That was my takeaway from the hearing in Judge Thomas Meyer’s courtroom today.
To put it in terms contained in the law book and an Illinois Supreme Court ruling, the lawyer for the Sheriff’s Department is the State’s Attorney.
The case involves the denied Freedom of Information request from the First Electric Newspaper for the Sheriff’s Department’s report exonerating Andy Zinke, Undersheriff and Keith Nygren-endorsed candidate as his successor, in a DEA investigation involving the RITA Corporation.
Publisher Pete Gonigam appealed the denial to the Public Access Bureau of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. The result was a recommendation that Nygren release the report.
That left Gonigam with only one alternative, if he wanted to see the report: go to court, which he did.
Meyer is clearly cognizant of the admonition in the Freedom of Information Act to make an expeditious decision.
“My problem is…I got the case in July and I still [haven’t gotten] the [legal] representation resolved,” the Judge explained.
“I recognize that you both have separate interests and must be represented…[but] the statute tells me those interests are identical… (McHenry County State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi is supporting former Des Plaines Police Commander Bill Prim for the GOP nomination for Sheriff.)
“I am trying very hard to accommodate them…
“It was my expectation that the State’s Attorney would be handling the representation of the Sheriff and Mr. [Don] Leist would be additional counsel…
“As far as the handling of the case is concerned [however] only one attorney will be handling it…
“I don’t know that we can resolve those issues. We’re always going to have the[m].
“But I’d like to get to the substance of the case sooner, rather than later..
“[It] sticks in my head that I’m supposed to be handling this expeditiously, but I’m not handling it at all.
“I’m putting you on notice that it’s my intention to proceed with the case as soon as possible.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Norm Vinton asked about the possibility that an attorney from Rockford, who had been in the same law firm as the Judge, might be still be appointed a Special Assistant State’s Attorney, but Judge Meyer apparently has had second thoughts about that possibility.
Gonigam’s attorney, Mary Gardner, was not in the courtroom today, but First Electric Newspaper publisher Gonigam told the Judge, “I think we don’t have a dog in this fight.”
The Court told the parties that it was his intent to reconsider his ruling that Leist could represent his boss.
Judge Meyer said he could make himself available Monday, but Vinton suggested that the scheduled Court hearing next Thursday was soon enough.
A courtroom observer predicted, “They’re gonna lose. I guess the Sheriff thinks the State’s Attorney will lose it faster.”