Pretzel & Stouffer

Pretzel & Stouffer Wins Constitutional Challenge in Illinois Supreme Court to Secure Right to 12-Person Jury In All Civil Cases in Illinois

Attorneys Robert Marc Chemers, Peter G. Syregelas, and Paula K. Villela, recently obtained a major victory before the Illinois Supreme Court, successfully challenging the constitutionality of Public Act 98-1132, Senate Bill 3075, which reduced the number of jurors in a civil trial in State of Illinois from 12 to 6, arguing that a jury of 12 is a fundamental right under Article 1, Section 13 of the Bill of Rights to the 1970 Constitution of the State of Illinois, which states, “The right of trial by jury as heretofore enjoyed shall remain inviolate[.]” The Supreme Court ruled that the Illinois Constitution guaranteed a jury of 12 at the time of its ratification and struck the entirety of the Act. Civil jury trials in Illinois will now be conducted with 12 jurors as a result of this decision, and any trials conducted with less jurors than demanded will be retried.

Mr. Chemers argued the appeal on May 11, 2016. Mr. Syregelas, with the assistance of Ms. Villela, prepared the Brief filed in the Supreme Court. The decision is reported at Kakos v. Butler, M.D., 2016 IL 120377, and can be accessed here


Clarence Darrow’s famous statement is clearly an opinion and not a statement of fact as “trial lawyers” actually account for a small percentage of the legal profession. However, Mr. Darrow’s statement reflects the reality that there is a distinction between litigators and trial lawyers. The attorneys at Pretzel & Stouffer take pride in the fact that they are trial lawyers. Year after year, our attorneys try more complex and high-exposure cases to verdict before juries than any firm of comparable size — averaging 27 verdicts per year over the last decade. In addition, our lawyers appear frequently in regulatory hearings and appellate courts as advocates for our clients.

Our experience has proven over many years that when cases are approached from the outset with the mindset of a trial lawyer, the outcomes are far superior and cost-effective for our clients, whether through a voluntary dismissal, a verdict in a courtroom or by a pretrial settlement on those occasions when it is appropriate to do so. We have found that our reputation as trial lawyers has encouraged many opposing counsel to voluntarily dismiss cases of questionable liability prior to trial and have allowed us to negotiate pretrial settlements from a position of strength. Being in the courtroom on a regular basis also allows us to better assess the potential liability and exposure of claims against our clients.

Ever since Paul Pretzel established this law firm in 1946, its focus has been attracting and developing those lawyers with the courage, poise and passion to advocate on behalf of a client in the public forum of a courtroom, an appellate court or a regulatory commission. Since its beginning, Pretzel & Stouffer has had the distinction of having among its ranks every year many of the most highly regarded trial and appellate attorneys in our profession.

The trial experience and expertise of attorneys at Pretzel & Stouffer is wide-ranging and includes catastrophic injury claims, medical malpractice claims, legal malpractice claims, directors and officers errors and omissions claims, other professional liability claims, product liability claims, class actions, financial malpractice claims, asbestos litigation, commercial litigation, and employment litigation.

Pretzel & Stouffer, Chartered, is also fortunate to have among its ranks experienced attorneys who possess a wide range of non-litigation skills and who counsel and assist clients with tax issues, estate planning, contracts, and corporate and real estate transactions.

While Pretzel & Stouffer has grown and evolved over the years, the same principle upon which the firm was founded remains: Quality lawyers are, and will continue to be, the backbone of our firm. Our clients benefit from the legal counsel of attorneys who are widely regarded as among the very best in their respective practice areas.

We are pleased that many of our attorneys have received recognition from their peers as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, Leading Lawyers, and similar designations.

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It is our goal to provide informed, creative and cost-effective legal representation to a diverse client roster, identifying the legal solutions that work best for their individual needs. We strive to offer counsel of the highest caliber, from attorneys who are regarded as among the best in their respective practice areas.

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