Posts By Kent Williamson

The History Of Bankruptcy Law In Illinois

Few bankruptcy laws were drafted before 1898. Those that came after were mostly federal codes, which means that all states had to abide by them. Eventually, states would write their own rules — but most are similar to the rules that were already on the books. If you’re looking to claim bankruptcy and aren’t quite sure where you stand legally, then you need to consult with a bankruptcy lawyer first.

Prior to 1898, the Bankruptcy Act of 1800 was written into law — only to be replaced and repealed several times over the next century. The 1800 law was codified after a significant period of financial decline in the United States. Its framers believed in English laws on bankruptcy, and so the law was modeled after theirs. Everyday citizens didn’t really have access to bankruptcy. You had to be a merchant, banker, or broker in order to make a deal with a creditor.

In the year 1898, the Nelson Act was put into law. This is where most of the modern bankruptcy reforms we still rely on today actually come from. It was pro-business, and provided bankruptcy options to companies that couldn’t make good on their debt. Like the laws that came before, it would be amended by future laws, like the Bankruptcy Act of 1938 and the Bankruptcy Act of 1978.

You might not know what to do if you are going bankrupt, or it might seem like there are no sensible next steps — but that’s not the case. There’s plenty you can do to get your life back on track. It’s worth keeping in mind that once you apply for and claim bankruptcy, you won’t be able to do it again for a number of years. Although you should see it as a “final step” legally speaking, your next steps all involve making several amendments in everyday life.

Financial consultants are fairly important for anyone both before and after a bankruptcy. Figuring out how to make more money and spending less money are the two obvious routes to take, but money managing techniques are real — and they’re important. For example, having cash on hand gives you a tangible thing that you gain and lose. It’s harder to give up. When you use credit or debit cards instead, then money becomes an immaterial thing. Swiping is much easier psychologically, which means you should avoid holding onto credit cards. Cut them up! Or put them in a safety deposit box for when they’re really needed, i.e. emergencies.

Many bankrupt families will also benefit from the realization that there is always a way to spend less. Have you ever heard that saying that Americans spend like they’re temporarily inconvenienced millionaires? Mention Goodwill and many people will scoff, as if that’s beneath them. Meanwhile they’ll still head to McDonalds every other day on the very wrong assumption that it’s cheaper than the produce section at the grocery store. Planning meals and avoiding the store on an empty stomach become more important strategies for saving money.

Slavery After Illinois Became A State

Illinois drafts its first state constitution in 1818. Decades earlier, the Northwestern Ordinance had already outlawed slavery — but the Illinois constitution gave the new state the option of overturning those old laws. Generally, slavery was tolerated once the state joined the union, but new slaves could not be “thereafter introduced.” Notably, to effectively ban slavery forever, the constitution would need a clause banning the introduction of a pro-slavery amendment. It didn’t go that far.

It was for this reason that a proposal was later introduced that would have made slavery legal in Illinois again. Voters rejected it in 1824.

It’s worth keeping in mind that even though voters were against slavery, they didn’t use their own state’s laws to disrespect another state’s laws. When slaves from Missouri crossed the border and entered Illinois, they received little aid from state authorities. In fact, Illinois law said that indentured slaves who escaped and were recaptured would then be subject to a longer sentence. 

Illinois law also prohibited Africans from serving on juries when the accused was white. 

But the state also made strides toward fully outlawing slavery as well. The Illinois Supreme Court made a series of judgments — usually relying on jurisprudence, which means respecting previously made decisions — to slowly free slaves who were still living in Illinois.

For example, Cornelius v. Cohen resulted in an 1825 Illinois Supreme Court decision that said that both parties must contractually agree to the servitude in order that it remain valid. A later decision, Boon v. Juliet, said that any children of registered slaves would be freed upon entry into Illinois. 

An 1845 Illinois Supreme Court decision ended slavery once and for all. Jarrot v. Jarrot resulted in a ruling that said descendants of former slaves born after the Northwest Ordinance were all free by law. That meant that those who were born into servitude were free retrospectively.

What Did The Northwest Ordinance Mean For Southernmost Illinois?

We recently discussed how slavery was outlawed in the northwestern territories following the American Revolution — although slavery was still implemented in several ways via loopholes in the ordinance. But the document wasn’t just about slavery. It helped govern land ownership, the admission of new states over time, education in American territories that were not yet states, how to establish government, what rights territorial citizens held, and relations with Native Americans who still resided in the area.

One of the freedoms provided in this document was land ownership. Land owners had every right to buy or sell land at will. Once purchased, land was owned in perpetuity, i.e. forever. Technically, no one else could claim it as their own or take it away.

