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IL Chief Justice Speaks to Students at SIC

October 23, 2019

Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier delivered a lecture at Southeastern Illinois College Tuesday afternoon, telling students about his experiences as a Supreme Court judge.

Karmeier was invited to speak to SIC's Student Government by Student Government co-sponsors Matt Lees and Kellye Whitler. The invitation to hear Karmeier's lecture was extended to area high schools, and students from Hardin County High School, Gallatin County High School, Pope County High School and Vienna High School attended.

“Look at this crowd,” Lees said, referring to the group of about 200 filling half of the auditorium in B-126. “I think it says something about our speaker.”

After his introduction by Lees, Karmeier, who is from Washington County, gave his audience a brief overview of the federal and state judicial systems, and how cases come before the Illinois Supreme Court. Of the many cases appealed to the state Supreme Court annually, the high court hears about 100 each year, he said.

Those cases often are determined when the seven members of the Supreme Court believe an appellate court made a decision that runs contrary to the Illinois constitution, he said.

Karmeier also addressed the issue of legislative redistricting and gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is the name for when a political party attempts to redraw legislative maps to give the party an advantage. Karmeier said he believes the process in Illinois is flawed.

“The process is often criticized as allowing legislators to choose their voters rather than the voters to choose their legislators,” Karmeier said.

In 2016, a challenge to the way Illinois legislators draw legislative districts came to the Illinois Supreme Court, though the court voted 4-3 saying it was unconstitutional. Karmeier was one of three dissenting justices, who felt that Illinois voters should have the right whether to vote to allow an independent commission draw Illinois’ legislative maps.

Karmeier received a standing ovation from his audience, which also included SIC staff, along with 59th District Senator Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, and 118th District State Representative Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis.

Afterward, Pope County High School student Anna Wasson got a unique souvenir. Wasson needed to have a paper confirming her attendance at the lecture to take back to her school. Karmeier's Judicial Marshal, Richard Harris, invited Wasson to bring the paper to Karmeier, who then signed the paper.

After his lecture, Karmeier said it is possible Illinois won’t be able to successfully combat gerrymandering without a new constitution.

“It might take a new constitution, because the three dissents to the majority opinion said that the initiative put together by Independent Maps, which was the group, met all constitutional requirements. That didn’t beat it,” Karmeier said. “In one of the dissents, we said it’s almost impossible to meet any requirements, which means that we’re stuck with the system, which is bad. Republicans did it (gerrymandering) in the early ‘90s and Democrats did it the last two. That’s why we’re pretty much a one-party state now. I think having loyal opposition is a good thing.”

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Written by Travis DeNeal