Saturday, June 29, 2013

Government should not attempt to "define" journalist or journalism: Journalism is something people sometimes do, not something people are

In an essay headlined, "Time to Say Who's a Real Reporter," published in the Thursday June 27, 2013 Chicago Sun-Times, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin writes:
A journalist gathers information for a media outlet that disseminates the information through a broadly defined "medium" -- including newspaper, nonfiction book, wire service, magazine, news website, television, radio or motion picture -- for public use. This broad definition covers every form of legitimate journalism.
No, Senator, no it doesn't. It doesn't even come close.

Senator Durbin insists that "not every blogger, tweeter or Facebook user is a 'journalist.'"

But sometimes mere bloggers, tweeters and Facebook users are journalists. Like so much else in the law, their status should depend on what they blog or tweet or post about, not on who they are.

On June 20, 2009 a young man participating in a protest in the streets of Tehran against that year's Iranian election witnessed a Basij militia member shoot a fellow protester, Neda Agha-Soltan, in the heart. He did more than witness. Robert Tait and Matthew Weaver, persons who would qualify as "journalists" under Senator Durbin's definition, explain in the June 22, 2009 edition of the Guardian:
Shortly after 5pm on Saturday ­afternoon, Hamed, an Iranian asylum seeker in the ­Netherlands, took a frantic call from a friend in Tehran.

"A girl has just been killed right next to me," the friend said. It had all ­happened quickly. A young woman, chatting on her mobile phone, had been shot in the chest. She faded before a doctor, who was on the scene, could do anything to help.

There was more. Hamed's friend, who does not want to be named, filmed the incident on his phone. Within moments the footage had landed in Hamed's inbox. Five minutes later it was on YouTube and Facebook.

Within hours it had become one of the most potent threats faced by the ­Iranian regime in 30 years.

"He asked me, is it possible to publish everything right now," Hamed said. "I published it on YouTube and Facebook and five minutes later it started to get many emails and messages and it ­published everywhere.
Hamed and his anonymous friend didn't graduate from Medill. Like as not, they probably had no 'training' in journalism whatsoever. But they were doing journalism in June 2009, if never before or since.

But, in Senator Durbin's scheme, Hamed would be entitled to no journalistic privilege -- meaning he could be compelled to name the friend who sent him the video of Neda's murder.

There are dozens of other examples that could be cited. If the world had to depend on government-designated "journalists" there would have been no Arab Spring: The Arab Spring blossomed because of Facebook and Twitter. The initial news about these uprisings came to the world by these same means.

Certainly, Facebook- and Twitter-use alone does not a journalist make. Endlessly recycled inspirational cartoons or kitten pictures do not amount to journalism. Gangbangers who use Facebook or Twitter to coordinate wildings on Michigan Avenue are not doing journalism either.

But even journalists don't "do journalism" all the time. Mike Royko would have met Senator Durbin's definition, surely, but was he really doing journalism when he was 'reporting' on the latest theories of Dr. I.M. Kooky or recounting the latest exploits of Slats Grobnik?

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was America's first media mogul, controlling a string of newspapers in several colonial cities at one point. Surely he'd qualify as a journalist under Senator Durbin's definition, too. But was the teenage Ben Franklin a journalist (even though working in his brother's print shop) when he fabricated the Silence Dogood letters?

The individual or individuals who run Second City Cop would probably resent any suggestion that they (or he or she) are journalist(s). Second City Cop regularly makes fun of journalists, particularly when a story posted on the blog is belatedly picked up by the "legitimate" journalists Senator Durbin would want to protect. And yet -- after wading through the partisan rhetoric in which many posts are cloaked -- SCC clearly 'does journalism' on a regular basis. But Senator Durbin would permit (and, I'm sure, several members of the police brass and city government would welcome) exposure of the anonymous bloggers and compel revelation of their sources.

Senator Durbin says that 49 states have already decided who, and who is not, a journalist. In this, the Senator is right, but only because the several states are wrong. Shield statutes have been godsends on occasion, but their protection is woefully uneven because these statutes typically focus on a person's credentials rather than on the activity that the person was engaged in when considering whether that person can be compelled to disclose the sources of the information published.

