Few people, even members of A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois who do not attend the State Board meetings in Springfield, are aware of how censorship is enforced with an iron fist by the few in charge. The State Board of A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois has long been using its “non-preferred” vendor list to censor the monthly newsletters of its chapters, as well as to restrict each chapter’s right to associate with and accept assistance from lawyers. As more members are becoming aware of the detrimental actions of the State Board, they are starting to speak out and mobilize to stop this restriction of freedom by the very rights organization they have been supporting.
Only an Indiana lawyer is allowed to advertise for personal injury cases in the A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois state newsletter or chapter newsletters. He wrote a scathing article in the January, 2008, issue of the A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois and Indiana newsletters, accusing virtually all other lawyers of preying on injured riders and claiming only his law firm can adequately represent A.B.A.T.E. members. He also condemned local chapters who would accept ads from other law firms, claiming that they were betraying riders by giving them information about other law firms. The Indiana lawyer has been known to send injured Illinois riders to a lawyer in Illinois with a third rate rating in Martindale-Hubbell.
Most notably, the South Suburban Chapter of A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois has refused to have its local Chapter Newsletter censored by the State Board. In its newsletter, South Suburban thanked Attorney Michael F. Hupy for all he has done for the Chapter over the 17 years he has been a member. Currently, the State Board is holding the position that local chapters are not permitted to advertise, thank, or even mention personal injury attorneys in their local newsletters. As a result, Michael F. Hupy, a member of South Suburban for 17 years, and Attorney Mike Donahue, the current president of South Suburban, are on the State Board’s “non-preferred” vendor list, which means that South Suburban’s current president, along with 82,000 other Illinois lawyers, cannot even advertise in his own chapter newsletter. The Westgate Chapter of A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois has expressed its support for the position of South Suburban in an editorial which ran in its local chapter newsletter in April of 2008.
The 10 chapters of the Northeast Region of A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois have been considering further actions to combat the totalitarian actions of the State Board, which include refusal to send money to the state, sell state bike raffle tickets, or to participate in state functions, etc. Several chapters have already put some of the sanctions into effect. There has also been discussion of bussing members of the Northeast Region chapters to the State Board meeting in June to express unified dissent with the current restrictions on the rights of free speech and association.
This matter is receiving national attention and this is only the beginning. As awareness spreads throughout the state, more and more members and their chapters are becoming fed up with the actions of the State Board. We will keep you posted.