CHARLES A. CASAMENTO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
EMILY BERENDT, Defendant-Appellant.
from the Circuit Court of McHenry County, No. 16-LA-116; the
Hon. Thomas A. Meyer, Judge, presiding.
Jennifer L. Turiello and Dominick L. Lanzito, of Peterson,
Johnson & Murray-Chicago, LLC, of Chicago, for appellant.
Randal Baudin, of Crystal Lake, for appellee.
SCHOSTOK JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Zenoff and Burke concurred in the judgment
1 The defendant, Emily Berendt, the president of the Village
of Bull Valley (Village), requested that the Attorney
Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) investigate
whether the plaintiff, Charles A. Casamento, engaged in the
unauthorized practice of law. The ARDC found that he had not.
Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a complaint sounding in libel
against the defendant, based on statements the defendant had
made in her filing with the ARDC. The defendant moved to
dismiss the plaintiff's complaint on the basis that her
actions were subject to immunity pursuant to Illinois Supreme
Court Rule 775 (eff. Dec. 11, 2011). The trial court denied
the defendant's motion in part. The trial court found
that the defendant's statements that pertained to the
unauthorized practice of law were subject to immunity.
However, the trial court found that three statements were
extraneous to an unauthorized practice of law inquiry and
thus were not subject to immunity. In conjunction with its
partial denial of the defendant's motion to dismiss, the
trial court entered a finding pursuant to Illinois Supreme
Court Rule 308 (eff. July 1, 2017), certifying the following
"Are statements unrelated to the unauthorized practice
of law in a complaint submitted to the Attorney Registration
and Disciplinary Commission immunized under Supreme Court
On April 13, 2018, we granted the defendant's application
for leave to appeal. We now answer the certified question in
3 On November 30, 2015, the defendant submitted a
"Request for Investigation" to the ARDC, alleging
that the plaintiff had engaged in the unauthorized practice
of law. The defendant asserted that the plaintiff, a painting
contractor and not a lawyer, was providing legal advice and
offering legal services to other contractors at Village
administrative hearings regarding their defenses against
citations issued or arrests made by the Village's police
department for operating unmarked work vehicles. The
defendant alleged that the plaintiff had told other
contractors that he would represent them in a planned class
action against the Village. Specifically, the plaintiff
allegedly said to them, "I am here to help people fight
this" and "I now represent you pro
4 The defendant further asserted that she believed that the
plaintiff's envisioned class-action lawsuit concerned
purported illegal activities (i.e., unlawful arrest
and detention) by the Village's police department. She
explained that the plaintiff had inundated the Village with
demands under the Freedom of Information Act (5 ILCS 140/1
et seq. (West 2016)), seeking the production of
tickets, police reports, and disciplinary action documents
concerning Village police officers. In October 2015, she
noted, the plaintiff had staged and videotaped a traffic stop
related to the operation of an unmarked contractor work
vehicle in the Village. The plaintiff then posted the
recording on a Facebook page titled "Justice from Bull
Valley Police Department" that he originated. On this
page, he encouraged readers to contact him directly for legal
advice. The defendant further stated that the plaintiff used
the page to harass Village employees and elected officials
and their families and to threaten them with litigation.
5 The defendant additionally stated that the plaintiff had
set up an account through the website GoFundMe.com to solicit
donations for his planned class action lawsuit against the
Village. The plaintiff had contributed to local news segments
and newspaper articles concerning the Village's issuance
of citations for unmarked work vehicles. The plaintiff became
angry after one of his employees received such a citation.
The plaintiff also frequently attended Village board of
trustees meetings, during which he called for the resignation
of certain Village officials.
6 On March 28, 2016, following an investigation, the ARDC
determined that there was insufficient evidence to find that
the plaintiff had ever held himself out as an attorney or
handled any legal matters.
7 On April 5, 2016, the plaintiff filed a complaint against
the defendant sounding in malicious prosecution. The
plaintiff alleged that the defendant had reported him ...