IIT Chicago-Kent Center for Open Government wants the Illinois Supreme Court to amend its appellate court rules

Letter asks justices to open Illinois' court system by posting all appellate decisions and permitting citation to "unpublished" opinions

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

IIT Chicago-Kent's Center for Open Government (COG) has asked the Illinois Supreme Court to require the website posting of all Illinois appellate decisions and to permit citation of unpublished orders and opinions issued by the Illinois courts. In a letter to the seven Illinois Supreme Court justices, dated August 20, 2010, attorney and COG founder Clint Krislov asked the court to amend Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23(e) to reflect this proposed change in policy and practice.

"The Center for Open Government believes that continuing this practice of issuing non-posted non-citeable decisions fundamentally conflicts with the view that the courts belong to the people of the state, not the litigants, and should be freely accessible to all," said Clint Krislov. "Fairness favors free and wide access to court decision documents."

Current rules in Illinois prohibit unpublished appellate orders and opinions from being cited "by any party except to support contentions of double jeopardy, res judicata, collateral estoppel or law of the case." The center's proposed amendments are designed to enhance transparency and to assist litigants and courts throughout the state in reaching the correct and appropriate result, particularly when addressing cases bearing fact patterns similar to those addressed in the unpublished opinions.

Citation of unpublished opinions has already been adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court as well as by half of the states. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court adopted new Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 32.1, which allows the citation of unpublished court orders, opinions and judgments rendered by federal courts. Citing technological advances that have revolutionized legal research and made a wealth of information available online, Krislov says the term "unpublished" opinion has become a misnomer.

"Our letter to the Illinois Supreme Court points out that the federal courts, after considered debate, abandoned this practice," said Terrance A. Norton, director of the Center for Open Government. "Other states have followed suit. It is time for Illinois to do the same."

Chicago-Kent College of Law is the law school of Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), a private, Ph.D.-granting institution. Chicago-Kent established the Center for Open Government in 2009 to help ensure transparency, accountability and responsibility in local and state government. The Center identifies instances where legal recourse is needed to provide access to government information and proceedings, focusing on cases challenging closed government processes under the Illinois Open Meetings Act, the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, and similar statutes.