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Madison County judge finds Illinois’ lawsuit venue limit law unconstitutional

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(The Center Square) – A state law that limits where lawsuits challenging state laws can be filed has been ruled unconstitutional as applied to a case from Madison County.

Approved last year and signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, House Bill 3062 was opposed by Republicans who said limiting where people can sue the state to just two of the state’s 102 counties is “tyrannical.” The law limits where people can sue the state alleging constitutional violations from state laws or executive orders to just Cook and Sangamon counties.

In Piasa Armory’s challenge to the state’s firearm industry liability law in November, the state motioned to move the case to Sangamon County. Earlier this month, a Madison County judge found the court venue limit law as applied in the case is unconstitutional.

The law “does violate due process, as applied to persons who reside or were injured outside of Cook or Sangamon County,” Madison County Judge Ronald Forest, Jr. wrote. “The motion to transfer is Denied, as [the law] is unconstitutional, as Defendant seeks to apply it.”

In its motion to move the case to Sangamon County, the state said the litigants can remote in with video conferencing. Forest said the state could also video conference into Madison County.

“The Court is aware that Supreme Court Rule … allows broad use of video conference or telephone at an evidentiary hearing or trial ‘for good cause shown and upon appropriate safeguards’ or even as of right,” Forest wrote. “However, the availability of remote proceedings does not bolster the State’s argument. The State could also participate in Madison County using the same remote means.”

At an unrelated event Wednesday, Pritzker said the law is meant to combat what he called “venue shopping.”

“It will obviously run through the court system. I signed it,” Pritzker said. “I think it’s something that makes sense for just organizing the court system so there isn’t a lot of venue shopping going on by people who are just trying to find a friendly judge here or there.”

Pritzker said he believes Sangamon or Cook counties are the right venues for such lawsuits to be handled.

“The experts that are in the two venues that have been designated seem like they have handled constitutional related cases more than any others and so it made sense to me to have those cases run through there,” he said.

The state has until the end of the month to appeal the Madison County decision.