Thus, in Illinois, the reporter's privilege is codified at §§8-901 to 8-909 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/8-901 to 8-909. To qualify for the privilege, however, a person must first meet the statutory definition of "reporter" found at §8-902(a):
"Reporter" means any person regularly engaged in the business of collecting, writing or editing news for publication through a news medium on a full-time or part-time basis; and includes any person who was a reporter at the time the information sought was procured or obtained.
The term "news medium" is defined at §8-902(b):
"News medium" means any newspaper or other periodical issued at regular intervals whether in print or electronic format and having a general circulation; a news service whether in print or electronic format; a radio station; a television station; a television network; a community antenna television service; and any person or corporation engaged in the making of news reels or other motion picture news for public showing.
Good luck to the blogger trying to squeeze into that definition.

There are many other protections for persons who express themselves, online or off, without resort to special laws for journalists. But the idea of defining journalists in order to "protect" them seems downright un-American. With all due respect to Senator Durbin, a federal law in this regard would be a dangerous and unhealthy step in the wrong direction.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Justice Harris launches 2014 campaign web site

Justice Sheldon A. "Shelly" Harris has launched a campaign website in anticipation of the forthcoming 2014 primary. That's a link to the site in the preceding sentence. (Soon, as campaign websites continue to accumulate, all Cook County judicial campaign websites will be added to the sidebar of this blog.)

Justice Harris was appointed to the Steele vacancy on the Appellate Court in January of this year. However, Harris has been serving on the Appellate Court since 2010 (a quarter of the First District's justices are Cook County Circuit Court judges assigned by the Illinois Supreme Court).

Related: Justice Steele's retirement prompts Appellate Court reshuffle; Judge Daniel J. Pierce promoted

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Attention Chicago Law Schools: Here's how you can help provide equal access to justice and give law students meaningful clinical experience

Hey, Loyola, DePaul, Kent -- I had another one of those calls today.

"Do you do civil cases?"

"Yes," I said (well, maybe, I qualified, but only to myself). "What kind of case do you have?"

It turned out that -- in my opinion -- he didn't have a case, not an economically viable one, anyway.

He had a car, an older car, a 2001 model, but one he used for work each and every day. It ran. He just put $1,000 in it this spring, he told me, for repairs, but a few weeks back some drunk kid ran into it while the car was legally parked, minding its own business. The drunk kid had insurance, but -- my caller told me -- the kid's insurance company only offered him $1,600 for his ruined vehicle.

"I can't get another car for that little money!" he told me, "and I need my car to work. I'm losing money every day!"

Well, we are attorneys and counselors, I though to myself. I sympathize with you, I told him, but the truth of the matter is that you're really only entitled to the fair market value of your totaled vehicle. On a car as old as yours, I said, you can't expect a lot of money. Certain sources are considered authoritative on this, I told him, like the Kelley Blue Book -- but those books just don't put a big price tag on 2001 vehicles, even if they are running well.

"That's what they told me," the man said, "but I looked it up, and they should have given me $2,000."

"Because it was in good condition."


OK, I told him, maybe you do have a case. For $400.

My caller deflated slightly.

Look, I told him, there's lots of other lawyers smarter than me. Maybe one of them can come up with an angle where you can recoup more of your actual losses. I started to give him the telephone number to the Chicago Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service. (I keep that number -- 312-554-2001 -- handy for occasions like this one.)

"Thank you," he said, "but I already called them. And they gave me lots of numbers. But nobody would take my case, and you're the first person who's taken any time to explain anything."

Hmmm, I said, you might try one of the law schools. They all have clinics. (I'm thinking of you, John Marshall, and you, Northwestern, and you, too, University of Chicago.) Unfortunately, I warned him, they don't seem very interested in the problems of actual working people. Now, I said, if you had an environmental problem, or if you were a public housing resident threatened with eviction because of your criminal record....

"I just want the value of my car," my caller said.

"It's not that you don't have a case," I said, "it's just that maybe law school students can take a case for $400 and get some good experience and do you some good. I take a $400 case and my wife will kill me." (He laughed.) "Seriously, anything I could do for you would cost you more than I think you can get."

He thanked me again and I wished him well. Sometimes, I told him, even when you're in the right, it's just best to move on.

He said he'd think about, and hung up the phone.

I get calls like this once a month -- at least. Sometimes it comes closer to a call a week. I'm just one lawyer. I'm sure lots of other lawyers get calls like these.

A lot of these callers have real, practical cases that no real lawyer can make a dime from -- but why wouldn't a law school consider setting up a clinical program that could handle these kinds of garden-variety consumer issues? They could get experience that might serve them well in real jobs.

Loyola? DePaul? Kent? NU? John Marshall? U of C? Is anybody out there?

