The Bar News

Quick takes from today's Illinois Supreme Court opinions

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases A.B.A.T.E. of Ill., v. Quinn and Sierra Club v. Illinois Pollution Control Board. The Illinois Supreme Court summaries are included for Criminal case People v. Hill and Family Law case In re Dar. C. and Das. C., Minors.

CIVIL

A.B.A.T.E. of Ill., Inc. v. Quinn

By Alyssa M. Reiter, Williams Montgomery & John Ltd.

This case concerned issues of legislative authority regarding an amendment to the Cycle

Rider Safety Training Act.  In 1993, the legislature amended the Cycle Rider Safety Training Fund (CRSTF) from a special fund inside the state treasury to a “trust fundoutside of the State treasury.” The appeal considered what effect this amendment had on the legislature’s authority to order the transfer of funds out of the CRSTF and into the General Revenue Fund (GRF).  The issues included whether the transfer of funds out of the CRSTF amounted to an unconstitutional “taking” of private property without just compensation and whether, in order to transfer funds out of the CRSTF, the legislature had to first amend the CRST Act. The appellate court held that the removal of funds from the CRSTF was not an unconstitutional taking and that the legislature had the authority to order a transfer of funds out of the CRSTF and into the GRF. The Supreme Court affirmed.

Sierra Club v. Illinois Pollution Control Board

By Alyssa M. Reiter, Williams Montgomery & John Ltd.

The technical issue in this case was whether the petitioners had standing to seek review of a decision of the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) granting a delisting petition for a disposal company.  The petitioners (the opposition groups) were the Sierra Club and Peoria Families Against Toxic Waste.  A divided Court found that they did not have standing and dismissed the appeal.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) had previously issued a permit to Peoria Disposal Company (PDC) to operate a waste stabilization facility.  In 2008, the IEPA, upon petition by PDC, granted a “delisting adjusted standard.”  The opposition groups petitioned to review that order. 

The “sharply divided” appellate court found that the opposition groups had standing but that the order should be affirmed on the merits.

On review, the Supreme Court majority disagreed with the appellate court on the issue of standing.  Under the applicable legislation, the opposition groups had to show that the delisting order was a “rule or regulation promulgated by the Board” in order for them to have standing to appeal.

The Court had several bases for finding that the order was not a “rule or regulation.”  The legislation distinguished between the Board granting adjusted standards and the Board’s authority to adopt rules and regulations.  The statute provided that the Board’s decision to grant adjusted standards was an “adjudicatory determination.”  Thus, this was a quasi-judicial function, not a quasi-legislative function (such as adopting a rule).  And, if it were a rule, the Secretary of State would have been required to publish its text in the Illinois Administrative Code but had not.

Justice Theis, joined by Justice Kilbride, dissented.  The dissent essentially viewed the order as a type of specific rule and, thus, falling within the provision of the statute that would have provided standing to the opposition groups.

CRIMINAL
Supreme Court summary

People v. Hill

      A Cook County jury convicted this defendant of the 2001 murder of his ex-girlfriend, who had obtained a protection order against him. He had waived a jury for further proceedings, and the trial judge found him eligible for the death penalty based on murder in violation of a protection order.

      In this decision, Hill’s appeal to the supreme court was dismissed as moot. He had raised as an issue a purported violation of Supreme Court Rule 416(a) as to the timing of the State’s filing of its notice of intent to seek the death penalty. However, the circuit court judge imposed only a prison term, sentencing him to 60 years. There was nothing in the record to indicate, and no evidence to suggest, that this sentencing decision was influenced in any way by the defendant’s eligibility for the death penalty. Also, the question of the proper interpretation of this capital rule is unlikely to recur again now that the death penalty has been abolished.

FAMILY LAW

In this McLean County case, a father whose parental rights had been terminated on March 7, 2008, challenged that result for lack of personal jurisdiction. Under the Code of Civil Procedure, he filed a petition for relief from that judgment, claiming that, under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, it was improper to serve him only by publication in Bloomington after attempts at personal service or service by certified mail were unsuccessful. Statute requires a “diligent inquiry” before a parent may be served by publication. The failed attempts had been based on potential addresses obtained through the use of computerized database searches. The State simply mailed letters but made no visits to the addresses to seek further information. The appellate court affirmed the termination order.

The termination took place in proceedings that began pursuant to 2006 charges that the respondent father’s two minor children, who were living with their mother, were neglected. It was known that the mother was receiving Social Security benefits, but no effort was made to determine their source or to obtain a release of Social Security information. Later that same year, a separate proceeding to collect child support from the father was initiated by a different attorney in the same prosecutor’s office, with the complaint being signed by a caseworker in the termination proceeding. In the collection matter, the father’s birth date, Social Security number and physical description were listed. The State indicated that it had located the respondent at a treatment center in Lake County and obtained his consent for entry of a child support order using the funds from his social security disability benefits.

In this decision, the supreme court said that “the State’s ability to obtain respondent’s contact information in the separate child support action casts significant doubt on the diligence of the State’s inquiry into respondent’s location in the termination proceedings” and that “relying on a computerized database search of a parent’s name while ignoring, or otherwise not investigating, other potentially useful information, does not constitute a diligent inquiry.” These circumstances indicate that there was a lack of personal jurisdiction over the father in attempting to serve him by publication on these facts. The appellate court was reversed and the termination of the father’s rights concerning his children was vacated as void. The cause was remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.

Posted on October 27, 2011 by Chris Bonjean
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