Update on Chicago condo owners’ free speech lawsuit

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

debgoonan@icloud.com

 

In May 2019, an attorney representing a Chicago Condominium Association hinted about her client’s intent to file an appeal with Illinois Supreme Court, hoping to reverse the First District Appellate Court’s ruling in favor of free speech rights of a condo owner.

Early this summer, Diane Silverberg (Kovtiz, Shifrin, and Nesbit) filed a Leave to Appeal of the decision in the Illinois Appellate Court of the First District, which overturned a lower court’s decision against Brian Connolly.

In that case, Brian Connolly v.  Anthony Milazzo, Mike Fish, Serap Brush, and Glenn Greene, the Appellate Court of Illinois ruled 4-0 in favor of Connolly, in an unpublished opinion, citing a previous decision in Michael Boucher vs. 111 East Chestnut Condominium Association, Inc. and its board of directors as precedent.

In support of their Connolly opinion, the panel of Appellate judges cited an IL Condominium Act provision that prohibits a condo association from enacting or enforcing rules that impair First Amendment rights.

Shortly after the condo association learned of the Appellate Court’s decision, Silverberg went on the record as standing against First Amendment Constitutional constraints of condominium associations.

In case you missed it, here’s the earlier IAC post with details:

 

Condo HOA lawyer says her client may continue fight against free speech

Good News for IL condo residents?

As expected, Illinois Supreme Court denied Silverberg’s appeal on behalf of Anthony Milazzo, et al.

124822 – Brian Connolly, respondent, v. Anthony Milazzo et al., petitioners.
Leave to appeal, Appellate Court, First District. 1-17-1906
Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied.

Source: https://courts.illinois.gov/SupremeCourt/PLA_Ann/2019/092519.pdf

The case now returns to the lower court for reconsideration consistent with the Appellate Court’s opinion with regard to free speech rights of condo residents.

 

Condo association sues condo owner

Unfortunately for Connolly, 111 East Chestnut Condominium Association has filed a lawsuit against him and his wife, Victoria Valentine (Case No. 2018 CH 11670).

The condo association alleges that Connolly and Valentine have harassed the board and its management agents with numerous requests for access to records. The association also claims that Connolly has filed numerous “baseless” complaints with local and state regulatory agencies.

The association asks the court to order Connolly and Valentine to stop requesting records and filing code and ordinance violation complaints against 111 East Chestnut. Additionally, the condo association wants the court to rule that Connolly must stop posting  minutes and recordings of board meetings on his publicly-accessible website.

Most notably, the condo association claims that Connolly and Valentine must be made to pay for the “consequences” of exercising their First Amendment rights. According to the complaint, the association seeks reimbursement from the couple for its increase in insurance premiums, and “combat pay” to its management staff for handling records requests. (See excerpt below.)

111 East Chestnut V. Connolly excerpt

This is the kind of HOA lawsuit that deters homeowners from getting involved with governance of their community.

When an association’s governing board sues the owner who questions the board’s decisions, or challenges their leadership, surely it creates a chilling effect on homeowner participation.

It sends an unmistakable message to members: If you ask too many questions, or complain about service or living conditions, we will retaliate.