Tag Archives: Illinois Supreme Court

New Illinois Rule 243 – Jurors Can Ask Questions!

Big news today – the Illinois Supreme Court adopted Rule 243, which allows jurors in civil cases to ask questions in certain circumstances. The rule reads as follows:

New Rule 243
Rule 243. Written Juror Questions Directed to Witnesses
(a) Questions Permitted. The court may permit jurors in civil cases to submit
to the court written questions directed to witnesses.
(b) Procedure. Following the conclusion of questioning by counsel, the court
shall determine whether the jury will be afforded the opportunity to question the
witness. Regarding each witness for whom the court determines questions by jurors
are appropriate, the jury shall be asked to submit any question they have for the
witness in writing. No discussion regarding the questions shall be allowed between
jurors at this time; neither shall jurors be limited to posing a single question nor shall
jurors be required to submit questions. The bailiff will then collect any questions and
present the questions to the judge. Questions will be marked as exhibits and made a
part of the record.
(c) Objections. Out of the presence of the jury, the judge will read the question
to all counsel, allow counsel to see the written question, and give counsel an
opportunity to object to the question. If any objections are made, the court will rule
upon them at that time and the question will be either admitted, modified, or
excluded accordingly.
(d) Questioning of the Witness. The court shall instruct the witness to answer
only the question presented, and not exceed the scope of the question. The court will
ask each question; the court will then provide all counsel with an opportunity to ask
follow-up questions limited to the scope of the new testimony.
(e) Admonishment to Jurors. At times before or during the trial that it deems
appropriate, the court shall advise the jurors that they shall not concern themselves
with the reason for the exclusion or modification of any question submitted and that
such measures are taken by the court in accordance with the rules of evidence that
govern the case.

The rule can also be found here.

So what does it all mean, practically speaking? A few thoughts:

  1. Judges do not have to let jurors ask questions. I suspect many older judges won’t do this at all. I’ve spoken to some local judges who are excited about this possibility.
  2. There is room to object and/or edit the question away from the jury. This is important, as I sure don’t want to object to a juror’s question in front of them.
  3. No discussion between the jurors. This is good too – it prevents preliminary deliberation.
  4. This does not need to happen for every witness. Hopefully this doesn’t slow down trials too much, although in a way it reminds me of letting fans suggest pitches to a pitcher – slowing down an already molasses-slow process.
  5. I’m a little scared of this. I like control. I usually know what the defense lawyers are going to ask, and they probably know what I’m going to ask.
  6. I also like the idea that jurors might feel more involved and more “into” a trial. This is a much better option than having jurors who are asleep by 1pm the first day of trial (or even in closing arguments… I had a juror sleep through my closing arguments once, and guess what… she became the foreperson, and I lost. GRRR…)

What do others think?

A recent article in the Illinois Bar Journal notes that other states and federal courts have tried it, and that the reaction of juries, judges and even attorneys has been largely positive.An example of this would be a pilot program in New Jersey, with similar results.

Will it change case outcomes? We’ll see. This may be the biggest change in trial practice since I became a lawyer – or it might be nothing.

(Howard Zimmerle is a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer practicing in Illinois and Iowa. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)


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Throw Away Your Bluebook – New Case Citation Rule in Illinois!!!

The State of Illinois changed good ole’ Rule 23 again. The days of the big old legal volumes (specifically the Illinois Reporter and Illinois Appellate Reporter) have gone the way of telegraphs, newspapers and polar bears.

Throwing away my old citation guide (but not really)

The proper way to cite a case in Illinois is (after July 31, 2011) to the public domain citation (with additional citations to the Northeast Reporter, if you want to go the extra mile). What is the public domain citation, you ask?

It’s a unique identifier given to each case by the Court.

A proper citation would include the relevant paragraphs and look like this:

People v. Doe, 2011 IL App (1st) 101234, ¶ 15
People v. Doe, 2011 IL App (1st) 101234, ¶¶ 21-23
People v. Doe, 2011 IL App (1st) 101234, ¶¶ 57, 68

Truth be told, I don’t know if this will be easier or harder, and I’m not sure when Westlaw and Lexis  (not to mention Fastcase) will catch up. Either way, the dinosaurs will have some catching up to do.

For further reading:

The new rule and commentary

Illinois Lawyer Now

(Howard Zimmerle is a lawyer practicing in the Quad City area of Illinois. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com). 






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Howell v. Dunaway reversed by Illinois Supreme Court

About a year ago I blogged about a 5th District case that would allow lawyers to reduce the amount of medical provider liens pursuant to the Illinois common fund doctrine.

Never mind, because the Illinois Supreme Court reversed it.

It was a nice tool while it lasted.

(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury lawyer in the Quad City area. You can reach him at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)

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Discovery Depositions of Parties May Now Be Used at Trial in Limited Circumstances

This is good news! Illinois Rule 212 has been changed to allow use of a party’s discovery deposition as evidence at trial if the party is “unable to attend due to death or infirmity” and the court finds it will do substantial justice.

I had a situation just like this come up this year. An insurance company had filed a dec action against my client, its insureds and others. I was defending on behalf of my client. We were ready for trial, and one of the insureds was diagnosed with cancer. The insurance company wouldn’t dismiss her as a party and wouldn’t agree to use her discovery deposition in lieu of testimony at trial. The old Rule 212 prevented me from being able to force them to do that. We ended up delaying the trial for a few months until she was healthy enough to give an evidence deposition – and I question whether she was even healthy enough to do that.

We won the trial, but several months of delay and the unfortunate situation of having to take an evidence deposition of a cancer patient in between chemotherapy treatments could have been avoided if this rule change had been adopted earlier.

(Howard Zimmerle is a lawyer in the Quad City area. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)


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New Illinois Rules of Evidence Effective January 2011

The Illinois Supreme Court posted the new Illinois Rules of Evidence today. You can find them here.

The goal was not to change rules or make up new ones, and it will be interesting to see how well the committee did that. More to come later.

(Howard Zimmerle is an accident and malpractice attorney in the Quad Cities, representing the seriously injured. You may contact him at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)

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