Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois

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Illinois High School Association (IHSA), which governs interscholastic athletic competitions for public and private secondary schools, is not a “public body” under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 ILCS 140/2. Founded in 1900, IHSA is a private, not-for-profit, unincorporated association with over 800 public and private high school members. IHSA establishes bylaws and rules for interscholastic sports competition, enforces those rules, and sponsors and coordinates post-season tournaments for certain sports in which member schools choose to compete. Any Illinois private or public high school may join IHSA if it agrees to abide by IHSA rules. There is no requirement that public schools constitute a certain percentage of IHSA membership and no requirement that public schools join IHSA. IHSA does not govern all sports or extracurricular activities of the member schools. It does not supervise intramural sports or most club sports. It is not involved in regular season interscholastic contests among the member schools. The Better Government Association submitted a FOIA request to IHSA for all of its contracts for accounting, legal, sponsorship, and public relations/crisis communications services and all licensed vendor applications for two fiscal years. The trial, appellate, and Illinois Supreme Court agreed that IHSA is a not-for-profit charitable organization and not subject to the FOIA. View "Better Government Association v. Illinois High School Association" on Justia Law

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Stone Street discovered that a judgment had been recorded against its property for failure to pay $1050 in fines and costs imposed by Chicago’s department of administrative hearings for violations of the building code more than a decade earlier. Stone Street sued, arguing that the original administrative proceedings were a nullity and could not serve as the basis for the judgment because it had not been given the requisite notice and had no opportunity to contest the alleged violations before judgment was entered. While notice was never given to Stone Street, a person named Johnson entered a written appearance in the administrative proceeding that culminated in the fine. Johnson represented that he was there on behalf of Stone Street, but Johnson, who died before the litigation arose, was not an attorney, had no affiliation of any kind with the company, and did not live in the property. The Illinois Supreme Court held that, bbecause Stone Street was never properly served with notice and because Johnson had no authority to appear on the company’s behalf, the Department failed to acquire personal jurisdiction over it. The Department’s 1999 judgment was therefore void ab initio and could be attacked at any time, either directly or collaterally. View "Stone Street Partners, LLC v. City of Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings" on Justia Law

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The Department of Children and Family Services indicated a finding of child abuse against Grimm. Grimm, a teacher, claimed that the report was inaccurate and requested its expunction. An administrative law judge recommended that Grimm’s request be denied. Nine days later (July 30), the Department issued its decision in a letter signed by its director, addressed to Grimm's attorney and indicating that it was sent via certified mail; it adopted and enclosed the ALJ's decision, stating, “you may seek judicial review under the provisions of the Administrative Review Law, 735 ILCS 5/3-101 … within 35 days of the date this decision was served on you.” On September 4, 36 days after the date of the letter, Grimm filed her complaint for judicial review, stating that her attorney received the decision no earlier than July 31, and that she did not receive the decision until August 12 or 13. The Department stated that it served Grimm when it mailed the letter. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the trial and appellate courts in finding that the Department’s decision was misleading and violated due process. The courts balanced Grimm’s constitutionally protected interest, the risk of an erroneous deprivation of that interest, and the value of substitute procedures against the burden on the Department to change boilerplate language in a letter announcing its final decision. View "Grimm v. Calica" on Justia Law