One of our friends, an anonymous history buff and academic scholar who works part-time for Nagel Rice LLP, said, that the Northwest Ordinance was of particular historical importance because of the rights it provided: “If you believe in the American Bill of Rights, then you might consider that it started with this ordinance. There were ‘natural rights’ provisions that provided for religious tolerance and other legal rights. It all started there.”

The document said because “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Even habeas corpus was written into the ordinance, which basically meant that residents inside the northwestern territory had the right to due process. They could not be unlawfully detained, nor could they be subject to cruel or unusual punishment when found guilty of a crime. In addition, they held the right to a jury trial when allegations or charges were made.

Although the Northwestern Ordinance had a lot to say on a variety of subjects including slavery, the main purpose was to determine how new states would be established over time. The document placed a limitation on how many states could be established given the amount of land and population. Because of the huge area, the ordinance said that at least three states should eventually be established so long as the population of the area had reached 60,000 people — but that no more than five states should be established, and that the population in each state would still need to reach 60,000 people before admission into the union. 

Eventually, five states gained admission. First was Ohio in 1803. At this point the territory was renamed the Indiana Territory. Not long thereafter, the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin gained entry into the union. But a sixth state — Minnesota — eventually stole a piece of the remaining land.

The northwestern ordinance created a public domain, which means it could not be bought or sold by the federal government. It belonged to the people who lived there.

Slavery In Illinois After The American Revolution

We recently discussed slavery in Illinois Country up to and after the French and Indian War in 1763, after which England controlled the territory. And as you already know, England would only control Illinois for little more than a decade because the American Revolution was right around the corner. And what happened to slavery after the American Revolution?

The United States formerly took control of Illinois and all nearby territories after the American Revolution. Interestingly, this was one of the first areas that outlawed slavery. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 created the Northwest Territory. It was enormous. It’s boundaries ran from the upper Mississippi River in the west to the Great Lakes in the north, to the Ohio River in the south. 

Article 6 of the Northwest Ordinance said, “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted: Provided, always, That any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid.”

In other words, slavery was outlawed — but there were plenty of loopholes that allowed the ownership of African slaves, both in the northwest after the Northwest Ordinance, and in the south after the Civil War. Perhaps worthy of noting is that we’re not entirely sure who wrote this article of the ordinance, although at least one person claimed credit.

For decades, there would be renewed efforts to reimplement slavery in the northwestern territories, including in Illinois. These were doomed to fail, but an “Indentured Servant” law allowed some limited forms of slavery when transporting a slave from one state or territory to another. 

Also worth noting is that southern states were on board with eliminating slavery in the northwest because it means that northwestern territories would have more difficulty competing economically.

The History Of Slavery In Illinois: Part III

In part two of our series on the history of slavery in Illinois, we continued our discussion on slavery during the colonial period. During this time, Illinois was called Illinois Country, and included parts of Missouri and Wisconsin, all of which were under the control of New France. We talked about the many punishments that slaves — and their masters — were subject to when various infractions were committed. We also discussed the limitations of slaves as “property.”

Today we’ll finish up our discussion on Code Noir, the set of laws that governed slavery in Illinois in the early 1700s. 

Slave masters had sole discretion over whether or not to free slaves, but there were other factors at work. For example, we previously mentioned that a slave owner who impregnated a slave must marry the slave. This would result in the freeing of both the slave and the slave’s children. A slave’s master must be at least 20 years of age before they could legally free the slave — but only with parental permission. A 25-year-old master can do so even without parental permission.

Slaves were legally allowed many of the rights to which freedmen were entitled — but only when their masters transferred those rights. For example, slave owners could delegate a slave to serve as executor of their will upon the owner’s death. They could also ask slaves to tutor their children. In either of these circumstances, the slaves who were granted these rights would also be freed at the time of their master’s death.

The law also guaranteed that any slaves or freed slaves living in New France were subjects of France no matter where they were born. So long as they were free, they had the same rights as any other citizen — by law, if not in practice.

An anonymous history buff who also works for the Douglas Lipsky law firm said, “Freed slaves still lived a hard life. Not everyone accepted that they were free. Racism pervaded society during this time period. The laws were far more strict regarding freed slaves. The reality was that they could be placed right back into slavery or even into indentured servitude by random change or by breaking a random law. It was tough.”

The last thing you should know about all fines and fees associated with broken rules and laws in Code Noir is that the majority of this revenue went straight to the French royal administration. However, about a third of that revenue would be pumped back into the local economy — it went to the hospital in that jurisdiction.

