Opinion: Federal judge tosses politically motivated lawsuit against Madigan
Federal Judge Matthew F. Kennelly dismisses controversial lawsuit against Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan. Exclusive, the Des Plaines Valley News, The Regional News, The Reporter Newspaper, and the Southwest News-Herald. August 23, 2019
By Ray Hanania
A politically motivated lawsuit (Case No. 16 C 7915) falsely accusing Illinois Democratic Party Chairman Michael J. Madigan of undermining the rights of a political opponent in the March 2016 Democratic primary election was thrown out by a Federal judge on Friday.
The ruling by veteran Federal District Court Judge Matthew F. Kennelly is not only another defeat for controversial attorney Tony Peraica and his client Jason Gonzales, but it is a slap in the face for the Chicago Tribune and its sister TV station WGN which reported false claims that Madigan and his allies were undermining their case.
The politically motivated lawsuit was filed in August 2016 first in the State Court where it was dismissed and later in the Federal court, after Gonzales suffered an embarrassing landslide defeat in his bid to unseat Madigan in the 22nd Illinois House District.
Madigan easily won the election with 65 percent of the votes while Gonzales received only 26 percent. Gonzales blamed his embarrassing loss by asserting Madigan fielded two “sham” candidates to undermine his vote. The two candidates however together only received 7.8 percent of the vote.
In his ruling, released on Friday (August 23, 2019), Kennelly noted Gonzales failed to “present specific facts establishing a material issue for trial, and any inferences must rely on more than mere speculation or conjecture.”
The judge also noted that Gonzales had made the accusation of “sham” candidates “a central issue” in his election campaign. The point is the claim was debated publicly and voters were aware of the assertions. Despite high-profile media coverage, numerous press conferences, numerous depositions, and recent false media coverage of the case, the Federal Judge concluded Gonzales and Peraica failed to make their case or present any substantive evidence.
“Gonzales has not pointed to evidence—or even alleged—that the defendants’ fraud prevented the voters from punishing Madigan at the ballot box. Because Gonzales bears the burden of pointing to specific facts establishing a material issue for trial … summary judgment is appropriate,” Kennelly wrote in dismissing the Peraica filed nuisance lawsuit.
In Chicagoland politics, it is not unusual for losing candidates to file lawsuits in an effort to harass the victors.
For Peraica, the court’s ruling represents another lost case in his legal career. One of the attorneys representing the defendants in the Madigan case is attorney Michael Del Galdo of the Del Galdo Law Group.
The dismissal of the Madigan case represents the third time a Peraica inspired lawsuit was beaten down by Del Galdo and thrown out by a judge.
In a 2014 lawsuit that Del Galdo defended, Peraica falsely alleged a government FOIA had been improperly answered. In an unusual move by a sitting judge against an attorney, Peraica was sanctioned by Cook County’s Chief Chancery Judge and ordered to pay $2,000 in fines for filing the frivolous and false lawsuit.
In yet another municipal lawsuit that Del Galdo defended in 2015, Peraica falsely claimed the bills paid were fraudulent. That case also was thrown out by the judge.
Peraica was thrown out of office as a Cook County Board Commissioner by voters in the November 2010 election. Jeffrey Tobolski won the election replacing Peraica. The election highlight was when Peraica was arrested and then convicted in December 2012 by Judge Kerry Kennedy of tearing down Tobolski’s campaign signs.
Peraica was involved this past week in pushing a story carried by WGN TV’s Ben Bradley and the Chicago Tribune, news stories highlighted by numerous factual errors asserting a process server who works for Peraica was allegedly wrongly arrested after he was caught taking a package from the front door of a home while trying to serve a deposition subpoena.
Bradley left WLS TV in 2016 after 14 years at the station and was later hired by WGN TV. Bradley ran with the Rivera story stumbling through numerous factual errors. The inaccurate story was then picked up and published by Tribune columnist John Kass, a longtime Madigan critic who quoted Bradley’s repeated errors without verification.
(Ray Hanania is a columnist for the Southwest News-Herald Newspaper, The Regional News, The Reporter Newspaper and the Des Plaines Valley News. A media consultant, Hanania provides analysis and opinion for the newspapers on government and politics. This column is republished with permission.)
[Editor’s note: Hanania was named in the original lawsuit against Madigan et al by Gonzales but was dropped from the lawsuit last year by the judge.]