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Updated!! Conflict of interest with IL Supreme Court and gun ban ruling appeal (Caulkins case)?

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Some updates on what this article started listed below and added in near the end. Click below for another major story (one of the justices appears to have lobbied with a gun control group for the law ).


3/11/23: this article has led to some serious problems for Governor Pritzker and the judges he was the largest donor to

11/15/23: the research and publicity this article has caused has led to a petition with the US Supreme Court on Caperton V Massey grounds, which was first brought up in this piece. See end of article for info.

12/2/23: the state of Illinois has decided to waive their opportunity to counter the substantial and true claims made by Caulkins before SCOTUS (they're not challenging the petition)


Only in fictional Gotham City could something so blatant be possible, but it's not, it's the state of Illinois LOL! On Friday, a state level lawsuit challenging the newly enacted "assault weapons" ban was decided. The ban was ruled unconstitutional for violating state law (not on 2A grounds). Almost immediately after the ruling came out, this happened:

As you can see, named as first defendant is Governor Jay Robert Pritzker, who signed the gun ban into law. The Illinois Supreme Court now has to decide on whether to grant or deny the appeal. This is where it gets funny (as in "my goodness how much of a clown show can this turn in to).

In 2022, there were 2 contested (meaning challenged) IL Supreme Court seats. The Governor's personal trust bankrolled the two now-seated victorious Democrats. It was a scandal at the time as well.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker is using his personal trust fund to circumvent contribution limits in two races that will determine whether his party maintains its 4-3 majority on the Illinois Supreme Court.
Pritzker earlier this year signed into law a measure that limits contributions to a judicial candidate from “any single person” to $500,000.
In September, Pritzker’s campaign fund, JB for Governor, contributed $500,000 each to the campaigns of Democrats Elizabeth Rochford and Mary Kay O’Brien, who are running for two open seats on the high court. Last week, the billionaire entrepreneur and Hyatt Hotels heir dipped into his personal trust fund, Jay Robert Pritzker Revocable Trust, to give each candidate’s campaign another $500,000, state campaign finance records show.
The Illinois State Board of Elections historically has treated trusts as separate entities for the purpose of enforcing contribution limits, spokesperson Matt Dietrich said.
“Absent a complaint alleging a violation, we would not assess a penalty,” Dietrich said.

These two judges are also in the middle of another scandal, as the IL Senate President's PAC is under scrutiny for potential campaign finance violations regarding the 2 new ILSC justices. We covered it earlier, as they are both also endorsed and financially supported (hundreds of thousands of dollars) by Everytown For Gun Safety:

From the source in the article:

A political committee, funded in part by Senate President Don Harmon’s campaign that helped expand the Democratic majority on the Illinois Supreme Court, failed to file timely campaign reports as required by state law and didn’t disclose the bulk of its $7.3 million in spending until after the election.
The committee — All for Justice — spent heavily on television ads in support of winning Democratic Justices Elizabeth Rochford and Mary Kay O’Brien. The commercials painted Republican opponents as virulent anti-abortion candidates, politically potent attacks given the U.S. Supreme Court decision that sent the issue of abortion rights to the states only months earlier.
The failure of All for Justice to follow the disclosure guidelines mandated by state election law obscured its pro-Democratic spending in the critical months preceding the November races in which the partisan balance of the Illinois Supreme Court was up for grabs.

And now these two new justices will get to rule on the case and what happens to the defendant, which whom bankrolled both of them to be in the position they're in. In a just world these two would be rescused from this case/ruling on it with JB Pritzker as a defendant, but this is happening in Illinois, and corruption is rooted deep into the political system there. Also, here's the IL Supreme Court Code of Judicial Conduct:

We already have the financial connection, but here's the personal connection. She's (judge Rochford) public about it all, as well as showing the support for lobbying organizations that lobbied for the IL "Assualt Weapons" ban. Examples:

Justice O'Brien deleted her account after the election.

UPDATE 3/6/23: this article has now been covered by Washington Gun Law:

Update: looks like we have settled US Supreme Court case law on this subject:

Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. is a 2009 United States Supreme Court case in which the court held that the 14th Amendment Due Process Clause requires judges to recuse themselves from cases that represent a probability of bias.[1][2] The case involved Justice Brent Benjamin of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia refusing to recuse himself from a case involving a major donor to his election campaign. The range of conflicts of interest that require judges to recuse themselves expanded following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling.
The case: A CEO donated large sums of money during a judicial election while his case was working through the appeals process. The judge he supported won the election and subsequently refused to recuse himself from the CEO's case and ruled in his favor. The other party to the case sued, saying the judge should have recused himself.
The issue: Whether a judge's failure to recuse himself from a case when he received campaign donations from one of the parties was a violation of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.[3]
The outcome: The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the lower court's ruling. The opinion held that a probability of bias required Justice Benjamin to recuse himself from the Massey case.
Why it matters: The ruling expanded the application of the Due Process Clause in judicial recusal cases to instances where a probability of bias exists.[1]

Update 3/7/23: this article and its research featured on Bishop on Air. Start at 14:56

In addition, Greg Bishop used the info (and expanded on some other areas) for his article published today.

Update 3/8/23

So this article has now led to a massive question on judicial ethics that not only affect the IL gun ban, but also the recent SAFE-T act (no cash bail, etc), in which the Governor (the largest donor to both new ILSC justices) is the primary defendant. Amazing what a little research on search engines can find and lead to once compiled, eh?

And another update for today, Governor Pritzker asked about this information point blank today. He's a very unhappy man because of this. Watch his tantrum here LOL:

Rep Dan Caulkins, who brought the lawsuit, responds:

Update 3/9/23: IL House GOP lawmakers are now pushing for ethics reforms over this:

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A local lawmaker says there’s been a lot of work done by his party on ethics legislation in recent years given recent state political scandals, thanks in part to a now-resigning U.S. Attorney in northern Illinois.

At a news conference in Springfield Thursday, however, Republican State Representative Ryan Spain says you might not know that thanks to the Democrats.

“Even though that special investigating committee was convened, it was impaneled, and ultimately swept under the rug — many of the corrupt activities and misconduct from Speaker (Mike) Madigan — we shined a light on this topic, and we’re here to continue shining a light on this topic today,” said Spain (R-Peoria).

Spain and other House Republicans want exposed and eliminated potential conflicts of interest among lawmakers, want the inspector general in the state to be given more power to investigate claims of fraud and abuse, and they even want a resolution against putting up any portraits of Madigan in that chamber.

The Illinios Supreme Court will hear arguments next week on the so-called “cashless bail” provisions in the state’s Safe-T Act, and a lawmaker who wants more ethics reform in Springfield thinks that should include the Governor.

Governor JB Pritzker Spain and House Republicans allege, gave a total of $2 million each to the Illinois Supreme Court campaigns of Justice Mary K. O’Brien and Elizabeth Rochford, even though a 2022 law capped contributions from “any single person” to $500,000 per candidate.

“The legislature worked very deliberately, with the cooperation of the government, to gerrymander the judicial maps, after voters came forward. Let’s remember, 600,000 voters said ‘we need to change how we deliver redistricting in the State of Illinois.’ Then, the Democrats went forward and said ‘we’re going to change the composition of the court system.'”

Update 3/11/23 (more on link, including the opinion of a renowned professor):

The Center Square) – Attention on judicial integrity has been raised with the focus on $2 million in campaign contributions Gov. J.B. Pritzker made to two Illinois Supreme Court justice candidates who won in November. The court hears cases next week. In one high-profile case, Pritzker is a top defendant.
Pritkzer downplayed his $1 million donation to each of two then-supreme court candidates who are now on the bench of seven. He gave half a million from each of his political campaign and his revocable trust to Supreme Court candidates Mary O’Brien and Elizabeth Rochford. That's despite the governor signing into law last year limiting contributions to such campaigns to $500,000 from single individuals.

“If you’re suggesting that the fact that I gave money to let's say the Democratic Party or the committees that supported candidates means that everybody who’s received any money has to recuse themselves from anything to do with the state of Illinois, that’s ridiculous,” Pritzker said at an unrelated event in Springfield. “And I’ve certainly never asked anybody to vote a certain way or decide on a case a certain way. I would never do that. I never have and I never will.”
Pritzker said the justices are independent jurists.
Tuesday, the high court hears the appeal of a Kankakee County court’s ruling that the no-cash bail provision of the SAFE-T Act is unconstitutional. In May, justices hear oral arguments in the gun-ban challenge from Macon County where Pritzker is a lead defendant.

11/15/23 update: Off to SCOTUS

12/2/23: the state appears to be thumbing their nose at Caulkins and thinks the petition is not worthy of a response, and they also appear to potentially giving SCOTUS the middle finger


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