Lawsuits from prosecutors in 58 of 102 counties in Illinois challenging a criminal justice reform law have been consolidated into one case in Kankakee County, which will lead the case on behalf of the plaintiffs.
According to the Will County States Attorney’s Office, the litigation team is comprised of the state’s attorneys of Will, Kankakee, Kendall, McHenry, Vermilion, and Sangamon counties per agreement among all state’s attorneys in the consolidated matters. These litigation team members have been named as Special Assistant State’s Attorneys to represent all 58 State’s Attorneys in this consolidated litigation.The Illinois Supreme Court entered an order filed Monday to consolidate the 58 cases challenging the SAFE-T Act to one Kankakee County case that will be heard by Thomas Cunningham, chief judge of the 21st Judicial Circuit, which covers Kankakee and Iroquois counties.
On Sept. 16, Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe, along with Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, filed lawsuits to challenge the SAFE-T Act. The lawsuits were filed about a year and half after Gov. JB Pritzker signed the SAFE-T Act into law Feb. 22, 2021.
Prosecutors in numerous other counties throughout Illinois – including McHenry, DeKalb, Carroll, Ogle, Kendall and La Salle – filed their own lawsuits as well.
The defendants in the lawsuits are Pritzker, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Illinois Senate President Don Harmon.
The law has become a key issue in the Nov. 8 race between Pritzker, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent, State Sen. Darren Bailey.
One aspect of the law that has gained the most controversy is the elimination of cash bail for criminal defendants, which is slated to go into effect Jan. 1. Judges can still keep defendants detained at the request of prosecutors under the law.
Glasgow’s lawsuit has claimed the SAFE-T Act violates the bail provisions of the Illinois Constitution and will lead to increased delays in cases handled by his office and delays in the administration of justice, as well as increased staff and workload costs.
“Without the ability to secure the appearance of defendants for trial, [Glasgow] will be severely hamstrung in his ability to proceed with the prosecution of cases, much like the courts will be stripped of their inherent authority to manage their courtrooms,” according to Glasgow’s lawsuit.
Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said Glasgow’s lawsuit is a “weak attempt to protect the status quo that lets murderers and abusers pay their way out of jail.”
“The SAFE-T Act not only prevents that from happening, but also provides law enforcement officers the tools they need to fight crime, like body cameras, additional training and access to mental health care,” Abudayyeh said.
Abudayyeh said victims’ rights organizations support the law, and the state “will defend creating a more equitable criminal justice system in court.”
The consolidation of the 58 cases challenging the SAFE-T Act was done under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 384.
Under that rule, if there are civil cases that involve “one or more common questions of fact or law” in different judicial circuits, the Supreme Court can consolidate those cases to one judicial circuit if it would serve the convenience of parties and witnesses.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Kankakee County State’s Attorney’s office will be litigate the consolidated lawsuit. The lawsuit will be litigated by a team of state’s attorney’s from several counties who filed suit.