Issue: Under Illinois law, when may a court decline to enforce a contract as constituting a violation of public policy?
Area of Law:
; Contract; Unenforceable; Public Policy; Agreement; Stringent
Whether a contract is unenforceable as violative of public policy is a question of law. See In re Marriage of Newton, 2011 IL App (1st) 090683, ¶ 39 (citing Holstein v. Grossman, 246 Ill.App.3d 719, 726 (1993)). Courts will not enforce any agreement that violates public policy. See Newton, 2011 IL App (1st) 090683, ¶ 39. However, at the same time, and in light of the fact that courts strongly favor the freedom of parties to contract (see SabaSoftware, 2014 IL App (1st) 132381, ¶ 60), the test of whether public policy has been violated within a contract is a stringent one. See Holstein, 246 Ill.App.3d at 726. Under this test, courts will declare a contract unenforceable as violative of public policy only when it expressly contravenes the law or a known public policy of our state. See Newton, 2011 IL App (1st) 090683, ¶ 39 (citing Holstein, 246 Ill.App.3d at 726). This would include a contravention of the rules of professional conduct. See Newton, 2011 IL App (1st) 090683, ¶ 39; Holstein, 246 Ill.App.3d at 726 (our "public policy" lies in our constitution, judicial decisions and statutes, which includes our rules of conduct, as they have the force of law).