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Heyl Royster



Theresa Powell (Office Managing Partner/Shareholder)


Theresa is the Managing Partner of the firm’s Springfield office. She focuses her practice on defending claims filed in federal court. These claims primarily involve federal civil rights litigation filed against state actors such as law enforcement officers and clinical providers who provide a variety of services to confined persons in the state of Illinois. Theresa also handles state law claims removed to federal court via diversity jurisdiction.

Theresa also has experience defending employment law claims involving age, gender and race discrimination. She successfully defended a sex discrimination claim filed by a female physician against an area hospital after defeating a preliminary injunction. Her experience also involves handling retaliation and interference claims under FMLA as well as workers compensation based retaliation claims. Her employment law litigation clients include hospitals, public school districts and nationally known corporations.

Although her practice is currently primarily in federal court, Theresa has defended, and continues to defend, Illinois state law casualty claims – including premises, personal injury, and products liability claims, as well as medical malpractice claims.

Theresa has extensive litigation and trial experience in these matters. She has tried more than 30 cases with most resulting in verdicts for her clients or in verdicts for the plaintiff well below the amounts offered prior to trial. Theresa has presented to attorneys and law enforcement regarding various litigation issues relating to her practice.

Theresa has been with Heyl Royster since 1998 and became managing partner of the Springfield office in 2015.

Significant Cases

  • Bruce v. [Deputy Sheriff] (2018) - Successfully defended a County Deputy Sheriff in jury trial in the U.S. District Court of the Central District against a §1983 claim. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the officer claiming that he violated her constitutional rights when he drove her to the hospital for a mental health evaluation in 2011. Plaintiff alleged that as a result she was later referred to a Behavior Center for treatment, which she claimed was frightening and humiliating. The defense presented evidence to suggest that plaintiff voluntarily went with the officer to the hospital – where she was evaluated and found her to be in need of hospitalization. The jury was posed with special interrogatories and found that no unlawful seizure occurred. At the end of a three-day trial the jury returned a verdict in the officer’s favor.
  • Smego v. J___, P___ and U___ (2013) - Defended psychology/mental health workers in jury trial where plaintiff, a committed sex offender, alleged that his constitutional rights were violated by not placing him in another treatment group at his request, months after he had referenced inappropriate sexual contact (a sexual assault) with another member of his current group. Plaintiff claimed the Defendants actions were also retaliation for filing lawsuits against various persons at the facility. Jury found in favor of Defendants.
  • Abbott v. S___ (2013) - Represented a Sangamon County Deputy at trial in which  plaintiff claimed that Deputy used an unreasonable amount of force when he tazed her a second time in his efforts to arrest her in conjunction with the arrest of her son. The jury found in favor of the defendant.
  • Orr v. Wexford et al. - Theresa was successful in obtaining a voluntary dismissal with prejudice of two multi-million dollar class action claims against her client where plaintiff was unable to respond to defense motions asserting plaintiff lacked evidence to support any of the factual allegations in his case on behalf of the named plaintiffs. This case was dismissed in the summer of 2011 and is still pending today against the remaining defendants.
  • Bailey v. Sangamon County - In this claim alleging deliberate indifference against the Sangamon County jail nursing staff, Theresa and her associate obtained a defense verdict in 33 minutes where the jury found that the plaintiff failed to prove that the jail detainee suffered from a serious medical need at the time of her encounter with the nurse.
  • Gay v. Dr. C - Verdict in favor of Dr. C in well publicized trial in Southern District of Illinois. Plaintiff alleged that Dr. C was deliberately indifferent to his mental health needs when he ordered that plaintiff be kept in restraints for numerous hours following plaintiff's repeated claims that he would cut himself if allowed to be free to do so. Plaintiff also asserted that he should have been placed in restraints at times to prevent him from cutting on himself while incarcerated.
  • Washington and Jenkins v. City of Springfield No. 07-3075, USDC-CDIL, December 7, 2010 - Defense verdict in a highly publicized federal jury trial in Springfield, Illinois. The plaintiffs alleged that Springfield Police Detectives conspired and falsely arrested them. Plaintiffs' home was searched after Springfield Detectives searched their trash and found evidence of drug activity. Over half a pound of cocaine was found in the home during the search. Plaintiffs alleged the Defendants planted the cocaine and falsified documents used to obtain the search warrant. Following a two week trial, the jury returned verdicts in favor of all defendants. The Plaintiffs' final settlement demand before trial was $1.6 million.
  • Johnson v. D 433 F.3d 1001 (7th Cir. 2006) - Decision to provide conservative course of care for hernia rather than surgery is not deliberate indifference as a matter of law in light of evidence that hernia was regularly monitored by the defendant physicians.
  • Duckworth v. A 532 F.3d 675 (7th Cir. 2008) - Delay in referring patient to outside physician did not constitute deliberate indifference where physician, Dr. Kayira treated patient's complaints based on clinical and diagnostic findings; court distinguishes physician's care from facts in Greeno v. Daley wherein physician refused to treat patient after documenting that patient suffered from cancer.
  • Taylor v. Walker 537 F. Supp. 2d 966 (C.D. Ill. 2008) - Court found that nurse lacks personal involvement and/or authority to address plaintiff's complaints concerning exposure to second-hand smoke in cell house.


  • “Grievances: Turn Lemons Into Lemonade and Reduce Legal Risk,” CorrectCare Journal (2016) - Download Article
  • "Hindsight is Bittersweet: Quality Improvements Studies as Evidence in Inmate Litigation," CorrectCare Journal (2015) - Download Article

Public Speaking

  • “Prisoner Litigation: A Comprehensive Primer”
    Illinois State Bar Association 2022
  • “The Essentials on Police Litigation: From Start to Finish”
    National Business Institute 2016
  • “I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me: An Eye on the Inside of Nursing Homes”
    Heyl Royster's 31st Annual Claims Handling Seminar 2016
  • “Avoiding Police Liability”
    Illinois Municipal League Municipal Attorneys Seminar 2016
  • “Medical Cannabis & Concealed Carry”
    Springfield Chamber of Commerce 2015
  • “Hostile Work Environment”
    Central Illinois Chapter Society for Human Resources Management Legislative/HR Conference 2015
  • “Preparing Your Case and Your Client for Trial”
    Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education 2014
  • “Liability Issues Training”
    McDonough County, Illinois Sheriff's Office 2014
  • “Claims Handling Basics for Recognizing & Handling Civil Rights Torts”
    Heyl Royster 21st Annual Claims Handling Seminar 2006
  • “Don’t Hit the Wall: Chronic Pain Plaintiff”
    Heyl Royster 19th Annual Claims Handling Seminar 2004
  • “Wrongful Death & Survival Act Claims”
    Heyl Royster 18th Annual Claims Handling Seminar 2003

Professional Recognition

  • Selected as a Leading Lawyer in Employment Law: Management, Medical Malpractice Defense Law; Professional Malpractice Defense. Only five percent of lawyers in the state are named as Leading Lawyers.

Professional Associations

  • Sangamon County Bar Association
  • Illinois State Bar Association
  • Federal Bar Association, Civil Rights Law Division (Chair, Defense of Governmental Entities Section, 2016-17)

Court Admissions

  • State Courts of Illinois
  • United States District Court, Central District of Illinois
  • United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit