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Illinois Supreme Court: State laws trump union contracts

Thursday, Jun 18, 2020

* Tuesday

In the midst of an almost deafening national and local outcry over police abuses, the Illinois Supreme Court may order the city of Chicago to destroy all records of complaints against police officers that are more than five years old, potentially undermining attempts to identify problematic officers

A decision is scheduled to be issued Thursday in a legal challenge brought by the union representing Chicago police officers, asserting that their contract with the city requires the destruction of old complaints.

University of Chicago Law Professor Craig Futterman said the case is fundamentally about a question being asked all over the country, whether police unions and city governments should be able to bargain away the rights of the public to have effective oversight of police officers.

“If the Fraternal Order of Police has its way, hundreds of thousands of Chicago police misconduct records will go up in smoke like a great bonfire, destroying the very information that’s needed to identify and stop police officers who’ve been engaged in patterns of abuse,” Futterman said. “And this reality should be particularly unthinkable and appalling to everyone in this moment where we have people in Chicago and around the world raising their voices to affirm that Black Lives Matter. … What’s at stake is the reality that the very records that we need right now to … prevent more black pain and deaths at the hands of the police could disappear.”

* Today…


* More from the opinion

While parties are generally free to make their own contracts, this court has long held that when a conflict exists between a contract provision and state law, as it clearly does in this case, state law prevails.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

42 Comments »
  1. - Just Me 2 - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 10:40 am:

    hey Rich, for the next few months you should avoid using the word “trump” in any context other than the President. Was really confused what this post was about until I realized had nothing to do with Trump.


  2. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 10:42 am:

    ===you should avoid===

    You should get your own blog. lol


  3. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 10:44 am:

    FOP is the height of lawlessness. Thank goodness the court put an end to this attempt.


  4. - Just Me 2 - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 10:50 am:

    touche


  5. - Hieronymus - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:03 am:

    An idea for some future Friday’s Question-of-the-Day:

    “20 years from now, the dictionary entry for the verb, to trump, will be …”


  6. - Gooner - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:03 am:

    The one dissent is from Kilbride. Interesting that a Democratic judge would the one standing up for the FOP.


  7. - Hieronymus - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:06 am:

    Good decision by the IL Supreme Court. Checks and balances for everyone, including FOP. An this opinion comes from a very strong union supporter.


  8. - DuPage Saint - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:06 am:

    I don’t know if FOP is height of lawlessness but sounds like they were just trying to enforce an agreement that was bargained for and agreed to in a union contract
    I think AG plan of statewide police license is a great idea. Have an ARDC type board for police with statewide rules


  9. - Concerned Libertarian - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:15 am:

    Recent events are positive evidence that all public-sector unions must go. The taxpayers are the boss of government and decide who works for or not for them. Not a non-elected, taxpayer money fed organization that protects the lowest denominator (e.g. Law-enforcement, DCFS, etc).


  10. - Socially DIstant Watcher - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:18 am:

    @. Concerned Libertarian - In this instance, the public-sector union lost, so how does that make your point?


  11. - Skeptic - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:22 am:

    “all public-sector unions must go” so throw the baby out with the bath water then?


  12. - High Socks - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:23 am:

    If you were a dishonest blackjack dealer at a IL casino, you wouldn’t be able to get your record cleared after 5 years.


  13. - Bruce (no not him) - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:27 am:

    So reading the article, this language has been there for decades. Has the destruction of the records actually been happening?


  14. - 17% Solution - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:29 am:

    == Recent events are positive evidence that all public-sector unions must go.==
    I have no idea what recent evidence you are referring to.


  15. - JS Mill - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:31 am:

    @concerned libertarian- so you are a “libertarian” of convenience then? When people want a voice you are opposed if they are public employees? Would that be regulated by Government?

    You probably should consider a moniker change or go back and review the definition of Libertarian as you seem to think public employees are chattel or maybe something even worse.


  16. - RNUG - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:39 am:

    I have mixed feelings on this one. While I believe the court reached the right decision, and for the right reason of both pre-existing law and precedence, it does slightly erode the power of contracts.


  17. - JS Mill - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:46 am:

    I think the ruling is accurate and appropriate. Contracts that violate the law are usually null or at least the provision that is outside the law is.


