Cook County Record

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Appellate panel bars Chicago serial suer from more appeals; lawsuits targeted Northwestern Memorial, many others


By Dan Churney | Jun 17, 2019

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An Illinois appeals panel has ruled that a Chicago woman behind repeated allegedly frivolous and improperly drawn lawsuits against Northwestern Memorial Hospital and others should be barred from further appeals unless she first obtains judicial approval.

The June 14 order was issued by Justice Mathias Delort, with concurrence from Justice Maureen Connors and Sheldon Harris, of the Illinois First District Appellate Court. The ruling pertains to Lisa J. Gillard, who has acted as her own lawyer - known as proceeding pro se - in multiple suits and appeals.

“Although this court is especially solicitous of self-represented parties who do not display punctilious compliance with our rules, we will order sanctions against pro se litigants under sufficiently egregious circumstances,” Delort said.

Illinois First District Justice Mathias Delort

Gillard was found guilty of battery after shoving a security guard in 2016 at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital, according to court papers. The guard had asked her to leave, because it was alleged she was verbally abusive. This incident touched off a series of actions in Cook County Circuit Court that resulted in 10 appeals to the First District appellate panel.

Chief among the suits was Gillard’s action against the hospital, the facility’s security contractor and other associated entities, which alleged she was the victim of defamation and emotional distress. She sought $3 billion in damages. This case was dismissed at the circuit level and Delort refused to upset that disposition on appeal.

In other unsuccessful suits around the country in state and federal courts during the past 20 years, Gillard has claimed she has been discriminated against on the basis of race, age, gender, religion and mental disability. One of these other suits was also aimed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. 

Other actions have targeted Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, as well as Harvard College and Southern New England School of Law.

In one case, she sued Cook County Circuit Judge Clare McWilliams, who was handling one of her suits, alleging the judge was part of a “ring of conspiracy” and was “mentally unfit.” 

Judges in some of these other cases have warned Gillard she could be sanctioned.

One of the defendants in the current Northwestern suit described the case as “emblematic of Gillard’s egregious pattern of frivolous litigation.”

Justice Delort found Gillard’s filings full of procedural errors,“inapplicable argument” and allegations that lacked substance. Delort noted Gillard has been “disruptive” and conducts “irregular and hostile proceedings.”

Delort continued, “Her prodigious appellate practice has been characterized by repeated, and often dispositive, failures to obey the Illinois Supreme Court rules regarding briefs. Gillard has yet to file before this court a single appellate brief that consistently and properly cites the record.”

The justice added, “Despite our admonishments and dismissals, Gillard persists in inappropriate use of the judicial system.”

As a consequence, Delort granted a defense request Gillard be sanctioned, but also agreed with the defense a fine is not in order, because Gillard either would not or could not pay. Instead, Delort went along with the defense request Gillard be prohibited from filing, without prior approval, more appeals in any civil cases. This measure will help ensure any appeals are lodged in good faith, Delort said.

Delort said he will send a suggestion to the First District Appellate Court’s executive committee to direct Gillard to fulfill several procedural requirements and lay out her reasons for an appeal to an appellate justice, before she can pursue any more appeals.

Delort made a parting request to the woman: “We implore Gillard to use the resources available to self-represented litigants to obtain advice regarding how she should proceed to resolve disputes in the future.”

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Illinois First District Appellate CourtCircuit Court of Cook CountyNorthwestern Memorial HospitalCook CountyCounty of Cook Sheriff's Department

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