Christopher Edward Lawler appointed to Sterba vacancy in 15th Subcircuit

The Illinois Supreme Court yesterday appointed Christopher Edward Lawler to the south suburban 15th Subcircuit vacancy that will be created by the pending retirement of Judge David P. Sterba.

Lawler, an attorney in Illinois since 1988, currently practices with the Chicago law firm of Hilbert, Lawler & Power, Ltd. His appointment is effective July 8, 2013 and expires on December 1, 2014.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Who sits where -- updated edition

Updated 6/25/13 to add the Sterba vacancy.

Updated 6/21/13 to add the Felton vacancy. I apologize for the omission.

This is an update of a post that first appeared in March.

What follows is not a comprehensive list of Cook County judicial vacancies, but rather a list of vacancies that have been filled by Supreme Court appointment. There may be (and often are) vacancies which the Supreme Court has not filled. There will be additional vacancies, and additional appointments between now and late fall when the Illinois State Board of Elections posts an authoritative list of judicial vacancies in anticipation of the 2014 primary.

As always, all errors or omissions in this list are mine alone and I am grateful for additions and corrections provided.

Appellate Court Vacancies

Vacancy of the Hon. Joseph Gordon -- William H. Taylor
Vacancy of the Hon. Michael J. Murphy -- John B. Simon
Vacancy of the Hon. John O. Steele -- Sheldon A. Harris

Countywide Vacancies

Vacancy of the Hon. Nancy J. Arnold -- Alfred M. Swanson, Jr.
Vacancy of the Hon. Dennis J. Burke -- Michael F. Otto
Vacancy of the Hon. Maureen E. Connors -- Peter J. Vilkelis
Vacancy of the Hon. James D. Egan -- Daniel J. Kubasiak
Vacancy of the Hon. Donna Phelps Felton -- Thomas J. Carroll
Vacancy of the Hon. Pamela Hill-Veal --  Andrea M. Buford
Vacancy of the Hon. Nathaniel R. Howse, Jr. -- Caroline K. Moreland
Vacancy of the Hon. Barbara A. McDonald -- Cynthia Y. Cobbs
Vacancy of the Hon. P. Scott Neville -- Gregory Emmett Ahern, Jr.
Vacancy of the Hon. Jesse Reyes -- Jean Margaret Cocozza

Subcircuit Vacancies

4th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Richard J. Billik, Jr. -- Daniel L. Peters

7th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. William H. Taylor II -- Freddrenna M. Lyle

9th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Lee Preston -- Allan W. Masters

10th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Daniel J. Sullivan -- Anthony C. Kyriakopoulos

11th Subcircuit
"A" Vacancy -- Pamela McLean Meyerson

12th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Edward R. Jordan -- James L. Kaplan

13th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. Anthony A. Iosco -- Lauretta Higgins Wolfson

15th Subcircuit
Vacancy of the Hon. John T. Doody, Jr. -- Diana L. Embil
Vacancy of the Hon. David P. Sterba -- Christopher Edward Lawler

Judicial hopeful Michael Strom in first NTNM candidate interview of the 2014 campaign

Ninth Subcircuit judicial candidate Michael Strom was recently interviewed by Avy Meyers on the North Town News Magazine show, now in rotation on CAN-TV and various suburban cable systems.

My thanks to Mr. Meyers (and his entire technical staff, Sonny Hersh) for allowing me to share these interviews here.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Former Judge Allan W. Masters appointed to Preston vacancy in 9th Subcircuit

The Illinois Supreme Court yesterday appointed Allan W. Masters to a 9th Subcircuit vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Lee Preston. Judge Masters will resume judicial duties today; his appointment expires December 1, 2014. Masters has been licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1967.

Aside to the Tribune: This is not a recall appointment, although Masters previously served on the bench, most notably in the Domestic Relations Division.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Patricia O'Brien Sheahan announces judicial candidacy, Thursday fundraiser

Patricia O'Brien Sheahan, Associate General Counsel at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), has announced her plans to run for Circuit Court Judge in the 2014 Democratic Primary. That's a link to Sheahan's campaign website in the preceding sentence.

An Evanston resident, Sheahan is a 1996 graduate of the IIT-Kent College of Law. She began her legal career with Baker & McKenzie before moving to the Rehabilitation Institute in 1999.

