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Aida v. Time Warner Entertainment Co.

June 28, 2002

AIDA, AN ILLINOIS NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TIME WARNER ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY, L.P., A DELAWARE LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Richard A. Siebel, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice South

UNPUBLISHED

This case arises from the trial court's order granting Time Warner Entertainment Company's (Time Warner) motion to dismiss the complaint of the American Italian Defense Association (AIDA).

AIDA, an Illinois not-for-profit organization made up of over 100 members, was formed for the following purpose, set forth in its articles of incorporation:

"The corporation is organized *** for *** educational purposes, to-wit, the education of the public concerning the history, culture, language and customs of immigrants to the United States from Italy, and the artistic, political, scientific and educational contributions made by such persons to American society; and further including, for such purposes, the opposition by lawful means of all forms of negative stereotyping, and defamation of Italian Americans."

On April 5, 2001, AIDA filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against Time Warner. In its complaint, AIDA sought a declaratory judgment from the trial court "that various episodes of The Sopranos alone or the series when taken as a whole, breaches the Individual Dignity Clause of the Illinois Constitution with respect to Italian Americans individually or as a group by reason of, or by reference to, the ethnic affiliation of the characters portrayed in that program."

The individual dignity clause of the Illinois Constitution provides:

"Individual Dignity.

To promote individual dignity, communications that portray criminality, depravity or lack of virtue in, or that incite violence, hatred, abuse or hostility toward, a person or group of persons by reason of or by reference to religious, racial, ethnic, national or regional affiliation are condemned." Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §20.

In its complaint, AIDA does not seek damages nor does it seek to restrain Time Warner from airing The Sopranos on HBO.

AIDA further asserts in its complaint that it has "standing" to file this lawsuit on behalf of and for the benefit of its members individually and by virtue of the right to remedy and justice clause of the Illinois Constitution. The right to remedy and justice clause provides:

"Right to Remedy and Justice.

Every person shall find a certain remedy in the laws for all injuries and wrongs which he receives to his person, privacy, property or reputation. He shall obtain justice, by law, freely, completely, and promptly." Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §12.

On May 21, 2001, Time Warner filed a motion under section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure to dismiss AIDA's complaint for failure to state a cause of action. 735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2000). Time Warner argued that AIDA's complaint should be dismissed because (1) the individual dignity clause does not create a judicially enforceable private right of action, but was "purely hortatory" in nature; and (2) if the individual dignity clause did create a private right ...


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