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Summary judgment asked for in Hastert case

YORKVILLE – A Kendall County judge heard arguments Friday for summary judgment ahead of a potential trial for a breach of contract lawsuit between former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and a man identified as James Doe.

Kendall County Chief Judge Robert Pilmer said during a Friday hearing that he will take the motion and cross-motion on summary judgment, along with the motion and cross-motion on sanctions, under advisement.

“And I will rule on those by July 3,” Pilmer said.

Pilmer said the ruling will be submitted via written order. He said counsel from either side will not have to appear in court on that day.

If Pilmer ends up denying the motions for summary judgment and the case goes to trial, counsel from both sides will have to file additional documents by July 31 ahead of a status hearing scheduled Aug. 1.

Doe has accused Hastert of sexually abusing him while Hastert was a teacher at Yorkville High School and allegedly worked out a hush-money agreement with Hastert. Doe is suing Hastert for $1.8 million plus interest from December 2014 to the date of payment in the lawsuit that has been in court for more than two years, according to court documents.

The arrangement ultimately led to federal banking charges against the Plano Republican. Hastert served 13 months in federal prison on those banking charges. 

Hastert paid Doe $1.7 million between 2010 and 2014, according to court documents.

John Ellis, Hastert’s lawyer, argued during the Friday summary judgment hearing that Doe didn’t file the lawsuit in good faith because he breached the contract, which he said required strict confidentiality without exceptions. According to court depositions, Ellis said Doe disclosed the existence and subject matter to his wife and therapist in 2010 and that Doe told his father and brother immediately after. Then Doe told his friend and wife’s sister’s brother about the agreement in 2012, Ellis said.

Ellis said that Doe claimed he kept up his end of the agreement that he didn’t tell anybody when he filed the lawsuit. He said that is contrary to Doe’s counsel arguing that “strict confidentiality” meant not going to lawyers, police or news media.

“That type of revisionist history, to be frank, is why the statute of frauds exists,” Ellis said.

Peter Evans, one of Doe’s lawyers, said confidential agreements usually allow for involved parties to disclose the existence of an agreement. He said Doe disclosing the existence of the agreement to those six people was all that happened and that Doe only told law enforcement about the agreement when the FBI asked him about the payments in 2015.

Evans said that to allow Hastert to escape liability based on Doe’s technical violations of an agreement Hastert admitted to would be an injustice.

“[It’s] another example of a person in power getting away with a slap on the wrist,” Evans said.

Hastert’s lawyers also asked Pilmer to order Doe and his counsel to pay for more of Hastert’s attorney’s fees as a result of not following Illinois Supreme Court Rule 137. Doe’s lawyers put in their own request to Pilmer for the same action against Hastert and his counsel on the same grounds.

The rule requires motions or other filed documents to be well-grounded in fact, arguments to be brought up in good faith and that anything filed is not for improper purposes, such as harassing the other party, causing unnecessary delay or needlessly increasing litigation costs.

Hastert served as a U.S. Congressman from 1987 to 2007 and was House Speaker between 1999 and 2007. He taught at Yorkville High School and coached wrestling between 1965 and 1981.

Doe’s lawyers filed their summary judgment March 15. They said in the motion, which has been heavily redacted in court records, that there are no issues of fact requiring trial in this case and that it’s time for the court to grant Doe the compensation that Hastert said he would pay.

Kristi Browne, a lawyer for Doe, said after the Friday hearing that both sides have filed their own summary judgments. She said she still hopes the judge will rule on Doe’s summary judgment.

“But if that doesn’t happen, I expect the case to go to trial,” Browne said.

Ellis declined additional comment after the hearing.

The update from the hearing comes after all parties failed to reach a settlement agreement during a May 3 conference. Pilmer also ruled April 5 to grant the motions to quash a subpoena filed by Hastert’s lawyers and law firm Sidley Austin, which represented Hastert during his criminal sentencing for violating bank laws in 2016, and he ordered the plaintiff’s counsel to pay $2,000 to cover a couple dozen hours of Sidley Austin’s attorney time.

Trial setting for the case is scheduled for Sept. 18, with the trial expected to begin Sept. 23.

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