Quick Takes on Illinois Supreme Court opinions issued Friday, Jan. 20
Our panel of leading appellate attorneys reviews the Illinois Supreme Court opinions handed down Friday, January 20. The cases are The Hertz Corporation v. City of Chicago, Board of Education of Springfield School Dist. No. 186 v. Attorney General of Illinois, Village of Bartonville v. Lopez, and People v. Johnson.
By Michael T. Reagan, Law Offices of Michael T. Reagan
This use tax case raised the question of whether a ruling of the then director of the Chicago department of revenue imposed improper requirements on vehicle rental companies which operated within the city limits and which also leased vehicles from locations within a three mile limit outside the city boundaries. The ruling advised the rental companies to obtain statements from lessees as to whether they intended to use the vehicle within or without the city limits. Absent the requested documentation or other proof, the department stated that it would assume that a customer who is a Chicago resident would use the vehicle in the city and would thus be subject to the tax.
Although the plaintiff rental companies raised numerous challenges to the ruling, and to the tax ordinance itself to the extent it was argued to apply to exterritorial transactions, the court decided the case on a single ground relating to home rule powers.
In City of Carbondale v. Van Natta, 61 Ill.2d 483 (1975), the court held that home rule units may not extend their home rule powers, such as taxing power, beyond the unit's borders unless expressly authorized by the General Assembly. Here, the court held that the ruling violates the home rule article of the constitution because it has an extraterritorial effect.
The potentially troublesome ramifications of a contrary ruling were placed in clear relief by the court. The court repeated a warning it had issued in a 1982 case that unrestrained extraterritorial exercise of home rule powers in zoning, taxation, and other areas could create "serious problems, given the number of home rule units in Illinois, particularly in the Chicago area."
By Joanne R. Driscoll, Forde Law Offices LLP
This appeal answered the question of what constitutes “a public recital” before final action can be taken by a public body under section 2(e) of the Open Meetings Act (5 ILCS 120/2(e) (West 2012)).
The Board of Education of Springfield School District No. 186 (the “Board”) met in several closed sessions to discuss the possibility of entering into a separation agreement with its then-superintendent (the “agreement”). At one of those sessions, six of seven Board members signed the agreement but left it undated. On March 1, 2013, the Board published an agenda for its March 5, 2013 public meeting that included an entry for approval of the agreement and a link to the full text of the agreement. At the March 5 public meeting, the Board’s president referenced the agenda item and then read her resolution recommending that the Board vote to approve the agreement between the superintendent and the Board. On a six-to-one vote, the resolution was adopted, and the previously signed agreement was then dated March 5, 2013.
The Attorney General concluded that the Board’s conduct violated section 2(e), in part because the public was not adequately informed as to the nature of the matter under consideration. On administrative review, the circuit court and the appellate court disagreed, finding that the March 1, 2013 agenda notice was a sufficient “public recital.”
Rejecting the Attorney General’s assertion that her interpretation of section 2(e) was entitled to deference, the court unanimously found the meaning of that section was plain and, thus, a de novo standard of review applied. It agreed with the Attorney General that the “public recital” had to take place at the public meeting but disagreed as to the content of the recital. According to the court, the “public recital of the nature of the matter being considered” required the public body to state the essence of the matter under consideration in nonspecific terms (e.g., approval of a loan, a contract, a purchase) and “other information” meant the specific item of business (e.g., the purpose of the loan, the subject of the contract, the property being purchased).
Applying a clear error standard to the question of the sufficiency of the “public recital” made at the March 5, 2013 public meeting, the court found that the Attorney General had clearly erred in her reading of section 2(e) of the Open Meetings Act. The court found that the Board president was not required to recite key terms of the agreement at the March 5 open meeting and that her reading of the text of the resolution provided sufficient detail to identify the transaction at issue. While the court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court, it expressed no opinion on the propriety of relying on the posted agenda as a supplement to the public recital.
By Karen Kies DeGrand, Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC
The Illinois Supreme Court untangled a confusing combination of proceedings in reaching the conclusion that a police officer and his union were bound by the decision of a municipality’s board of fire and police commissioners to terminate the police officer. In August, 2014, the police chief for the Village of Bartonville ("Village") signed a complaint to terminate the officer, Salvadore Lopez, for alleged violations of department procedure during a traffic stop. Counsel for the board of fire and police commissioners (“Board”) for the Village proposed to Lopez’ attorney a date for the required hearing within 30 days of filing the charges. At the request of the attorney representing both Lopez and the union, the date was pushed to a later date, October 3, 2014.
