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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Gubernatorial Campaign Doomed Client’s Appeal

CHICAGO (CN) - A lawyer should not have gotten a filing extension because he was too busy running for Illinois governor to timely file his appeal, the 7th Circuit ruled, dismissing claims that the state unconstitutionally gave money to religious organizations for sectarian purposes.

In a seven-count complaint against Gov. Patrick Quinn and other state officials in 2010, Illinois resident Robert Sherman claimed challenged portions of a state law, known as the 2009 Illinois Jobs Now! Bill.

Sherman took issue with several line-item appropriations that gave thousands of nonprofits and local governments grants for capital construction, infrastructure, improvement and repair costs.

In violation of the establishment clause, these appropriations granted $75,000 to the Union Missionary Baptist Church, $140,000 to St. Martin de Porres Church, and a $225,000 to the Chicago Chesed Fun, Sherman said.

But U.S. District Judge Michael McCuskey dismissed the suit, saying it was barred by the 11th Amendment and that Sherman's claims failed the test for establishment clause claims set forth in Lemon v. Kurtzman.

After the judge denied Sherman's bid to amend his complaint, attorney Richard Whitney had 30 days to file a notice of appeal. Whitney, however, was busy campaigning as the Green Party candidate for governor.

Four days after the deadline, Whitney successfully obtained an extension after he cited time restraints imposed by his campaign.

The 7th Circuit ruled last week, however, that the extension was improperly granted.

"Counsel's own choice to run for governor, though perhaps commendable, was entirely voluntary, and the election was approximately two weeks before the deadline for filing the notice of appeal," Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote for a three-member panel. "Many practicing attorneys run for office or submit themselves for consideration for positions on non-profit boards or bar associations, but cannot do so to the detriment of their clients. Under these facts, we find that the district court abused its discretion in granting the extension."

Because the ruling rendered the notice of appeal untimely, the court dismissed Sherman's case for lack of jurisdiction.

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