Her campaign press release notes that Sheahan been active with the Center for Disability and Elder Law (CDEL), which provides pro bono legal services to low-income senior citizens and people with disabilities, serving as a member of the Governing Board of Directors for CDEL for nearly 15 years. She is also the Secretary of the St. Joan of Arc School Parent/Student Organization and has been a volunteer serving the needy at a soup kitchen run by the Evanston Ecumenical Council of Churches. Her husband, T.J., is is a partner in the Litigation Group at the law firm Freeborn & Peters, LLP and is the son of retired Cook County Sheriff Michael F. Sheahan.

Per email received from the Sheahan campaign, a kickoff fundraiser has been scheduled for tomorrow night, June 6, at English, 444 N. LaSalle Street, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Individual tickets are $150 each. Sponsorships are available ($250 – Friend, $500 – Benefactor, $750 – Sponsor, and $1,500 – Co-Chair). Attorney Robert A. Clifford of Clifford Law Offices is hosting the event and chairing Sheahan's campaign. To reserve tickets or for more information about the event, call Brittany Riordan at (312) 259-9341.

Greg Ahern announces 2014 election bid

Judge Gregory Emmet Ahern, Jr., who was appointed late last year to the countywide Neville vacancy, has announced plans to run for election in the 2014 Democratic primary. That's a link to Ahern's campaign website in the preceding sentence; the campaign also has a Facebook page up and running.

Ahern was a candidate for the 6th Subcircuit vacancy in the 2012 primary. At the time of his appointment to the bench, Ahern was serving as a Cook County Assistant State's Attorney. Ahern's campaign website notes that, while an ASA, he prosecuted more than 50 felony trials, including more than 25 first degree murder cases.

Illinois Judges Foundation plans July 23 Comedy Night

The Illinois Judges Foundation and its Auxiliary Committee are hosting a Comedy Night fundraiser on Tuesday evening, July 23 at the Second City e.t.c. stage, 230 W. North Avenue.

A reception begins at 6:00; the show starts at 7:15.

Tickets are $100 each, and sponsorship opportunities are available.

To purchase tickets or for questions about sponsorships or any other questions about the event, visit this page on the IJF website, send an email to, or call Kevin Fagan at 312-554-2008 or Christine Athanasoulis at 708-705-4355.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Linda J. Pauel plans 10th Subcircuit judicial bid

Linda J. Pauel, who was a candidate for the countywide Dolan vacancy in the 2010 Democratic Primary, has announced her 2014 candidacy for judge in the 10th Judicial Subcircuit.

Pauel's campaign website is In a statement on her Facebook page, Pauel wrote, "We need qualified and fair-minded people in all branches of government, my focus is the judiciary."

A 1991 graduate of the IIT Chicago-Kent Law School (from which she graduated summa cum laude and with the Order of the Coif), Pauel is employed by the City of Chicago Law Department.

Judge Mary Anne Mason assigned to Appellate Court

In an order entered yesterday, the Illinois Supreme Court assigned Judge Mary Anne Mason to the Illinois Appellate Court.

Judge Mason, who presently sits in the Chancery Division, will assume her new duties on July 8, after Justice David P. Sterba retires.

Justice Sterba was also serving in the Appellate Court by assignment. His July 1 resignation will open up a vacancy in the 15th Judicial Subcircuit for the 2014 election cycle.

UPDATED to insert link to corrected appointment order issued earlier today. Also, the Supreme Court has today released this press release concerning Judge Mason's appointment.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Norwood Park Memorial Day Parade photos

We were a little late arriving this year. It couldn't be helped. My regular photographer brought a very young assistant with her this year and said assistant had to be off-loaded on Grandpa before my photographer could set up.

We missed most of the politicians and the squad of riflemen dressed in uniforms from the Revolution to World War II that set off a volley on our corner.  My photographer may have dawdled a little on purpose; she thought her young assistant would have some problems with the gunshot noise (and she did have trouble, later on, when a muscle car revved too loudly as it went by).

But my photographer was able to capture a lot of the groups that came out to honor America's fallen heroes in Norwood Park's 2013 Memorial Day Parade.

The Taft High School Navy JROTC

And you can't have a parade without bands....

No neighborhood parade is complete without lots and lots of school groups, scout troops and packs.
Norwood Park Lutheran Cub Pack
Cub Scouts from St. Monica's
The St. Thecla group brought its own classic car
Cub Pack from St. Tarcissus
Immaculate Conception Parish Girl Scouts

For more pictures from Monday's parade, click here to turn to Page Two.