These laws were in effect until Great Britain assimilated the territory after the French and Indian War in 1763. You might even feel that Code Noir was completely unnecessary — because in 1763, only about 900 slaves lived there. When the French escaped from the region, they took 300 of those slaves along with them.

The History Of Slavery In Illinois: Part II

In part one of our series on the history of slavery in Illinois, we discussed where this occurred and the implications of a set of laws called Code Noir. “Illinois Country” consisted of parts of Missouri and Wisconsin, which were all part of a larger territory called “New France” — obviously under French control. Code Noir determined what masters could do with slaves and what slaves could not do to their masters. We’ll start there.

Punishments were severe. They were considered a deterrent for certain types of behavior. We previously mentioned that a slave who struck his or her master would be killed as a matter of course.

Slaves who ran from their masters — but were caught — would be subject to having their ears cut off as punishment. Also, they would be branded to make recapture easier if the slave ran a second time. The second attempt would result in a month of hamstring mutilation and a rebranding. If the slave ran a third time, they would be killed.

If former slaves who were freed went on to harbor fugitive slaves, then the fugitive’s owner was allowed to beat the former slave who committed the infraction. Also, the former slave would be fined 300 pounds of sugar for each day the slave spent in their presence (which essentially put the former slave into slavery once again, in most cases). Anyone else who harbored a fugitive slave was subject to a lesser fine.

Masters were fined if a slave was wrongly put to death. In this way, slaves were not considered “property” in the same way they were in English colonies and American states after the American Revolution.

Still, they were property. If the master died, then the slaves he owned would be “equally split” among the master’s beneficiaries. Only when there was unpaid debt could the slaves be sold.

The History Of Slavery In Illinois: Part I

The Jamestown area of Virginia received the first documented slaves brought over by England, but the rest of the colonies also saw slavery as a valuable resource through which they could acquire new wealth and work land more easily. Although northern states were always somewhat more “enlightened” on the topic of slavery, it didn’t start out this way. This is the first part in our series on the history of slavery in Illinois.

England couldn’t keep the entirety of North America to itself. There was a great deal of competition to take and populate this land (that was already populated by Native Americans). Although the British Empire took control of much of present-day America, the French were far more dominant in the northern territories of present-day Canada. They also had a foothold in present-day Illinois — at least for a while.

Back then, Illinois was more formerly known as “Illinois Country.” And it was far bigger, too. It was part of a vast swath of land that included Wisconsin and Missouri. This region was only one component of “New France.” We believe the first slaves arrived in this region around 1720 — around a century after Jamestown imported its first Africans that were considered “property.”

There were laws that determined many aspects of slavery. It was called Code Noir, which translates to “Code Black.” It wasn’t just about slavery. It helped set rules and regulations on religion, sexual relationships, marriage, punishment, and prohibition.

One aspect of Code Noir that might surprise you is that even though slaves were largely considered property, it was stipulated that they must be baptized in a Roman Catholic Church upon arrival. Both slaves and masters who worshipped any other god or religion would be punished under these laws. Another sad reality? Those of Jewish ethnicity were banned from all French colonies in the New World.

Code Noir acknowledged that sexual relations between slaves and free men were inevitable. If children were born as the result of these romps, then an unmarried father would be forced to marry the slave — which would also result in the slave’s freedom. Children of the slave would also be granted freedom. Barring marriage, the slave’s master and his or her father would be subject to an enormous fine of 2000 pounds of sugar.

Slaves were allowed to marry, but only at the owner’s discretion — and only if they consented to the marriage themselves. Forced marriages were forbidden. Any children born to these slaves would also be born into slavery. Sexual abuse between freed men and their slaves ( was commonplace in colonial Illinois.

There were a number of prohibitions that slaves were told to accept. These ranged from the strange to the cruel. For example, slaves were barred from carrying weapons, selling sugarcane, gathering, assaulting a master, etc. A master could not sell a married slave couple’s prepubescent children. A slave who struck a master or his family would be killed under the law.

The Earliest History Of Southern Illinois

Illinois is known for its flat fields and wooded landscapes. But where did these vast swaths of land come from? How did they form? From Chicago headed south, you’ll find dozens of small towns and big farms. The farther you travel, the more change you experience. Here’s some of the earliest history of Southern Illinois — and we do mean “earliest.”

Associate Professor James Conder from SIU Carbondale said, “Southern Illinois is a bit different than most of the rest of the state. Looking north gives you a much different perspective than looking south.”

The reason why? Glaciers. Before the last Ice Age ended, glaciation in the area flattened the landscape around 150,000 years ago. Conder described, “It basically mowed over everything in the north and flattened it.”

More recently, another movement caused another significant period of flattening around 15,000 years ago. 

