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Former Rep. Scott Drury wins court round against Dan Proft

Thursday, Aug 4, 2022

* Celeste Bott at Law360

An Illinois appellate panel has revived a defamation suit filed by Loevy & Loevy attorney and former Illinois Rep. Scott Drury against a conservative radio host and political action committee, finding a lower court erred in granting the defendants summary judgment before resolving a discovery dispute.

Reversing a summary judgment win for the Liberty Principles PAC and Dan Proft, a Chicago radio host and former Republican candidate for Illinois governor, the appellate court said on Tuesday that a Cook County judge abused their discretion when they resolved the case before ruling on Drury’s motion to compel discovery, saying the defendants have conceded that some of the discovery sought in that request was relevant to the issue of actual malice, a central issue of the summary judgment motion.

* This lawsuit has been around for years. From the appellate opinion

On October 9, 2014, the trial court issued an order that stayed discovery in this matter until further order of the court. On February 26, 2018, plaintiff filed the second amended complaint at issue. Plaintiff’s complaint alleges that defendants1 made allegedly defamatory statements in a cable television advertisement and a campaign advertisement sent by United States mail. The statements in the cable television advertisement about which plaintiff complained were:

    “Scott Drury wants to cut funding for our local schools by as much as seventy per cent. Incumbent State Representative Scott Drury has put his Chicago Democrat Party’s bosses ahead of our schools. Drury’s plan would cut state funding for our schools by more than $6.9 million. Drury’s plan would send our tax dollars to Chicago schools. Scott Drury made the choice to serve Illinois’ political ruling class at the expense of our schools. On November 4, you have a choice. Bring balance back to state government by voting no on Scott Drury.”

Plaintiff’s complaint further alleges that on or about October 4, 2014, defendants caused to be published to voters a mail campaign advertisement containing the following statements:

    “Scott Drury supports defunding our schools so that party bosses will fund his campaign,”
    “Incumbent State Rep. Scott Drury is doing the bidding of Illinois’ Political Ruling Class at the Expense of our Local Schools,”
    “Scott Drury has made the choice to serve Illinois’ Political Ruling Class at the expense of our schools,”

and that Drury had a plan to cut approximately $7 million from local schools.

On April 3, 2019, plaintiff filed a motion to vacate the stay of discovery. On April 25, 2019, the trial court issued an order finding that defendants did not oppose plaintiff’s motion, granting plaintiff’s motion to vacate the stay of discovery, and ordering that all written discovery was to be completed on or before July 29, 2019. […]

Plaintiff’s affidavit averred, in part, that defendants’ failure to produce documents in response to plaintiff’s discovery requests had prejudiced plaintiff’s ability to conduct discovery and made his ability to conduct depositions less effective. Plaintiff averred that defendant Proft was a defendant in the litigation, was a hostile witness, and that plaintiff could not speak to Proft directly. Plaintiff also averred, in part, that if sworn defendant Proft would testify that “[p]rior to publishing the Defamatory Statements he [(Proft)] did not make an inquiry to ascertain whether it was his inference that [plaintiff] supported Senate Bill 16 (the bill associated with the conduct described in the allegedly defamatory statements), and did so for corrupt reasons, rather than another one that was the correct inference to draw,” “[p]rior to publishing the Defamatory Statements, he failed to make inquiry to ascertain whether the inference he drew that [plaintiff] supported Senate Bill 16, and did so for corrupt reasons, was correct where there were other inferences that may have been drawn from the same events,” and “[p]rior to publishing the Defamatory Statements, he did not inquire into whether: (i) [plaintiff] was a Democrat because his values more closely aligned with those of the Democratic Party than other parties; (ii) INCS Action PAC supported [plaintiff] because he was an incumbent legislator who supported charter schools; or (iii) [plaintiff] did not co-sponsor House Resolution 1276 (attacking Senate Bill 16) because he was unaware of it, he rarely co-sponsored House Resolutions, and House Resolution 1276 was introduced when the House of Representatives was not in session and was not assigned to committee. […]

We find the trial court abused its discretion by ruling on defendants’ motion for summary judgment before ruling on plaintiff’s motion to compel [discovery]; therefore, we have no need to reach plaintiff’s remaining arguments. For the following reasons, we reverse the trial court’s judgment ruling that it could “proceed to hear the Motion for Summary Judgment before resolving the Motion to Compel,” reverse the trial court’s judgment granting summary judgment in favor of defendants as premature, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this order.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

12 Comments »
  1. - AlfondoGonz - Thursday, Aug 4, 22 @ 1:50 pm:

    “Former Rep Scott Drury”?

    This headline simply must be mistaken. My understanding is his title is “Former
    Federal Prosecutor Scott Drury.”

    /s


  2. - NotRich - Thursday, Aug 4, 22 @ 1:57 pm:

    I forgot about this arrogance v arrogance case.


  3. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Aug 4, 22 @ 2:10 pm:

    Maybe Proft should have Drury on his radio program and they can hash it out for the dozens of Proft listeners.

    That would be compelling radio.


  4. - Amalia - Thursday, Aug 4, 22 @ 2:11 pm:

    Drury is arrogant but Proft is dangerous, so good on this.


  5. - lake county democrat - Thursday, Aug 4, 22 @ 2:13 pm:

    Advice for Proft: you can probably settle this thing for the price of a good clock.


  6. - New Day - Thursday, Aug 4, 22 @ 2:13 pm:

    Who to root for in this drama…oh who to root for?


  7. - Long time Independent - Thursday, Aug 4, 22 @ 2:18 pm:

    Eventually someone sooner then later Is going to prevail on one of these law suits and get a big pay day. When they do we all will be better off because the line has been crossed so many times by candidates on both side of the isle. This last primary was maybe one of the worst I’ve ever seen and it needs to be called out and stopped.


  8. - walker - Thursday, Aug 4, 22 @ 2:27 pm:

    Isn’t Dan the “Follow the Rules” guy? Maybe he’ll use this as an opportunity to ask for donations to his PAC, implying it’s for his defense fund. He’s a proven fund raiser lol


  9. - Fan - Thursday, Aug 4, 22 @ 2:29 pm:

    Wow. Maybe a few decades if candidates should sue Cosgrove over the lies he has told.


  10. - Just Sayin - Thursday, Aug 4, 22 @ 3:04 pm:

    ==(i) [plaintiff] was a Democrat because his values more closely aligned with those of the Democratic Party than other parties; ==

    Except when it came to his support of Rauner alongside Franks and Dunkin during the budget impasse.


  11. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Thursday, Aug 4, 22 @ 3:09 pm:

    It seems more like a civil procedure ruling than a ruling on defamation law. No summary judgment before discovery is finish. Still, if those statements are defamation, there are a lot of defamers out there.


  12. - Huh? - Friday, Aug 5, 22 @ 9:09 am:

    Slinging mud during a political campaign is defamation?

    Where is the political poofery defense?


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