Method Matters: Statutory Construction Principles and the Illinois Trade Secrets Act Preemption Puzzle in the Northern District of Illinois
Schaller, William Lynch
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Appellate methodology makes a difference when it comes to the interplay between statutes and judge-made law. The Illinois Trade Secrets Act (ITSA) through its preemption provisions abolishes some non-statutory claims and preserves others, but the line between the two remains a mystery—a mystery of extraordinary importance to those with information not rising to the level of trade secrets. Illinois state and federal appellate decisions have not improved matters: for over 30 years these appeals courts have failed to follow standard statutory construction rules and have yet to articulate a rationale justifying their opinions for or against preemption. This flawed methodology produced nearly 50 Illinois district court published rulings between 1992 and 2014 alone, all unable to agree on a rule of decision—a stark illustration of why appellate method matters. These appellate deficiencies will continue to haunt Illinois district court decisions until the Illinois Supreme Court weighs in on the ITSA preemption issue, something that court has never done.