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Monday, November 27, 2023

Court Upholds Dismissal of Hunter’s Case Against Forest Preserve District

A hunter’s lawsuit against a forest preserve district (District) claiming his constitutional rights were violated by the District because of restrictions on his ability to hunt on private land was recently dismissed in Brenczewski v. Forest Preserve District of Will County.

In 1996, the owners of a large parcel of land gave a hunter permission to hunt on their land, without charge. Over the next 20 years, the hunter claimed District employees interfered with his access to the private property and harassed him on multiple occasions. In 2020, District purchased a small piece of the private property, and as part of that purchase agreement, the owners revoked the hunter's permission to enter the property to hunt. The hunter then filed a lawsuit alleging the District violated his constitutional rights and interfered with a business interest between the hunter and the private property owners.

The trial court dismissed the constitutional claim, finding that a "permission to hunt" was not a right protected by the Constitution. The court also dismissed the hunter's business expectancy claim, finding the District immune from liability as a government entity. On appeal, the Appellate Court upheld the dismissal but on different grounds. As to his constitutional claim, the Court held that there was no constitutional violation because there was no government actor involved since any "right to hunt" on the land was between private parties - i.e., the owners of the private property and the hunter. The property owners termination of that "right" because it sold a portion of its property to a government actor did not result in the government violating any constitutional rights. On the business expectancy claim, the Court held that because the permission to hunt was for a non-commercial purpose and provided at no charge, there was no business relationship so there could be no business expectancy claim. 

Post Authored by Daniel Lev, Ancel Glink


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