  18. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:51 am:

    The state of Illinois had no problem modifying the CTU contract:

    The 1995 Chicago School Reform Act made it almost impossible for CTU to negotiate class sizes, special education and clinician staffing, and third party outsourcing with the Chicago Public Schools - all issues that actually benefit students.


  19. - revvedup - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:51 am:

    IL Sup Ct. fails yet again. There are records from officers that are no longer living, and no longer with CPD (including retirement). So now, no matter what happened, or how long ago, or whether it was unfounded, it’s a public record. Nice blow to the privacy and due process rights of officers in Illinois, because the lawyas gonna FOIA and smear officers with anything they can find in civil suits and criminal cases going forward.


  20. - Gooner - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 11:52 am:

    Bruce,
    Per the Court’s opinion, the records have been maintained.
    The issue arose when the Trib and Sun-Times asked for the records.

    RNUG,

    I’m sort of amazed that the FOP did not see this coming. IL law is always considered part of any contract and on the face of the statute, this one seems pretty clear.

    The Court’s reasoning is well established. What is more interesting is that the FOP thought they could get around some pretty clear statutory language by contract.


  21. - Downstate - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 12:03 pm:

    Given the manner in which the Chicago Police and FOP handled the Laquan McDonald case (taking more than a year to release the video), I wonder if RICO laws would apply?


  22. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 12:09 pm:

    It’s worth remembering that the police routinely oppose the expungement of civilians’ JUVENILE records, regardless of the person’s age at the time of the offense or how much time has passed since.

    – MrJM


  23. - Lynn S. - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 12:15 pm:

    MrJM + 1,000,000


  24. - RNUG - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 12:18 pm:

    == What is more interesting is that the FOP thought they could get around some pretty clear statutory language by contract. ==

    If you write a contract explicitly excluding existing law, citing it exactly by statute and language, and clearly stating the rights that are being surrendered in exchange for some type of valuable consideration, SOMETIMES you can get around existing law, especially in contracts between 2 private parties, or at least raise the hurdle high enough most lawyers won’t pursue it.

    It’s almost impossible to do when one party is a government entity.


  25. - Lynn S. - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 12:22 pm:

    That clause about destroying disciplinary records?

    I know that clause is in contracts between other Illinois cities and their police forces.

    And I think that for several of those contracts, the “must destroy” provision kicks in around 2 years, not 5.

    It’s pitched as protecting officers from vindictive supervisors. Ongoing incidents seem to indicate that it’s really about allowing bad apples to continue to taint the barrel.

    Examples: Chauvin, Derek; Rolfe, Garrett


  26. - Glenn - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 12:25 pm:

    This must be a rude awakening for those who are accustomed to referring to themselves as “The Law”.


  27. - Original Rambler - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 12:38 pm:

    Section 15 of the Public Labor Relations Act summarized.

    In case of any conflict between provisions of collective bargaining agreements and any other law, the provisions of any collective bargaining agreement shall prevail and control. Any collective bargaining contract shall supersede any contrary statutes.

    This language always amazed me in its scope. I guess it does not mean what it says it means (which is good).


  28. - Put the fun in unfunded - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 1:12 pm:

    Downstate: fixed it for you. “Given the manner in which Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago City Council handled the Laquan McDonald case (taking more than a year to release the video), I wonder if RICO laws would apply?” Remember that Rahm paid out $5 million before lawsuit was even filed - he knew what was on that tape.


  29. - Downstate - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 1:28 pm:

    Put the fun in unfunded,
    You bet. Plenty of blame to go around.

    Imagine if a surgeon intentionally killed a patient, and the other physicians, the hospital and the AMA all conspired to keep it under wraps. Pretty disgusting.


  30. - Elmer Keith - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 1:34 pm:

    “…the police routinely oppose the expungement of civilians’ JUVENILE records…” If you apply for or possess an Illinois concealed carry license, the ISP can open juvenile records, which is totally wrong. The privacy waiver is defined in the 130 page bill, not the application.

    I doubt there is one Illinois CCL applicant out of 1,000 that knows they are signing away their privacy rights when they apply. I’ve seen the same language on FBI applications, it’s known as an open-ended waiver, going backward to birth and forward forever, it never expires. Another sellout from Brandon Phelps and his sidekicks Todd Vandermyde and Richard Pearson, because the police are your friends.


