SPRINGFIELD — Chicago attorney Alan Mills has a client on the Prisoner Review Board’s clemency docket in April. His hearing has been indefinitely postponed because there is no longer a quorum on the PRB.
The client is a contractor who recently remodeled Mills’ law office, the Uptown People’s Law Center, and has a conviction for an old assault. Mills said the client, who he did not identify, didn’t go to prison, but the conviction on his record may impact his ability to get work.
“It’s a total disaster,” Mills said.
On Monday, Oreal James resigned by way of a letter to Gov. J.B. Pritzker before going to the Senate for a vote, and Eleanor Kaye Wilson failed to get the required votes needed to confirm her appointment.
Under the law, gubernatorial appointments must be approved within 60 session days of their nomination. Wilson and James came under scrutiny when their appointments were pulled and then resubmitted by Pritzker to restart the 60-session-day clock in which their appointments could be heard by the committee. This practice is allowed under Senate rules and has been used by previous governors.
With James’ resignation and Wilson’s failed confirmation, the PRB now has just six seated members of a 15-member board. Of those, LeAnn Miller, Jared Bohland and Ken Tupy need Senate approval. Tupy and Bohland were recommended by the Executive Appointments Committee unanimously. Miller was also recommended.
On Tuesday, the PRB website noted the next quarterly clemency hearings, which were scheduled for April 12 to April 15, have been indefinitely postponed due to “unforeseen circumstances” as the agency looks to “finalize a future date and location.”
“As we predicted, recent attacks on the Prisoner Review Board left the body short-staffed and without the capacity to carry out April’s quarterly clemency hearings,” said Jennifer Soble, executive director of the Illinois Prison Project in a news release on Tuesday. “This is the result of failed tough-on-crime rhetoric meant merely to incite fear and score cheap political points.
“The human toll is real: Justice will be delayed for our clients and for many other people in prison awaiting the chance to be reunited with loved ones. While we’re disappointed, we will not be deterred. We will continue to zealously advocate for the freedom of our clients.”
Last week, Jeff Mears, a downstate Democrat, won a recommendation from the Senate Executive Appointments Committee, but also failed to get confirmed by the full Senate. Two weeks ago, Pritzker pulled the appointment of Max Cerda, a PRB board member who was convicted of a double murder when he was 16 years old and paroled in 1998. It appeared Cerda would not have enough Senate support for approval.
“The Prisoner Review Board is committed to fulfilling its statutory obligations, including final revocation hearings. This work will be carried out with the same dedication and professionalism as before and the Board will adhere to all policies and procedures currently in place,” said Kahala Clay, the Chief Legal Counsel for the PRB.
The PRB has been a source of scrutiny from Senate Republicans who questioned the appointment process and …….