But the landscape wasn’t only determined by what was going on over the surface of the land — it was also determined by what was going on underneath the land. Continental drift over millions of years was a major factor in creating this naturally flat landscape.

This world’s landscapes are all the result of constant movement. The glaciers, the tectonic plates…and springs, streams, and rivers flowing from one end of the continent to the other. The Mississippi Embayment transports sediment but also helps regulate the climate of Illinois. It also sets the perfect conditions to make swampy terrain that you would find in the Southern Illinois wetlands.

Millions of years ago, all these conditions combined likely resulted in an inland ocean that would have creeped up over Southern Illinois. That’s part of the reason why the southern regions are so different from the northern ones. The conditions were also the ingredients for the bountiful natural resources you find here today: coal, oil, and natural gas.

Conder said, “You can definitely still see the effects today.”

The Weirdest Unsolved Cold Cases In The State Of Illinois

Unsolved mysteries and cold cases have entranced the American public for decades. We’re fascinated by urban myths and legends, and even the supernatural. When our forensics teams and authorities can’t figure out what happened, we often try to fill in the blanks on our own. But what happens when even that is difficult? Here are some of the strangest unsolved cold cases and mysteries in the state of Illinois.

Married couple Gilbert and Trudy Woods unearthed what would later be called the “Devil Stone” in their backyard in the 70s. The etchings included two intertwining serpents. Where did this stone come from? Nobody knows. But what happened once it was unearthed is the strange part. Gilbert had a heart attack. Trudy went blind for a few months. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis soon thereafter. 

The couple understandably came to believe the stone was cursed, and gave it to a friend — who experienced paranormal phenomena like lights turning on and off, and a bee infestation during the winter. Where is the Devil Stone today? ….Nobody knows!

An old urban legend says that a group of friends attempted to escape a freak thunderstorm by finding shelter in a nearby cave in the late 1800s. The group later went to the authorities after discovering a man dressed in a long black robe and the body of a woman dressed in white fabric. The woman was surrounded by candles as if some weird ritual were being performed by the cloaked man. But the police found nothing when they went into the same cave. Was the group of friends telling the truth? You decide.

In 1980, two men discovered the nude body of a woman near Airtight Bridge. She had been decapitated and her hands and feet severed. The extra parts were missed. She wasn’t identified until 1992 — but her killer was never found. And the worst part: How can you hire a wrongful death lawyer when you don’t know who to sue?

A deaf and mute teen was discovered stumbling through Jacksonville back in 1945. Police couldn’t identify him, and he was sent to a mental health facility where he would spend the rest of his life forever known as John Doe number 24. Toward the end of his life, he began to enact circus routines, leaving residents wondering about his childhood before police discovered him. He is the subject of a number of urban myths and theories about where he came from. Want to visit his grave? No problem. Mary Chaplin Carpenter purchased a gravestone for him.

Another urban myth says the ghosts of two albino twins inhabit the Albino Railroad Tracks in St. Clair County. The story arose after a farmer blamed an 1800s epidemic that ravaged a nearby town on the albino kids. He tied the children to the tracks where they were killed by an oncoming train.

Illinois Residents Want To Unionize Against Their Cannabis Employers

Recreational marijuana was only legalized for use in 2019, but revenue in 2020 came in at over $1 billion. That’s a major win for lawmakers looking to puff up the budget. But naturally, the chaos will follow. Now, many recently employed workers for the cannabis industry are considering joining the fight to unionize. They want what every unionized worker in the U.S. wants: higher wages and job security.

This is especially true amidst the pandemic. Believe it or not, marijuana dispensaries are filled with “essential workers!”

Director of organizing for the Local 881 district of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Moises Zavala says there’s a difference between a job and a career: “The industry has unfortunately just provided jobs, and not the well-paying careers that we all thought cannabis was going to generate.”

A unionization of the marijuana industry would be a big deal. Currently, there are “82 dispensaries, 21 cultivation centers and nearly 17,000 cannabis workers.” 

And the industry is only getting bigger.

Co-Director Martin Malin of the Institute for Law and the Workplace at Chicago-Kent College of Law said, “If they’re able to get some significant victories and negotiate some good contracts, they can build momentum, they can point to those as they organize workers at other facilities.”

The marijuana revenue at the state level was split between recreational and medicinal — but recreational provided the bigger piece of pie for Illinois, with nearly two-thirds of the revenue coming from dispensaries. 

2021 has already experienced significant growth in the sector. In the first two months alone, there was $232 million in marijuana sales. 

The marijuana industry pays on average $15 an hour around the country, and most jobs come with a benefits package as well, including PTO, medical, 401(k) and stock options because most recreational weed companies are public.