Cook County Judge Edmund Ponce de Leon heard arguments from attorneys for both a Niles citizens group and the village of Niles Thursday on whether a citizens' petition, requesting a referendum on term limits, is valid.
The judge is expected to rule by Sept. 20 whether the election ballot will contain a question asking citizens whether term limits should be imposed on Niles elected officials.
The village of Niles filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit a few days ago, and on Thursday the judge denied that motion, said Adam Lasker, an attorney for Joe Makula of the citizens' group.
Both attorneys presented their full cases to the judge.
"The judge wanted time to review the cases and briefs and continued this case for status and a possible ruling on the merits to next Thursday morning at 10:30 am," said Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, an attorney for the village of Niles, in an email.
Lasker said that the citizens' group had a strong case. Whether the signatures on the petition are genuine is not being challenged, he said; instead, the matter concerns whether the language on the petition matches the language in election code. The judge must decide whether to apply a "substantial compliance" standard, as the citizens' group hopes, or a "strict compliance" standard, which Lasker said is what the village used in rejecting the petition.
"When courts make a decision, they're supposed to lean in favor of ballot access," Lasker said. Illinois appellate court and the Illinois Supreme Court have articulated that in many decisions over the years, he noted.