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Quick Takes on Friday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Friday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the Civil case Hampton v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and the criminal case People v. Geiler.

CIVIL

Hampton v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

By Karen Kies DeGrand, Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC

The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that, depending on the circumstances, homeowners whose property is damaged as a result of municipal storm water management may seek compensation under the “takings clause” of the Illinois Constitution. A group of homeowners claimed the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago caused creeks to overrun their banks, sewers to back up and flooding of their homes by diverting water to manage a heavy rainfall in July, 2010. The property owners sued the District on several theories, including that the District violated the state taking clause when the District’s actions damaged or destroyed their homes and personal property. The circuit court sided with the plaintiffs in rejecting the District’s position that temporary flooding does not amount to a taking of private property for public use and certified a question for interlocutory appeal concerning the effect of a 2012 United States Supreme Court decision on governing Illinois precedent.  Interpreting the 2012 federal decision to overrule a 1948 state supreme court decision, which the appellate court read to preclude the theory that temporary flooding may constitute a compensable taking, the appellate court remanded the case to the circuit court to consider the merits of plaintiffs’ claim.

Based on a much different analysis, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs might be able to proceed with their taking claims. Initially, the supreme court explained that, even though it was interpreting the Illinois takings clause, United States Supreme Court authority on the synonymous federal takings clause was relevant for purposes of determining whether a plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a taking under the Illinois Constitution. Answering the certified question, the supreme court reasoned that the decision of the United States Supreme Court in question, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. U.S., 133 S. Ct. 511 (2012), in which the Supreme Court ruled that certain types of temporary flooding may support a takings claim, did not conflict with the Illinois Supreme Court opinion in Pratt v. Rosenfield, 399 Ill. 247 (1948). Pratt did not establish a blanket rule that temporary flooding never constitutes a taking. Rather, in Pratt, the supreme court held only that the complaint before it did not describe the type of flooding that amounts to a taking.  

Although the circuit court had certified only the question whether Arkansas Game “overruled” Pratt, the supreme court exercised its prerogative to go beyond the question of law certified and considered whether the plaintiffs had sufficiently pleaded a violation of the Illinois takings clause. The court determined that the plaintiffs, who did not explain in their complaint the basis for the allegation that they were deprived of the use of their homes, did not sufficiently alleged a taking under the Illinois Constitution. Ruling that the factors set forth in Arkansas Game, such as the time and duration of the flooding and whether invasion of the property was intentional or a foreseeable result of government action, should be considered in determining whether temporary flooding constitutes a taking,  the supreme court remanded the case for the plaintiffs to amend their takings clause claim. On remand, the plaintiffs may also assert a claim – potentially actionable under the Illinois version of the takings clause, but not within the scope of the federal counterpart – seeking compensation for damage to their property by government action.

Justice Burke, joined by Justices Kilbride and Freeman, specially concurred. Justice Burke observed that the United States Supreme Court had no authority to overrule the Illinois Supreme Court’s interpretation of the state constitution; therefore, Justice Burke commented that the proffered question did not warrant certification under Supreme Court Rule 308. On the basis of judicial economy, Justice Burke assessed whether the Illinois Supreme Court should adopt the Arkansas Game analysis. Disagreeing with the majority’s finding that Arkansas Game and Pratt were consistent, Justice Burke would explicitly overrule Pratt under the limited lockstep doctrine and adopt the test set forth in Arkansas Game for determining whether temporary flooding constitutes a taking under the Illinois Constitution.     

CRIMINAL

People v. Geiler

By Kerry J. Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 552 provides for the use of uniform traffic citations and states that:

       “[t]he arresting officer shall complete the form or ticket and,
      within 48 hours after the arrest, shall transmit the portions
      entitled “Complaint” and “disposition Report” and, where appropriate,
      “Report of Conviction,” either in person or by mail to the clerk of
      the circuit court of the county in which the violation occurred.

On May 5, 2014, a Monday, Christopher Geiler was issued a traffic citation for speeding by the City of Troy police department.  The citation was filed in the Madison County circuit clerk’s office on Friday, May 9, 2014.
Geiler filed a pro se motion to dismiss, citing the failure to timely process the citation in violation of Rule 552.

A Troy police detective testified to the citation-filing process followed by the department.  When a citation was issued, it was placed into a secure bond box in the dispatch office, and citations were recorded and delivered to the courthouse every Monday and Friday.  The detective said daily filing was impossible, and that the department filed between 30 and 50 citations every Monday and Friday.  The court allowed the motion to dismiss.

Finding that the evidence showed “a clear and consistent violation of Rule 552,”  the appellate court held that dismissal was permissible.  The Supreme Court reversed.

Writing for the Court, Justice Kilbride explained that the decision came down to the mandatory-directory distinction.  Procedural commands to the government are presumed directory, but that presumption can be overcome if (1) negative language prohibits further action if there is non-compliance, or (2) the right protected by the rule generally would be injured under a directory reading.  Here, the rule did not specify any consequence for non-compliance, so the “negative language” exception did not apply. Likewise, the right in question – judicial efficiency and uniformity – was not injured under a directory reading of the rule.

Because the rule is directory, the defendant was required to show that he suffered prejudice from the violation in order to uphold the dismissal of the citation.  There was no indication of prejudice to the defendant from the two-day delay in filing the citation, so the dismissal was reversed.

The Court also noted that according to representations made during oral argument of the case, the Troy Police Department is now in full compliance with the rule, having made changes to ensure delivery of the citations to the clerk within 48 hours.  Further, the Court noted that there was no reason to assume that police would deliberately violate the rule in the future.  If deliberate violations were to come to light, the Court suggested it might be grounds for amending the rule to provide an appropriate response.

Justice Burke authored a special concurrence, joined by Justices Freeman and Garman, noting that had the violation been deliberate and repeated, rather than inadvertent, a court would have the discretionary authority to dismiss a charge (even in the absence of prejudice).

The defendant in this case was pro se throughout the proceedings.  In the decision, the Court took the opportunity to note that he had performed well both in his brief and his oral argument before the Court.

Posted on Jul 08, 2016 by Chris Bonjean | Comments (1)
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Damage to adjacent property similarly done by municipal e.g. fire departments in mitigating loss from natural disasters as well as fire closely resembles such taxpayer funded takings.

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