Gilbert C. Sison
Gilbert C. Sison

The federal trial court lacks jurisdiction to hear a state lawmaker’s suit challenging Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive orders, a federal judge ruled Monday.

Rep. Darren Bailey should pursue his case in state court because “it would be judicial overreach” to interpret his state claims as invoking violations of the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gilbert C. Sison wrote in a 16-page order.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Y. Raoul, who represents the governor, removed the case from Illinois’ 4th Judicial Circuit Court to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, arguing Bailey’s suit alleged violations of his rights under the U.S. Constitution.

“Clearly, the crux of the instant dispute is the scope of the Governor’s power under the statutory scheme established by the Illinois legislature. And, although federal constitutional rights may be impacted, it is ultimately incidental to the issue of whether the Governor exceeded those powers, which is a matter governed solely by state law,” Sison wrote.

“Furthermore, to the extent that Bailey is asserting the violation of his federal constitutional rights, those same rights are protected by the Illinois Constitution, and thus, such claims are closely related. Finally, in the absence of any purported federal claim predominating this case, Bailey’s original choice of forum should be respected.”

Sison acknowledged his finding in Bailey’s favor “was a close call” and declined to award Bailey attorney fees.

Sison’s ruling reached the same conclusion as a statement of interest from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, which intervened in this case after Raoul removed Bailey’s case to federal court.

The DOJ in its May 22 filing argued Bailey’s lawsuit belongs in state court because he only asserts violations of state law.

Bailey’s amended complaint, filed in April in Clay County, alleges Pritzker’s successive 30-day stay-at-home orders exceeded his authority under state law and the Illinois Constitution.

Raoul contended Bailey’s case falls under federal jurisdiction, citing 28 U.S. Code section 1343(a)(3), which encompasses actions “seeking redress for alleged deprivations of constitutional rights under color of state law,” the AG’s motion states.

Sison disagreed with Raoul’s proposed application of section 1343(a)(3).

A “broad reading” of Bailey’s lawsuit could allow the court to apply section 1343(a)(3), but Sison found “that the amended complaint stops just short of” stating a claim seeking redress of a deprived right secured by the U.S. Constitution.

Sison declined to address each of Raoul’s individual arguments showing why section 1343(a)(3) confers jurisdiction, “because it is clear that it would be judicial overreach to read Bailey’s claims as federal civil rights claims subject to Section 1343’s jurisdictional grant.”

He wrote that a broad reading of Bailey’s lawsuit “would expand federal jurisdiction to cover claims against state actors for violating state laws in the absence of a clearly-pleaded claim that the state action violated or implicated the United States Constitution or an Act of Congress.”

Thomas G. DeVore, a partner with Silver Lake Group Ltd. in Greenville, is one of Bailey’s attorneys.

DeVore said he’s pleased with the decision and looks forward to a hearing in the case Thursday at the Clay County courthouse in Louisville.

A spokesperson for the Illinois Attorney General’s office declined to comment.

The federal case in the Southern District of Illinois is Darren Bailey v. Jay Robert Pritzker, No. 20 C 474.

The case in the 4th Judicial Circuit Court is Darren Bailey v. Jay Robert Pritzker, 20 CH 6.