A Will County judge ruled Friday that Karl Ferrell has no authority or eligibility to hold office as a Joliet Township trustee because of his past felony convictions.
However, Judge John Anderson granted a “very short stay” on his decision in the case that is set to expire at noon July 25. Anderson granted the stay so Ferrell has a “meaningful opportunity to seek relief in the appellate court.”
“The court emphasizes that its entry of a short-term stay is to protect Mr. Ferrell’s right to meaningful appellate review and is not based on his hope for executive clemency,” Anderson wrote.
Ferrell’s attorney, John Partelow, said his client still would be able to serve as trustee until July 25. Will County State’s Attorney spokeswoman Carole Cheney said Ferrell cannot remain on the board because he was never legally on it.
“We disagree with it, and an appeal is in the works,” Partelow said about the ruling.
Partelow said he has a petition for clemency or restoration of rights for Ferrell slated for a July 12 hearing before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.
In Anderson’s ruling, he wrote that Ferrell’s petition for clemency or restoration of rights could “take months or years or might never be acted upon.”
“Indeed, the court has no reasonable way to know when or if Gov. [JB] Pritzker will restore Mr. Ferrell’s rights, and it would be a terrible disservice to the people of Joliet Township to keep their government in limbo over such a speculative proposition,” Anderson wrote.
Anderson wrote that even if Pritzker swiftly restored Ferrell’s right to hold public office, Ferrell has provided no persuasive authority to establish that Pritzker’s actions would have a retroactive effect.
Anderson wrote that the Illinois Township Code suggests a retroactive effect is impossible because “it requires that eligibility exists ‘at the time for taking the oath of office.’ ”
Will County prosecutors notified Joliet Township of Ferrell’s ineligibility for office Dec. 7 and sent Ferrell a letter dated Feb. 25 asking for his resignation or else they would take him to court.
During that time, Ferrell refused to step down, and prosecutors eventually sued him March 9. About two days later, Ferrell filed an application for executive clemency with the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.
Anderson noted it was indisputable that Ferrell has multiple felony convictions and the township code clearly states a person is not eligible for office if they’ve been convicted of a felony at the time they take the oath of office.
“No matter what positive changes Mr. Ferrell has made in his life following his incarceration, the statute is unmistakably clear,” Anderson wrote.