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The Bartonville police department’s union contract includes a grievance procedure. The Union may refer the grievance to arbitration if it is not settled within the three-step procedure. In 2014, Chief Fengel signed a complaint for termination, alleging that Lopez violated department procedures during a traffic stop. After scheduling a hearing by the board of fire and police commissioners, Lopez sought a declaratory judgment, arguing that the board was divested of jurisdiction because it had failed to commence the hearing within the 30-day time limit under Municipal Code 10-2.1-17. The board responded that it did so at Lopez’s request. The appellate court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the board. The hearing had proceeded, with counsel stating that Lopez did not waive the issue of jurisdiction and that the Union’s presence did not waive its contractual right to grieve the termination. The board ordered termination. Lopez never sought judicial review under the Administrative Review Law, but filed a grievance. When the grievance was not resolved by the three-step process, the Union referred it to arbitration. The Department sought a stay, arguing that in relying on the Municipal Code, Lopez essentially admitted that the board had jurisdiction. Because the board issued a final merits decision, review was subject to the Administrative Review Law. The Department also argued that the grievance and arbitration provisions in the labor contract did not apply to termination proceedings because the parties did not negotiate an alternative form of due process in the labor contract. The trial court granted the Department summary judgment, finding no contract provision, “even inferring, that the grievance procedure should, or could, be used to determine disciplinary matters.” The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court decision, finding the grievance barred by waiver and res judicata. View "The Village of Bartonville v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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The Springfield School District Board of Education met in closed sessions to discuss a separation agreement with then-superintendent Milton. At the January 31 closed meeting, Milton signed and dated a proposed agreement. At a February 4 closed session, six (of seven) Board members signed, but did not date the agreement. The Board’s attorney explained that they would have to take a public vote but that they were bound by the agreement not to publicly disclose the details of their discussions or the agreement’s terms. A reporter filed a request under 5 ILCS 120/3.5(a), for review of alleged violations of the Open Meetings Act. Meanwhile, the Board announced the agenda for a March 5 public meeting; its website included item 9.1, approval of the separation agreement, with a link to the resolution, which linked to the separation agreement itself, containing Milton’s dated signature and the undated Board member signatures. At the public meeting, a dissenting Board member objected that neither she nor the public were aware of the reasons for the action. The resolution was approved. The agreement was then dated March 5. The Attorney General subsequently concluded: the February 4 signing constituted taking a final action in violation of the Act; even if it was permissible to ratify that action by an open-meeting vote, the Board failed to adequately inform the public of the nature of the matter; the Board failed to create and maintain verbatim recordings of closed sessions; and the Board failed to summarize discussions of the separation agreement in the minutes of closed meetings. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld lower court conclusions that the Board did not violate the Act because final action was taken at the March 5 open meeting, and that the website posting adequately informed the public of the nature of the matter. View "Board of Education of Springfield School District No. 186 v. Attorney General of Illinois" on Justia Law

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Johnson filed a referendum petition seeking to place on the November 2016, general election ballot the question of imposing term limits on the elected office of Broadview village president. The Broadview electoral board invalidated the referendum as vague and ambiguous “because it is not clear whether the Referendum applies retroactively as well as prospectively.” The circuit court concluded the referendum was self-executing, not vague or ambiguous, and ordered the referendum to appear on the ballot. The appellate court affirmed. The proposition appeared on the ballot, but the results were not released, in compliance with an appellate court injunction. The Illinois Supreme Court ordered that the injunctive order be vacated and took judicial notice that the referendum was approved, then affirmed. While the proposition did not provide an express date marking the relevant timeframe for the prior terms of office, it is directed at that those “who seek election to or hold the office of Village President” beginning with the April 2017 election who have “been previously elected” to that office for two consecutive full terms. When read in its entirety, the language adequately explains that the initial starting point for determining whether candidates were “previously elected” village president is the April 2017 election. View "Johnson v. Ames" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a purported class action to recover damages resulting from an alleged scheme to inflate the interest rate delinquent property taxpayers in Madison County, Illinois, were compelled to pay to those who purchased delinquent taxpayer debt. Former Madison County Treasurer and Collector (Bathon) had purportedly agreed with certain defendants to manipulate the delinquent tax purchasing system, so that delinquent taxpayers were required to pay the maximum allowable interest to the purchasers of their tax debt to discharge the liens and redeem their properties. The purchasers of the tax debt allegedly provided financial support to Bathon. Plaintiffs brought suit against those involved in the scheme, Madison County, and RLI, the entity acting as surety on Bathon’s statutory public official bond under 55 ILCS 5/3-10003 and 35 ILCS 200/19-40. The bond identified “Madison County Government” as the named obligee. The court dismissed, finding that plaintiffs were not proper claimants under the terms of the public official bond or under the statutes. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Private citizens are precluded from making claims on the statutorily mandated public official bond at issue. View "Bueker v. Madison County" on Justia Law

