Latest Posts

Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Conviction of an Iraq Combat Victim

An Illinois combat veteran recently shot another driver. The veteran claims that he shot the victim because of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by his combat role as a former convoy rear gunner in the Iraq War. The Illinois trial court determined that the veteran was not acting in self-defense due to his PTSD. Illinois’ 1st District Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the trial court.

The veteran’s recent criminal trial bring to light the issue of a defendant's ability to legally invoke PTSD as a defense to a crime.

The Defendant Veteran Faces a Conviction of First Degree Murder

The veteran fired several gunshots at another vehicle in 2012. Subsequently, the state of Illinois charged him with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated discharge of a firearm, and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. The defendant argued that he used justified force in defending himself.

The Trial Judge Did Not Allow a Psychiatrist to Testify During the Trial

The trial judge ruled that the defendant did suffer from PTSD. Nonetheless, the judge declined to allow a psychiatrist to provide expert testimony as to whether PTSD caused him to fire the shots at another car. The defendant attempted to submit evidence in the form of expert medical testimony demonstrating the extent to which PTSD affected him. His expert witnesses would purportedly state that the defendant suffered from combat-related PTSD at the time of the shooting.

The trial judge allowed expert testimony as to the defendant’s combat-related PTSD. However, the trial judge explicitly prohibited the witness from stating that “it was the [PTSD] that caused [defendant] to act this way” because the jury or trier of fact must make that determination.

The Appellate Court Affirmed the Trial Court’s Decision

After the jury convicted the defendant, the defendant appealed the decisions.

In the appeal, the defendant argued that the judge made the following three errors:

  • The judge prevented his witness from testifying as to whether or not the PTSD caused him to arm himself and fire a gun at the victim’s vehicle
  • The court erred in failing to use an expert’s opinion as to whether his conduct was consistent with his combat-related PTSD
  • The court erred in failing to consider evidence that the defendant believed himself to be in imminent danger during the altercation

The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s decision, holding that the defendant's state of mind at the time of the crime should be determined by the trier of fact. As to the defendant’s self-defense claim, the Appellate Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling because Illinois does not recognize a diminished capacity defense. The Court also pointed out that the defendant was the initial aggressor, making a self-defense claim untenable.

If you are a veteran who suffers from PTSD and you are facing a criminal charge, the skilled criminal defense attorneys at Glasgow & Olsson can help. Contact our Cook County criminal defense law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.

(image courtesy of Holly Mindrup)

What Role Does a Guardian Ad Litem Play in a Domestic Relations Case?

Imagine being a 6-year-old child in the middle of your parent’s highly contentious divorce. In some instances, when divorcing parents are fighting each other to receive the most favorable divorce settlement, the best interests of the child can fall to the wayside. An objective observer who can focus on the child’s best interests can be extremely helpful.

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

Illinois family court judges have the power to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent minors when parenting or custody issues arise in a domestic relations case. The guardian ad litem is often a volunteer attorney who has the duty to represent the child’s best interests. Guardian ad litems are often called “child representatives.” These court-appointed attorneys act as the eyes and ears of the court. Guardian ad litems have a duty to report any suspicious incidents to the court and advocate on behalf of a child.

What are the Responsibilities of a Guardian Ad Litem?

A Guardian Ad Litem receives copies of the court file involving the child. He or she may also request other relevant documents, such as the child’s school reports, medical records, and report cards. The guardian ad litem conducts an investigation into the domestic relations dispute at hand and can interview doctors, teachers, parents, and the child, if necessary.

After conducting an investigation, the guardian ad litem prepares a written or oral report. In the report, the guardian ad litem gives the court his or her recommendations as to the best interest of the child. The guardian ad litem cannot base his or her recommendations on the best interests of either of the parents. Instead, he or she must base his decision on the child’s best interests. Many Illinois family court judges value the opinions of guardian ad litem and will implement their recommendations.

Parenting Plans and Guardian Ad Litem

Sometimes family court judges will appoint a guardian ad litem to offer parenting plan recommendations when a parenting plan is highly disputed by two divorcing parents. A guardian ad litem may offer specific recommendations as to the following issues:

  • Equal parenting time
  • Vacation and holiday schedules
  • Legal custody disputes
  • Disputes over decision-making authority
  • Grandparent or third-party visitation access
  • Shared vs. primary custody

Challenging the Recommendation of a Guardian Ad Litem

Attorneys acting as a guardian ad litem have the responsibility to act in the best interest of the child they represent. In some cases, however, a guardian ad litem may make a biased and unfair recommendation. When this happens, the attorney representing one of the parents can attempt to cross-examine the guardian ad litem. During the cross-examination, an attorney can attempt to demonstrate any contradictions in the recommendation, any biases, or any mistruths. Challenging the recommendation of a guardian ad litem is not always easy to do.

If you are involved in a domestic relations case, the skilled divorce and custody attorneys at Glasgow & Olsson can help. Contact our Cook County law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.

(image courtesy of Liv Bruce)

Can School Administrators Fire a Tenured Teacher in Illinois?

Teachers are some of the most undervalued members of our society. They often put in long hours to help students succeed and receive little in return. Many teachers feel overburdened with too many students and not enough time to adequately prepare for classes and grade work. Offering teachers tenure is a way to protect them from being fired.

Tenured status makes it more difficult, but not impossible, for the school district to fire a teacher. If you have been fired as an Illinois tenured teacher and you are curious about your legal options, the attorneys at Glasgow & Olsson can help. Contact our Cook County personal injury law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.

It is Difficult, But Not Impossible for School Districts to Fire Tenured Teachers

Illinois law allows teachers who have completed a two-year probationary period to be eligible to receive tenure. Usually, a teacher must complete four consecutive school terms to qualify during the probationary period to be eligible for tenure. It is easier for school districts to terminate the employment of non-tenured teachers than tenured teachers.

In 2005, the Illinois-based Small Newspaper Group investigated how many Illinois teachers had been fired. According to their study, only 7% of the states 876 school districts had attempted to fire even a single tenured teacher since the mid-1980s. In the mid-1980s, Illinois passed a school-reform act that promoted teacher accountability. Over 95,000 Illinois public school teachers are tenured and only two a year on average are fired for poor job performance. Another five teachers are fired due to misconduct each year.

School boards can only legally fire a tenured teacher for cause, such as:

  • Immorality
  • Negligence
  • Cruelty
  • Incompetence

Was the Teacher’s Behavior Irremediable or Remediable?

Once the school administration decides to terminate the employment of the tenured teacher, it must determine whether the teacher's behavior is remediable or irremediable. Irremediable conduct is behavior that causes damage that cannot be corrected to the students, school, or faculty. An example of an irremediable behavior would be sexually harassing a student. A teacher who is convicted of a serious crime could be fired for cause as crimes fall into the irremediable behavior category. If a school board determines that the teacher's behavior is irremediable, they must fire the teacher.

If the school administration determines that the teacher's behavior is remediable, the administration must give the teacher a chance to correct his or her behavior. Poor performance in the classroom is an example of remediable behavior that a teacher can fix. Tardiness is another example of remedial behavior that a tenured teacher can fix. The school board must provide the teacher with a written warning about the negative behavior. In some instances, the board must create a "professional development plan" for the teacher. The plan should explain, in detail, the specific ways the teacher needs to improve and how the school district will support the teacher in those areas.

If You are a Tenured Illinois School Teacher Facing Termination, We Can Help

School boards may only legally fire tenured teachers in very narrow circumstances. If you are facing termination as a tenured teacher, the attorneys at Glasgow & Olsson can help you fight for your rights. Contact our Cook County law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.

(image courtesy of Celia Ortega)