continues to contend that the Governor ‘has issued orders which control Plaintiff’s activities, travel, and association with others,’ the government wrote in a June 5 filing. “…this Court has jurisdiction to redress these alleged deprivations of constitutional rights.”

Bailey dropped the challenge after he said he had found more evidence pertinent to the case. He later re-filed in Clay County.

“He’s going to go to a place where he thinks he’s going to get a favorable judgment,” said John Pastuovic, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League. “It seems to me that Clay County is the correct venue for this case.”

Judicial reform advocates have long-criticized Illinois courts for being lax on what cases they deem appropriate to hear, creating cottage industries for popular litigation.

In one instance, Pastuovic said a brake manufacturer was sued in Madison County simply because one part the manufacturer made passed through the county on a barge on the Mississippi River.

The willingness to allow for cases, no matter how seemingly tenuous the connection to the county is, is something Pastuovic said is a deterrent for business.

“It’s been a problem here in Illinois for years,” he said. “The litigation index in Madison County is 8.255 per thousand residents, that’s double the rate of Cook County and triple the rate of St. Clair County, which is six times the rate of the other 99 counties.”

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