Cook County Record

Thursday, October 17, 2019

IL appeals panel: Email from Chicago lawyer doesn't mean court fight between OH firm, NV biz belongs in Cook County

By Kyla Asbury | May 29, 2018

CHICAGO —  A state appeals court has shot down a Cook County judge's ruling, finding the judge was wrong to assert Chicago was the proper venue for a law firm headquartered in Ohio to sue a company based in Nevada, even though an email sent from Chicago was the only connection the defendant claimed it had in Illinois.

On May 16, a three-justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellate Court sent the case back to Cook County Circuit Court, directing the judge to dismiss the action for lack of jurisdiction. The decision was issued as an unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23, which limits its use as precedent.

Justice Nathaniel Howse Jr. authored the order, and justices Cynthia Y. Cobbs and Terrence J. Lavin concurred.

Justice Nathaniel Howse Jr. |

In May 2012, NOBLE Financial Capital Markets filed a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration action against Ascendiant Capital Markets. Ascendiant hired Ulmer Berne to represent it in arbitration.

Ascendiant disputed a bill for legal services it had received in October 2012 and the relationship between Ulmer and Ascendiant ended soon after.

Ulmer filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court on Aug. 26, 2016, alleging Ascendiant owed $32,502 for legal services. Ascendiant filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

The order noted the defendant asserted the only connection it had to Illinois came in the form of an email sent by an attorney employed by Ulmer, whose office was in Chicago.

In its motion to dismiss, Ascendiant argued that neither Illinois nor federal law supported keeping the case in Cook County. While it had hired a lawyer in Chicago, the litigation for which Ascendiant had sought representation was located in a Florida court.

Cook County Judge Margaret Ann Brennan, however, denied Ascendiant's motion to dismiss on Feb. 14, and Ascendiant then appealed to the Illinois First District Appellate Court.

The fact that Ulmer performed work in Chicago was insufficient to establish jurisdiction over Ascendiant, a non-resident, the appeals court found.

In the appellate court's decision, Howse said the appellate panel concluded Ulmer failed to show any connection with Illinois other than one e-mail sent by an attorney in Chicago.

Howse wrote that the court is not required to address any other issues in the appeal because of "insufficient contacts to support exercising personal jurisdiction" in Illinois.

The appeals court sent that case back to the Cook County Circuit Court with instructions to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.

According to Cook County court records, Ascendiant is represented by attorney Ankur Shah, of Shah Legal Representation, of Chicago, while Ulmer Berne is represented by the firm of Weltman Weinberg and Reis, of Chicago.

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Organizations in this Story

Circuit Court of Cook County Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Illinois First District Appellate Court NOBLE Financial Capital Markets