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Statehouse pulls plug on secret subpoenas

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Sometimes there IS good news from Springfield: Legislators, at least for this session, are said to be pulling the plug on a bill that critics say would have authorized modern Star Chambers in state's attorney's offices around the state.

The original 14th and 15th century Star Chamber was a secret English court with no juries, no witnesses -- and no appeals -- that eventually turned into an effective political weapon.

The Illinois bill would have allowed a state's attorney to get an "administrative subpoena" requiring anyone -- not just a criminal suspect -- to come into the prosecutor's office and answer questions under oath. And the people who were called in would not be allowed to disclose to anyone, not even a spouse, that they had been subpoenaed (they could only tell their lawyer).

Anyone who did, say, tell a friend at the bar later on about what happened "shall be punished as a contempt of court," the bill says.

It's easy to envision this scenario: A state's attorney running for Congress calls the donors to a rival's campaign and asks them how much they gave and why. How many more donations do you think the political opponent would get? And the donors who were called in couldn't go public without facing criminal charges.

That's a tool you don't want to put into the hands of rogue prosecutor.

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1 Comment

Who even thinks up bad ideas like this?

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Frisbie published on March 1, 2012 1:54 PM.

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