In the meantime, Lopez filed a action in the circuit court. He argued that the Board lost jurisdiction over the termination complaint based on the timing of the hearing – more than 30 days after the charges were filed. Despite taking that position in court, Lopez proceeded with the October 3 hearing before the Board. His counsel argued that he was doing so without waiving the issue of jurisdiction and, further, that Lopez and the union reserved the right to grievance arbitration, an avenue for resolving the dispute provided by the governing labor contract.
After conducting the hearing on October 3, the Board found that cause existed for Lopez’ termination and ordered his discharge. Lopez and the union did not seek judicial review of that decision under the Administrative Review Law. Lopez also lost the circuit court action based on the court’s ruling that the hearing was delayed at Lopez’ request. The appellate court affirmed that ruling, and Lopez did not seek leave to appeal to the supreme court.
Lopez and the union then sought grievance arbitration under the governing labor contract. The Village responded by seeking to block the arbitration in an action filed in the circuit court. Among other grounds, the Village urged that Lopez and the union were attempting an end run around the Board's decision in violation of the Municipal Code, which vested jurisdiction in the Board, and in violation of the Administrative Review Law, which provided the procedure for judicial review of the Board's decision.
Ultimately, the third time was not the charm for Lopez and the union. After Lopez lost in the trial court and won reversal in the appellate court, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Village. The court found that Lopez waived his right to grievance arbitration under the labor contract by acting inconsistently with that right: he participated in a Board hearing before seeking grievance arbitration.
The court also found that res judicata barred the arbitration. The Board proceedings fulfilled the requirements for the application of res judicata. The same parties obtained a final adjudication on the merits by a competent tribunal, and the Board had addressed a dispute arising from the same group of operative facts giving rise to the grievance arbitration.
By Kerry J. Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender
The Illinois Supreme Court resolved the question of whether there is a deadline for filing a post-conviction petition where the petitioner took a direct appeal but did not file a petition for leave to appeal (PLA) to the supreme court after the appellate court’s decision was rendered. The relevant portion of the Post-Conviction Hearing Act provides:
When a defendant has a sentence other than death, no proceedings
under this Article shall be commenced more than 6 months after the
conclusion of proceedings in the United States Supreme Court, unless
the petitioner alleges facts showing that the delay was not due to
his or her culpable negligence. If a petition for certiorari is not
filed, no proceedings under this Article shall be commenced more than
6 months from the date for filing a certiorari petition, unless the
petitioner alleges facts showing that the delay was not due to his or
her culpable negligence. If a defendant does not file a direct
appeal, the post-conviction petition shall be filed no later than 3
years from the date of conviction, unless the petitioner alleges
facts showing that the delay was not due to his or her culpable
negligence. 725 ILCS 5/122-1(c).
A literal reading of the statute does not provide a specific deadline where a PLA is not filed, but the court noted that the absence of a deadline would be at odds with the purpose of the statute, which is to provide deadlines for the filing of post-conviction petitions.
Over the years, the legislature has amended the deadline provision of the Act, gradually decreasing the deadline over time. Nothing in the history of those amendments or in the plain language of the statute suggested any intent to exempt certain persons from the deadlines. The court noted that at the time of the most recent amendment, a discussion during the legislative debates showed that there was no intent to change the deadline, but rather the intent was only to clarify it.
On that basis, the court concluded that to construe the statute as the legislature intended would require reinserting a provision from the previous version which “the legislature omitted by oversight.” That provision stated:
. . . no proceedings under this Article shall be commenced more than
6 months after the denial of the Petition for Leave to Appeal to the
Illinois Supreme Court, or more than 6 months from the date for
filing such a petition if none is filed . . .
Here, the appellate court’s Rule 23 order on direct appeal was issued on May 7, 2007. The defendant’s PLA would have been due 35 days later, on June 11, 2007. Because no PLA was filed, the defendant’s post-conviction filing deadline was December 11, 2007, six months after the PLA deadline. Thus, the defendant’s petition filed in August 2008 was untimely.
While the defendant offered reasons for his untimely filing in an effort to excuse his culpable negligence, the court rejected them (reliance on the advice of an inmate/paralegal and a lack of legal knowledge). In his petition, the defendant had not alleged confusion over the deadline as a reason to excuse the delay in filing. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant had been reckless in missing the deadline and affirmed the dismissal of his petition as untimely.