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Association of Prosecuting Attorneys

Illinois Legislature Passes Bill that Would Limit Special Prosecutors

May 24, 2012
A bill aimed at stopping expensive, taxpayer-subsidized special prosecutions in McHenry County and throughout Illinois is on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn's desk. House Bill 4749, which would limit judges' ability to appoint special prosecutors, cleared the Senate on a unanimous vote, 59-0. The bill, drafted by Rep. Kent Gaffney, R-Lake Barrington, passed the House in March, 108-0.\ The bill, drafted and carried by McHenry County's representatives in Springfield, was inspired by the price tag on the special prosecution of State's Attorney Lou Bianchi that resulted in his acquittal on all charges. Taxpayers have paid at least $525,000 to date, and could be on the hook for much more. However, the legislation - if Quinn signs it - will not affect the ongoing fight over the remaining cost in the Bianchi case. "There's no question public officials should be held to the highest possible ethical and legal standards, but there's also no question the legal bills we've seen in McHenry County have been extremely excessive," Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, said. House Bill 4749 sets stricter guidelines for judges to appoint special prosecutors to investigate crimes when the state's attorney is unable or unwilling. Before appointing a special prosecutor, a judge first would have to reach out to other public agencies, such as the Illinois Attorney General of other counties' state's attorneys, to see whether they can investigate at no cost to the county.