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Thomas P. Higgins

Experienced Municipal Lawyer, Hearing Officer and Dispute Resolution Specialist in Central Illinois
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Experience Facilitating Results

Municipal Law: Over the years I have done legal work for and advised Cities, Towns and Villages, Park Districts, School Boards, Transit Districts and Fire and Police Commissions to name a few.  I have done everything from policy to ordinances, training to process.  Of all the things I have done in my legal career, helping staff and elected officials govern efficiently and effectively has been the most rewarding.  This is the level of government that citizens look to and reply upon to provide the most direct and meaningful services in their day to day lives. I am available to serve a project basis, hourly and on an interim or consulting.
Hearing Officer:  My abilities as a Mediator and Arbitrator developed as a result of my being appointed a Municipal Hearing Officer, a position I have held since the mid-1990’s. While I had completed an ADR certification course, I had not done much work as a Mediator and I had only handled a few cases as an Arbitrator. I had just recently left my position as a member of a litigation law firm to pursue my primary passion, teaching law and justice courses.  A local community approached me about serving a few hours a week as a Hearing Officer presiding over property code cases. Initially I turned that opportunity down so I could focus on teaching.  In the interim, I participated in resolving a property related dispute that involved that city and shortly thereafter the President of the college appeared at my office door. He explained that the Mayor of Peoria had called to request assistance in convincing me to serve as Hearing Officer. He assured me it would only be a few hours a week and he suggested that my agreeing to this appointment would benefit my teaching and our students.  I remained reluctant, but I agreed. And the President of the college was correct. My experiences serving in this capacity have very much benefited my teaching and our students. Serving in that role has kept me relevant with and connected to the stakeholders who hire and provide internships to our students. So I continue to serve in that role today.   

This area of the law has evolved to the point that municipalities adjudicate a wide spectrum of issues outside the traditional venue of the county courthouse.  Municipal Adjudications allow a more efficient and cost effective method of addressing local ordinance cases. Issues are resolved or addressed with fewer continuances or delays than both staff and citizens have come to expect at the courthouse. This allows the primary focus of most municipal cases, compliance, to be addressed in a timely manner. When resolution or compliance is not reached and a judgment is required, the respondent pays less but the municipality gets more. This is because fines and costs stay entirely with the municipality (no splitting fines and costs with the county).  

My approach in presiding over municipal cases is always to promote understand the issues and facts and make sure all parties have an understanding of the applicable law.  I seek resolution through compliance where possible. Where it is not possible, a finding that results in a fine comes with a message that seeks compliance in the future, because, in municipal adjudication cases, the primary issue always relates back to the ability the citizens of that community to live in a safe, peaceful and prosperous manner. Whether in this role or as Mediator or Arbitrator, my reputation is that I work to apply the law in an consistent and accurate manner.  

My service in this capacity is hourly, reasonable, has no pension or benefit worries, but is subject to appointment by the council, commissioners or board members.

Mediation: My initial mediation experiences came by way of mediating EEOC cases during the latter part of the 1990’s through a Federal government program that sought to address a backlog of claims that existed after the Americans with Disabilities Act became law.  Over the years, I have served as Mediator for disputes regarding: anything related to real property, including but not limited to value, use and zoning; complex liability claims; contract performance and damage issues, to include insurance coverage and ERISA; and resolution of non-custody/support related Family law issues related to the equities and distribution of real and personal property. As a Mediator, my strength is facilitating a mutual recognition of the issues, mutual discovery of solutions and a party driven effort to reach resolution of some or all of the issues.  

Arbitration: I was retained to conduct my first Arbitration around the same time I began serve as a Mediator.  Arbitration is an entirely different ballgame. Where Mediation is most effective early, prior to a number of years in litigation and after the expense of an extensive discovery process and in cases in which both parties have an interest or desire to explore resolution, Arbitration is traditionally sought after discovery.  Sometimes the primary issue involves application of the law. Sometimes the parties are unable to agree on fault or damages. But whatever the issue, Arbitration is best served by someone who is experienced at conducting hearings as a neutral, exploring the positions of each party, evaluating the evidence in the case and being decisive in delivering a clear and concise resolution to all issues presented at Arbitration.  

Call the number listed above for questions regarding these or any related legal services.

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  • (309) 251-7803

Business Hours

Mon:9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Tue:9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Wed:9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Thu:9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Fri:9:00 AM – 5:00 PM