Thomas P. Higgins, Lawyer: A 1990 graduate of The John Marshall Law School, Tom Higgins is licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois, the United States District Court, Central District of Illinois, the United States Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States. He has a wide range of experience assessing and advising clients on issues of liability and personal injury law, family law, estate planning and probate law, business and corporate law and representation of public safety personnel bargaining units.
One of his specialties is in advising Cities, Towns, Villages, Park Districts, School Boards, Transit Districts and Fire and Police Commissions. His strengths are in assessing and providing sensible solutions, developing clear policy, and drafting effective ordinances. In addition, with years of experience developing college and professional development courses, Mr. Higgins is sought for his ability to develop and facilitate quality staff and constituent training when changes necessary due to changes or updates to the law.
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 only recently left my full-time law practice to teach law and justice courses at Illinois Central College when one 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. 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 then Mayor of Peoria had requested 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. And so it began. 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. At the same time, the local communities I serve gained a Hearing Officer committed to serving the community by applying the law consistently, fairly and as intended.
This area of the law has evolved in the 20 years I have served in this capacity. Local governments adjudicate a wide spectrum of issues outside the traditional venue of the county courthouse. Adjudications allow a more efficient and cost effective method of addressing local ordinance cases. Issues are resolved or addressed with few continuances and delays. This allows the primary focus of most municipal cases, compliance, to be addressed in a timely manner. When compliance is not an option or when a fine is required, the respondent pays less while the municipality gets more. This is because fines and costs stay entirely with the municipality (no splitting fines and costs with the county).
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.