The Illinois Supreme Court recently issued its opinion in Stone Street Partners, LLC v. City of Chicago, 2017 IL 117720. This case involved an administrative adjudication decision issued by Chicago in 1999 and a motion by Stone Street Partners, LLC to set aside that judgment in 2009. The issue centered on whether or not Stone Street Partners had received adequate notice in 1999 of the case filed against it for certain code violations at a property it owned. A person named Keith Johnson appeared at the hearing in 1999, but the record did not disclose whether he was authorized to represent Stone Street Partners.
In determining whether or not Stone Street Partners had adequate notice, the trial court and the court of appeals considered whether or not a corporation has to be represented by an attorney in administrative adjudication matters. If a corporation does have to be represented by an attorney, then the appearance of Keith Johnson (a non-attorney) in 1999 would not have been binding on the corporation. If a corporation can appear by a non-attorney, then the appearance of Mr. Johnson would be binding on the corporation to establish it had received notice of the hearing.
The Illinois Supreme Court side-stepped the issue as to whether or not a corporation must be represented by an attorney in an administrative adjudication proceeding finding no evidence in the record that Johnson represented Stone Street Partners in any capacity. Mr. Johnson failed to complete the appearance form that asked him to identify the capacity by which he appeared (attorney, officer, agent, owner, agent, etc.) Consequently the Supreme Court held there was no evidence linking Mr. Johnson to Stone Street and no record evidence of other notice of the hearing to Stone Street. The Court held that in an administrative adjudication proceeding, the notice requirements are "jurisdictional prerequisites" that must be followed in order for the hearing body to have authority to hear the case and adjudicate the charges against someone. In this case, because Stone Street was never properly served with notice and because Johnson had no authority to appear on the company’s behalf, the hearing body had no jurisdiction to decide the code violations against Stone Street.
The Court also vacated that portion of the appellate court decision holding that a corporation must be represented by an attorney in administrative adjudication matters. Consequently it is now unclear whether or not corporations may be represented by non-attorneys in administrative adjudication.
The three dissenting judges would have held that, like small claims court, corporations may be represented by officers, agents, owners, or other non-attorneys in administrative adjudication proceedings.
Post Authored by Steve Mahrt, Ancel Glink