The Illinois judge overseeing the state’s dispensary supercase refused to take control last week over a stay barring the award of 185 dispensary licenses, saying that decisions about the order should remain in another case that has been stalled for months due to a change in judges.
That second case, WAH Group LLC v. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, has been stalled since last January, when the judge who has been overseeing the case, first filed in September 2020, announced his retirement from the bench. Judge Cecilia Gamrath, who has been overseeing the dispensary supercase, was provided the opportunity to take over the stay by the order creating the supercase, but declined to make her intentions clear until Thursday’s hearing.
“The court’s view on that is the court who brought in that order is who will control the ability to lift that. I don’t think I’m in a position to dictate that,” said Judge Gamrath.
The second case, WAH Group LLC v. IDFPR, is over the constitutionality of the dispensary license point system. The plaintiffs argue that the extra points awarded to applicants led by veterans in the scoring system creates a “special class” of applicants that are privileged merely because they were military veterans. Privileging a special class of residents is illegal under the Illinois Constitution and Article XIV of the U.S. Constitution.
Meanwhile, in the dispensary supercase, which will determine whether or not dozens of disqualified applicants may have an opportunity to obtain a license, Judge Gamrath is seeking to narrow down the number of applicants petitioning in her court. To do so, she announced Thursday that she is considering ordering a corrective lottery for all the applicants in her court and then, once it has been determined who won the lottery, she would hear arguments from the winners on whether the law supports them obtaining a license.
The Illinois Supreme Court directed the creation of the dispensary supercase last fall to consolidate fourteen dispensary cases working through three different circuit courts.
“There is a potentiality to do a corrective lottery,” said Judge Gamrath. “If those plaintiffs who stipulate to be bound [to the lottery] and say we’re going to take our chances, roll the dice, roll the numbers. If you pull a [winning] number then we go to merits, and if [you] don’t, we’re done. Done spending money on this case period.”
Judge Gamrath also ruled that three new groups of applicants petitioning for intervention, to be allowed into the case, would not be allowed to do so. The dispensary supercase is overseen by Illinois’ Administrative Review Law, which does not allow new plaintiffs more than 35 days after a final administrative decision has been made. In this case, it was the state’s announcement in December 2020 on the final list of dispensary lottery winners. Gamrath ruled that because the petitioning interveners submitted their pleas after that deadline, they could not participate in the case.
“I want to achieve the best justice possible for everyone,” Judge Gamrath said. “I don’t think that people should believe that the court’s hands are completely tied because we cannot create perfection.”
The dispensary supercase’s next status hearing, where plaintiffs may submit briefs on whether or not they support a corrective lottery before arguments on their individual merits, was set for April 11. Oral arguments on that procedure will be held on April 22.
The constitutional case on dispensaries, where the order to stay license awards resides, will have a hearing tomorrow, where the plaintiff, WAH Group LLC, will argue for a substitution of the current judge, Sophia Hall.