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Reeder v. Madigan

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Urbana Division

April 24, 2014

SCOTT REEDER and the ILLINOIS POLICY INSTITUTE (d/b/a ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK), an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, Plaintiffs,
v.
MICHAEL J. MADIGAN, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

COLIN S. BRUCE, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Motive is one of the reasons an individual or a group engage in an action. An action caused by a good motive may be perceived as proper and appropriate. The same action caused by a bad motive may be perceived as improper, inappropriate or even criminal.

The court has questions about the motives behind the Defendants' denials of Plaintiff's application for access to the press facilities of the Illinois House and Senate. This is not to say that the court believes the Defendants' motives are improper.[1] The court simply wonders about the legislative review process for press applications, whether denials of press applications are routine or rare, whether similarly situated individuals were granted or denied access to the press facilities of the Illinois House and Senate, and whether waivers of the application requirements are granted.

The threshold issue before the court when considering the pending motions, however, is whether Defendants' actions are within the scope of absolute legislative immunity. The Supreme Court in Tenney v. Brandhove, 341 U.S. 367, 377 (1951), established that motive is not an element to be considered when determining absolute legislative immunity. Thus, the motives behind the Defendants' denial of Plaintiff's application for access to the press facilities of the Illinois House and Senate shall not be considered.

This case, therefore, is ripe for ruling by the court on various motions filed by the parties. This court has carefully reviewed the Verified Complaint (#1) filed by Plaintiffs, along with the attached exhibits, and all of the arguments made by the parties in their filings before this court. Following this careful review, the Motion to Dismiss (#11) filed by Defendants Michael J. Madigan, John Cullerton, Steve Brown and Rikeesha Phelon, is GRANTED. Accordingly, this case is dismissed with prejudice and Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction (#2) is MOOT.

FACTS[2]

This case involves Plaintiff Scott Reeder's unsuccessful application for access to the press facilities of the Illinois House and Senate. Reeder is an employee of Plaintiff Illinois Policy Institute (IPI). IPI is a 501(c)(3) not-for profit corporation with offices in Springfield and Chicago, Illinois. IPI is a non-partisan public-policy research and education organization that promotes personal and economic freedom in Illinois. Reeder has worked as a journalist for nearly 26 years and is currently a journalist for the Illinois News Network. The Illinois News Network is a project of IPI and is a news service that provides news articles and commentary related to issues of state government and public policy to newspapers across the state. Reeder writes his news commentary from a perspective that favors free markets and limited government, a perspective that he, and the Illinois News Network and IPI, believe is under represented in the Illinois media. IPI's work apart from the Illinois News Network primarily involves conducting and publishing research related to public policy issues affecting Illinois.

The Illinois House of Representatives (House) and Illinois Senate (Senate) both have press boxes on their respective chambers' floors. Access to the press boxes gives journalists advantages they would not otherwise have, such as the distribution of press releases, transcripts of speeches and staff analyses of bills, and a guaranteed seat in the legislative chambers on days when the public galleries are full. Not all journalists are given access to the press boxes because some are excluded by the application of the Illinois Lobbyist Registration Act (LRA), the House and Senate Rules, and the Senate Media Guidelines for the 98th General Assembly. The LRA requires individuals and organizations that directly or indirectly lobby the state government to register with the Illinois Secretary of State. There are exemptions from this requirement.

Reeder has worked as a journalist since 1988 for various organizations and was granted access to the House and Senate press facilities for each year from 1999 through 2012. Reeder started working for the Illinois News Network in 2012. In late 2012 or January 2013, Reeder requested media credentials and access to the press facilities on the floor of the Illinois House and Senate for 2013. At that time, IPI was registered as a lobbyist under the LRA. On March 15, 2013, Rikeesha Phelon, Press Secretary to the President of the Senate, John Cullerton, denied Reeder's request on the ground that Senate Rule 4-3 and the Senate Media Guidelines barred registered lobbyists from obtaining press credentials. Senate Rules 4-3(a) and (d) provide, in relevant part;

Entitled to Floor
(a)... Representatives of the press, while the Senate is in session, may have access to the galleries and places allotted to them by the President....
...
(d) No person who is directly or indirectly interested in defeating or promoting any pending legislative measure, if required to be registered as a lobbyist, is allowed access to the floor of the Senate at any time during the session.

Verified Complaint (#1), Exhibit 2. The Senate Media Guidelines provide in relevant part:

2. In order to obtain access to the press galleries of the Senate, ... a person must have a media credential issued by the Office of the Senate President.
3. Persons eligible to apply for a media credential must be a bona fide resident correspondent of reputable standing, giving their chief attention to the gathering and reporting of news. Applicants must be employed by newspapers, periodicals, radio or other news services (hereinafter "news organization") that regularly publishes a substantial volume of news material.... The news organization must engage in and require coverage of Illinois on a continuing basis and must be owned and operated independently of any industry, institution, association, or lobbying organization. All applicants must also be employed by a news organization that is published for profit and is supported chiefly by advertising or by subscription, or is published by a nonprofit organization. Each applicant ...

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