Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Residency questions not always clear -- and do not always arise in the context of elections

The Appellate Court's decision yesterday in Maksym v. Board of Election Commissioners, No. 1-11-0033 (the Rahm Emanuel case), has got the Tribune in a positive dither this morning. The paper accuses the Maksym majority of "startling arrogance and audaciously twisted reasoning" and ignoring "more than 100 years of legal precedent" to boot. The Sun-Times is much more temperate -- though it accuses the majority of "employing a rather narrow reading of state law and city ordinance."

Whether Maksym will remain good law will be determined -- soon -- by a petition for leave to appeal already filed in the Illinois Supreme Court.

Contrary to the clear expectations of the newspaper editorialists and the TV talking heads, the Illinois Supreme Court need not weigh in on this case. The Illinois Supreme Court turns away 98 or 99 cases for every one it accepts. Regardless of the merits of his cause, Mr. Emanuel is not automatically entitled to Supreme Court review.

Whether or not review is granted, people should realize that questions of residency (or the related, but not identical, concept of domicile) frequently arise in the courts of this state. There is a lot of law on this subject -- and, contrary to what you may have gathered from this morning's Tribune editorial, figuring out which of these cases may apply in a given case and how to apply those cases is not always easy.

For example, the Illinois Supreme Court just heard arguments (on January 18) in the case of Goodman v. Ward, a case where a candidate for judicial office in a Will County subcircuit was knocked off the ballot because he was not a resident of that subcircuit when he filed for office, though he expressed every intent of moving into the subcircuit before the election. That case turns on the proper construction to be given to sections 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Illinois Constitution.

To cite just one other area of the law, insurance cases are frequently complicated by residency issues. If his parents are divorced, does the child reside with a non-custodial father for purposes of making a claim on the father's underinsured motorist carrier? (See, Coriasco v. Hutchcraft, 245 Ill.App.3d 969, 615 N.E.2d 64 (5th Dist. 1993), for an affirmative answer.)

If an older child drops out of school, takes a job, and moves into an apartment, does he still 'live with' his parents for purposes of an auto liability claim? What if the father signed the lease for his son, and both father and son acknowledged that the son could not make it financially on his own? What if the son was still on his father's health insurance, if he still got his mail at his father's house, if he used his father's address on his driver's license and income tax returns? What if he left many of his possessions behind at his father's house? Is it not as easy a call to make when all of these other facts are considered? (In State Farm v. Taussig, 227 Ill.App.3d 913, 592 N.E.2d 332 (1st Dist. 1992), the Appellate Court found that, despite these additional facts, the son did not 'live with' the father for purposes of the auto liability claim.)

The truth of the matter is that in just about any case involving people, there may be an issue about where those people live or where they intended to live. The fair resolution of these questions may (and usually will) excite strong feelings on either side. A decision in such a case is not 'arrogant' merely because it is adverse.

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