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Full text for Articles for Yesterday, Wednesday, November 14, 2018 - 3 Articles


Judge finds Illinois prisons failing to meet the needs of mentally ill inmates
Illinois Watchdog.Org
Wednesday, November 14, 2018  |   Article  |   Watchdog News
Budget--State (8) , Corrections (74) , Prisons (74)
A federal judge said the Illinois Department of Corrections has failed to meet the needs of mentally ill prison inmates.

The finding comes two years after the state reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed by former inmates.

That 2016 settlement established 25 provisions for the IDOC to meet. A court-appointed monitor said the department did not comply with 18 of those.

Harold Hirshman, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs on the 2016 settlement, said one issue is staffing.

"The settlement agreement provided that they were supposed to hire a significant number of additional mental health personnel and they hadn't," Hirshman said. "We went back to court to force them to do it."

Hirshman said the monitor called the situation an emergency because some inmates were not getting proper oversight or care.

The IDOC said in a statement that the department is committed to improving care.

Nearly 12,000 of the state's 40,000 inmates are thought to have mental health issues.

Hirshman said there have been some changes, but not enough.

"It's a very sad thing that getting a written commitment from the state in the guise of curing a constitutional violation still doesn't mean that they're going to do it."

Still, he said the lawsuit has helped to improve care.

"Yes, we have definitely made progress," Hirshman said. "They've gone from 19 psychiatrists to 50 psychiatrists. That's progress."

The state must respond with plans to remedy the problems. Hirshman said if that doesn't work, he'll go back to court to ask the judge to find the state in contempt.

Tax experts say Illinois millionaires could try to flout progressive tax
Illinois Watchdog.Org
Wednesday, November 14, 2018  |   Article  |   By Cole Lauterbach
Governor (44) , Revenue , Taxes, income (86)
J.B. Pritzker, Illinois' next governor, promised higher taxes on the wealthy would provide for new state revenue to spend on everything from roads to schools, but some tax experts say other states have sometimes had trouble collecting from wealthier residents who own property and businesses elsewhere.

Pritzker, along with other Democratic lawmakers, have proposed changing Illinois’ Constitution to allow for graduated income tax rates that would require people who earn more to pay higher income tax rates.

If lawmakers succeed in taxing the state’s wealthy residents more, some could choose to move elsewhere. It’s relatively easy for well-to-do residents to declare a winter address in Florida as their main homestead, said Zach Gray with Wall Street Financial Group, a financial planning firm with locations in Bourbonnais, Bloomington, and other towns across Illinois. Such tax avoidance schemes have been problematic in other states, including New York.

“From what I have seen, it is a fairly simple thing to do,” Gray said. “I hate to say it, but I think it’s much more commonplace than we think.”

The Illinois Department of Revenue is responsible for making sure people pay their state taxes here. The department often audits residents who file taxes elsewhere. The most recent IRS data show more than 139,000 Illinoisans did just that in 2015 alone.

Illinois law defines a resident as someone living “in this State for other than a temporary or transitory purpose during the taxable year or who is domiciled in this State but is absent from the State for a temporary or transitory purpose during the taxable year.” The general rule is that people are taxed on the income they earn in a state. Intangible income, like investment earnings, is taxed in a person's state of residence.

“Somebody running a hedge fund will get a modest salary of, say, $2 million, but the big thing is from their carried interest, which is intangible,” Forbes contributor Peter Reilly, a tax policy expert, said. “If the [Illinois] Department of Revenue gets aggressive, people who already have a place in Florida are going to say ‘screw this’ and they’ll register to vote in Florida and do a few other things, but they’re still doing business in Chicago.”

High tax states like New York and New Jersey aggressively pursue residents who try to dodge state taxes. Those states must prove the resident is in-state enough to qualify for taxation of income. Illinois, Reilly said, would likely have to do the same if the state started putting more of the income tax burden on the highest-earning residents.

Gray said he doesn’t know of anyone whose residency has been challenged, but knows of people who have switched their address or moved out of Illinois for tax savings.

“I literally had a conversation about this with one of my clients today,” he said. “They’re tired of a lot of the excessive taxation and they’re concerned about rising taxes and some of the things that have been proposed.”

One of the highest-profile residency revenue challenges in Illinois' courts was over the Autonomous 3 Trust, an account owned by the Pritzker family founded in Illinois but moved to Texas, a state which has no income tax. The trust won the case in 2013 and didn’t have to pay Illinois taxes.

Reilly said the issue of domicile isn't always clear. In court, it can come down to odd details like acquiring a resident hunting license in the state or if a former resident has their dog’s vaccination records licensed there. Statutory residence, however, is when revenue-seeking states like New York will seek to prove that an out-of-state resident had spent enough time in the Empire State to entitle themselves to part of their annual earnings.

“They’re going to tax you as a resident even though you’re domiciled someplace else,” he said. “The state where you’re domiciled is also going to tax you as a resident.”

We know you’re not happy, but shut up about it!
Madison County Record
Wednesday, November 14, 2018  |   Editorial  |   By The Madison County Record
Tort Reform (27)
If your lawyers negotiated a $20 million settlement for you, you’d be happy as a lark, wouldn’t you? You certainly wouldn’t complain about a jackpot like that. Only a colossal ingrate would act as if he’d been cheated by a settlement of that size.

Unless, of course, more than half of that princely sum went to lawyers’ fees and expenses, and you had to split the less than $10 million that was left over with 11,255 other plaintiffs. In that case, a little crabbing might be in order.

Imagine having to explain a deal like that to your clients, who’ve waited ten years or more only to receive a check for less than 900 bucks!

You might begin something like this: “We understand that the East St. Louis community has been denied justice in past years, and this is one of the key reasons we desired to take this case in the first place.”

That, in fact, is how the Environmental Litigation Group of Birmingham, Ala., and local lawyer Paul Schoen began their Nov. 7 letter to disgruntled clients in East St. Louis, detailing the pollution accusations settlement reached with Monsanto on their behalf.

The settlement Monsanto agreed to came to nearly $21 million, but less than half of that amount ($9,874,739.24) will be, or already has been, dispersed to plaintiffs, for an average payout of $873.

The larger “half” ($10,831,284.36) went more or less equally to attorney fees and expenses.

The apologetic attorneys avowed themselves champions of transparency, but reminded their clients that their claims against recycler Cerro Copper have yet to be settled and cautioned them not to discuss the case publicly.

“As we have said repeatedly, it is in your best interest and the best interest of all clients that communications between our clients and their attorneys remain confidential and attorney-client-privileged so as not to jeopardize your case going forward.”

Such taciturnity is no doubt in the best interests of Paul Schoen and the Environmental Litigation Group, too. Vocal clients expressing dissatisfaction are not good for business.