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Monday, May 18, 2015

Candidate Convicted of “Infamous Crimes” Was Ineligible for Office


Late last year, the Cook County State’s Attorney prevailed in a case against a member of the Board of Education for Thornton Township High School District 205 (in Illinois), when a trial court found the board member ineligible to hold the office based on his conviction for an “infamous crime.” The board member had been convicted of felony forgery in the state of Indiana. Alvarez v. Williams, 2014 IL App (1st) 133443

On appeal, the board member argued that his due process rights were violated because the term “infamous crime” was vague. Under Section 29-15 of the Illinois Election Code: 
any person convicted of an infamous crime as such term is defined in Section 124-1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963, as amended, shall thereafter be prohibited from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit, unless such person is again restored to such rights by the terms of a pardon for the offense or otherwise according to law.
Under Section 124-1 of the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963, an “infamous crime” was defined as: 
the offenses of arson, bigamy, bribery, burglary, deviate sexual assault, forgery, incest or aggravated incest, indecent liberties with a child, kidnapping or aggravated kidnapping, murder, perjury, rape, robbery, sale of narcotic drugs, subornation of perjury, and theft if the punishment imposed is imprisonment in the penitentiary.” Ill.Rev.Stat.1983, ch. 38, ¶ 124–1 (repealed by Pub. Act 84–1047, § 2 (eff. July 1, 1986)). 
The board member argued that when Section 124-1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was repealed, Section 29-15 of the Election Code was no longer effective.  The court disagreed, finding that the legislature intended to keep individuals convicted of infamous crimes from holding office, and applied the list of “infamous crimes” from the repealed Section 124-1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to disqualify the board member from holding office based on his forgery conviction.


Months later, the State of Indiana expunged the former board member forgery conviction, and former board member filed nomination papers to be a candidate for his former position on the school board. Objections were filed against the candidate’s nomination papers based on the candidate’s prior forgery conviction. The Cook County Officers Electoral Board struck the candidate from the ballot, and the circuit court denied the candidate’s appeal.

Last week, the Illinois First District Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s decision. Williams v. Cook Cnty. Officers Electoral Bd., et al., 2015 IL App (1st) 150568. On appeal, the candidate argued that because of his forgery conviction was expunged, he is now statutorily qualified to seek and hold public office.  The court disagreed, however, because the candidate failed to show the State of Indiana’s expungement had the same effect as a pardon for the offense, which would have restored the candidate’s eligibility under Section 29-15 of the Election Code. 

Post authored by Dan Bolin & Sam Singer, Ancel Glink

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