Court of Appeals Calls for End of Federal Oversight of 50-Year-Old Government Employees


A US appeals court in Chicago on Friday called for an end to federal court oversight over the state’s hiring, freeing Governor JB Pritzker and prospective governors from control that eight governments endured over half a century.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a ruling ordering the U.S. District Court in Chicago to waive the Shakman Consent Act as it applies to the governor’s office, an agreement that originated in the patronage-recruiting practices that the city, county and state have long ravaged government.

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“We are in no way saying that the risk of illegal political patronage no longer exists in Illinois,” a panel of two judges wrote in its ruling. “Of course it is. No one is naive about the embarrassing history of the state.”

But the court ruled that the reforms introduced under Pritzker and his predecessor, Republican government leader Bruce Rauner, met the requirements of the consent decree and that enforcing them “is no longer justified or acceptable.”

“Governor Pritzker has demonstrated significant compliance with the decree and has identified and instituted lasting solutions to ensure it sticks,” the court wrote. “He has earned the right to make his own decisions about employment for the state.”

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Friday’s ruling overturns a lower court decision that dismissed Pritzker’s motion to lift the consent decree.

The court-appointed special captain to oversee state compliance with the agreement and plaintiffs in the case, attorneys Michael Shakman and Paul Lurie, have pushed for continued oversight despite acknowledging progress in compliance.

Attorney Noelle Brennan, the special master, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Although the governor’s office has been under the decree since 1972, investigations into hiring practices increased in 2014 after then-state executive inspector general Ricardo Meza discovered inappropriate hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation that began under Governor Rod Blagojevich. and continued under his successor, Governor Pat Quinn.

The oversight of political hires under the Shakman Decree ended in the City of Chicago in 2014 and Cook County in 2018.

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