  31. - yinn - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 1:38 pm:

    Intentionally violating the Local Records Act can be a Class 4 felony.

    Public records disposal is very red-tapey and probably should be assisted by clerk’s offices, local records commissions (where applicable) and regional archivists (whenever possible). This whole contract situation strikes me as an attempted end run and a brazen one.


  32. - Candy Dogood - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 1:43 pm:

    Concerned Libertarian, you wrote:

    ===The taxpayers are the boss of government and decide who works for or not for them. Not a non-elected, taxpayer money fed organization that protects the lowest denominator ===

    Collective bargaining agreements usually cover rank and file employees — you know, the cogs of government and folks that are almost always behind the scenes and under appreciated for the work that they do.

    I was hoping you could expand on your premise because it seems to assume that the managers employee by state and local government that usually aren’t elected officials aren’t part of the problem.

    Are you willing to place 100% confidence in lower or middle management at a public entity? I’m not and that’s why I think workers need a voice.


  33. - Muddy trail - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 1:58 pm:

    ==The taxpayers are the boss of government and decide who works for or not for them.==
    It’s a republic not a direct democracy. Then the people who are elected delegate the job search to people they hire. Did you really think you yourself had the task of hiring thousands of people? I bet you were sitting by the phone wondering when it was going to ring.


  34. - in the no - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 2:35 pm:

    i dunno folks, we’re headed down a slippery slope when the mere public good can TRUMP the gol dang private benefit of contract. since bd of trustees of dartmouth v. woodward contractual rights have always been ssacrosant. i fear what important public benefit might be attained at my expense next!


  35. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 2:39 pm:

    ===we’re headed down a slippery slope===

    Contract language that defies the law isn’t valid. What slope is that?


  36. - Bruce (no not him) - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 2:47 pm:

    If the language in the contract “goes back decades” was it added before or after the Local Records Act was put in place? Just curious of the timeline.


  37. - in the no - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 3:10 pm:

    rich - i dunno bout that, but the slope’s a terrible, awful, dangerous slope that could end w/ a real painful crash of my private rights as a master of the universe against “the public good”


  38. - Downstate - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 3:31 pm:

    Allowing police to negotiate away the responsibility for past acts is akin to having employees sign a non-disclosure agreement for any illegalities that a company commits.

    “No. Those laws don’t apply to me, because I specifically eliminated them in my private contract.”

    In tribute to the movie “Airplane”, “the Chicago FOP sure picked a bad time to have to plead for help with their busted pension fund.”


  39. - Lynn S. - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 4:08 pm:

    @in the no

    It’s my understanding that the clause requiring the destruction of records has been around for a few decades.

    Just because no entity sued over it, doesn’t mean that it was right back then, or that it should continue to exist going forward.

    Any particular reason you want to see the disciplinary records of police officers destroyed? That is a protection generally not given to employees in other professions.


  40. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 4:33 pm:

    To the post,

    === While parties are generally free to make their own contracts, this court has long held that when a conflict exists between a contract provision and state law, as it clearly does in this case, state law prevails.===

    Here’s the thing;

    Negotiated or not by any union and the other party(ies), it’s important that state law is followed as that structure, state law(s) are put in place, arguably, so the intent of the law, the law itself in actuality, can’t be unilaterally removed because of labor negotiations and agreements (in this case)

    It’s an important ruling on many levels, for me, particularly to that important snippet.


  41. - 33rd ward - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 7:54 pm:

    Unions need support, but this decision is very good.


  42. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Jun 18, 20 @ 8:26 pm:

    Any contract clause that violates state law is void as a matter of public policy.

    And it does not really matter that it was a benefit to the public that was being bartered away.

    A union cannot agree to surrender protections against sexual harassment or retaliation in exchange for an extra $2 an hour either.

    Now, let’s change that law to ten years.

    Saving those records protects the innocent, too.

    When Patrick O’Malley was running for state’s attorney, he was unable to defend himself against charges of police brutality during his time as an officer because the files had been destroyed. I am sure Bruce Dold would have loved to have read them.


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