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Restricting Felons from Holding Public Office-Venue

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//July 8, 2024//

Restricting Felons from Holding Public Office-Venue

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//July 8, 2024//

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Larry Sapp v. Kimberly Foxx

Case No.: 23-2502

Officials: Brennan, Scudder, and Lee, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Restricting Felons from Holding Public Office-Venue

Larry Sapp, an Army veteran with prior felony drug convictions won election to the Sauk Village Board of Trustees in Illinois. However, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office invoked two Illinois statutes to remove him from office, citing restrictions that prohibit certain felons from holding public office. Sapp contested the constitutionality of these statutes, asserting violations of the Eighth Amendment’s protections against Cruel and Unusual Punishment and Excessive Fines. He argued that these laws unfairly deprived him of the opportunity to serve publicly and the income associated with such positions.

The Cook County Circuit Court rejected Sapp’s constitutional challenges, affirming the statutes’ validity and ordering his removal from office. Dissatisfied, Sapp initiated a federal lawsuit against Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx. He sought an injunction preventing the State’s Attorney from enforcing the statutes in future elections. In this new lawsuit, Sapp reiterated his Eighth Amendment claims and introduced an additional argument that enforcing the statutes would constitute Cruel and Unusual Punishment.

The Seventh Circuit declined to examine the substance of his constitutional claims, ruling instead that they were barred by Illinois legal principles of collateral estoppel and res judicata. According to the court, Sapp’s federal lawsuit arose from the same set of factual circumstances as the State’s Attorney’s quo warranto action in Cook County Court. Therefore, under Illinois law, Sapp was precluded from raising arguments in federal court that he could have raised in the earlier state court action.

Affirmed.

Decided 07/03/24

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