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When parties air their differences before the Supreme Court, they are usually on opposite sides of the case. But in a dispute pending before the justices, lawyers on the same side are tussling over which one has the right to bring the case to the Court. And these are not just any lawyers. This turf war has broken out between two major Illinois legal figures: Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State’s Attorney Richard Devine, both Democrats. They are asking the Supreme Court to resolve the dispute in the case, titled Illinois v. Torres. “It’s a very strange situation,” says Darrel Oman, the assistant appellate defender who represents defendant Jose Torres and is watching, bemused, as his adversaries slug it out. “It qualifies as a turf battle, I’d say.” It began last year when the Appellate Court of Illinois set aside Torres’ conviction on weapons charges. That intermediate court said Chicago police acted improperly when they checked for possible outstanding warrants against Torres during a routine stop-and-frisk. Police did find an outstanding warrant, searched Torres’ truck, and found weapons. The appeals court said the search violated the Fourth Amendment. The Illinois Supreme Court declined to review the case. Lawyers in the AG’s office and the state’s attorney’s office conferred as usual about what to do next, but sources say a disagreement broke out over the correct strategy on appeal. With a deadline looming, Devine’s office bolted, petitioning the Supreme Court on Jan. 5, without the support of the Illinois attorney general. Then came the return punch. A week later the Illinois attorney general filed a motion with the high court asking to substitute its petition for the state’s attorney’s. It filed an alternative petition just in case. The battle was joined. “We are aware of no other situation where a state’s attorney filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court without the attorney general’s consent,” said state Solicitor General Gary Feinerman in an interview. Devine’s brief, said Feinerman, was “inconsistent with the strategy that the attorney general has been pursuing on behalf of the entire state of Illinois.” Feinerman stressed that “we have a great working relationship with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office that we value.” Devine’s office won’t comment. “It’s a very sensitive issue,” said one employee. But in a written response to the AG’s motion, Devine says it would be “an irrelevant exercise” for the high court to parse out the Illinois law that governs who gets to file appeals. Devine said he was “absolutely entitled” to file on his own. Next came a reply from Feinerman, who said it would be “irrational” for the state’s 102 state’s attorneys to have independent authority to appeal to the nation’s highest court. “The state of Illinois very much regrets the need to bring this dispute before the Court,” Feinerman added. Now it’s up to the Supreme Court to decide which petition to accept, and at least one justice knows his way around Illinois politics: John Paul Stevens, a Chicago native who, more than 30 years ago, served as special counsel to a commission that investigated allegations of corruption on the Illinois Supreme Court. Update: Today, the Supreme Court denied review in Illinois v.Torres without explanation — and without resolving whether the properpetitioner was the Attorney General or the state’s attorney.

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