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The Cook County Inspector General’s (IG) Office is to “detect, deter and prevent corruption, fraud, waste, mismanagement, unlawful political discrimination or misconduct in the operation of County government,” including by “separately elected County officials.” It may request information from and conduct interviews under oath with county officials and may issue subpoenas. If an investigation results in information indicating wrongful conduct, the IG is to “prepare confidential reports and make recommendations for corrective action,” but the ordinance does not authorize the IG to implement any such recommendations or otherwise interfere with the operations of county departments, nor does it confer prosecutorial power. The IG is “[t]o notify the State’s Attorney or other appropriate law enforcement authority.” In 2015, the IG investigated the grant of homeowner’s exemptions to an Assessor’s office employee (35 ILCS 200/15-175) and sent a request for information and documents. The Assessor refused to comply, stating that the documents could be obtained by submission of a request under Illinois’s Freedom of Information Act. The IG served a subpoena on the Assessor’s office, seeking the documents and the employee's personnel file. The Assessor objected, claiming that the IG lacked authority to subpoena information from elected county officers. The circuit court ordered the Assessor to produce the materials. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Board validly exercised its home rule authority when it enacted the IG Ordinance and rejecting the Assessor’s arguments that the ordinance infringed on the authority of the State’s Attorney to convene grand juries and prosecute crimes. View "Blanchard v. Berrios" on Justia Law

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Zahn is a residential consumer, decided to purchase electricity from North American Power & Gas (NAPG), an alternative retail electric supplier (ARES) under the Electric Service Customer Choice and Rate Relief Law , 220 ILCS 5/16-102. NAPG sent Zahn a letter stating that she would receive its “New Customer Rate” of $0.0499 per kilowatt-hour during her first month of service and a “market based variable rate” thereafter. NAPG's “Customer Disclosure Statement” indicated a month-to-month term and that “[o]ther than fixed and/or introductory/promotional rates, all rates shall be calculated in response to market pricing, transportation, profit and other market price factors” and that its prices were “variable” based on “market prices for commodity, transportation, balancing fees, storage charges, [NAPG] fees, profit, [and] line losses ... may be higher or lower than your [local public utility].” Zahn never received the $0.0499 per kilowatt-hour rate. During her first two months of service, NAPG charged her $0.0599 per kilowatt-hour. Thereafter, the rate it charged her was always higher than what she would have paid her local public utility. Zahn filed a class action, alleging Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act violations (815 ILCS 505/1), breach of contract, and unjust enrichment. Zahn appealed dismissal of the case to the Seventh Circuit, which certified a question of Illinois law: Does the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) have exclusive jurisdiction over a reparation claim, as defined in precedent in Sheffler v. Commonwealth Edison, brought by a residential consumer against an ARES? The Illinois Supreme Court responded that the ICC does not have exclusive original jurisdiction over such claims. The claims may be pursued through the courts. View "Zahn v. North American Power & Gas, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Illinois Constitution of 1970 may be amended by constitutional convention; the General Assembly; or ballot initiatives, Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, sects. 1, 2, 3. Ballot initiatives may only be used for amendments directed at “structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV,” pertaining to Illinois’s legislative branch. The ballot initiative at issue addresses redistricting to redraw the legislative and representative districts following each federal decennial census. In May 2016, SIM filed with the Secretary of State a petition proposing the amendment of article IV, section 3, to replace the current system for redrawing Illinois’s legislative and representative districts. The General Assembly’s role would be eliminated from the process, with primary responsibility for drawing legislative and representative districts falling to a new “Independent Redistricting Commission” selected through a process involving limited legislative input. The State Board of Elections determined that the petition received more than the required number of valid signatures. Days after submission of the petition, a “taxpayer’s suit” was filed (735 ILCS 5/11-303), seeking to enjoin the disbursal of public funds to determine the petition’s compliance with the Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/1-1. The circuit court found that the petition did not comply with requirements for inclusion on the ballot. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, citing “the plain language of article XIV, section 3.” View "Hooker v. Illinois State Board of Elections" on Justia Law