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Blog comments do not reflect the views or opinions of the Author or Ancel Glink. Some of the content may be considered attorney advertising material under the applicable rules of certain states. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Please read our full disclaimer

Friday, February 23, 2024

Driver's DUI Conviction Upheld


In 2010, a driver was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol and appealed, claiming her conviction was "void" because the Village prosecuted her without the written permission of the County State’s Attorney as required by Section 16-102(c) of the Illinois Vehicle Code. That section provides that “The State's Attorney of the county in which the violation occurs shall prosecute all violations [of the Code] except when the violation occurs within the corporate limits of a municipality, the municipal attorney may prosecute if written permission to do so is obtained from the State's Attorney.”

The Appellate Court upheld her conviction in Village of Glen Ellyn v. Podkul, rejecting the driver's arguments. First, the Appellate Court held that the driver's claim challenging the Village’s authority to prosecute was forfeited because the driver failed to make an objection during her trial or post-trial motions.

Second, the Appellate Court rejected the driver's claim that a conviction made without statutory authority is void and can be challenged at any time. The Appellate Court held that the trial court’s judgment would only be void if it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the issue or lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Here, the Appellate Court held that the conviction would only be voidable, so could only be challenged at the appropriate time and through the proper process.

Finally, the Appellate Court rejected the driver's argument that the conviction could be reversed under the "plain error" rule. The Court held that the plain error rule only allows reversal if there is a structural error proven to have caused a severe threat to the fairness and reliability of the trial but the driver failed to demonstrate any error that would rise to the necessary level of severity to justify reversal of her conviction. Here, the driver was not prevented from mounting an adequate defense, putting on evidence, cross-examining the State’s witnesses, or presenting arguments during her trial. Instead, she merely argues that the Village lacked the statutory authority to prosecute her - i.e., that the prosecution was brought by the wrong party, not that the proceedings themselves were fundamentally unfair or unreliable.

Post Authored by Madeline Tankersley & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Instructor and Municipality Had Immunity for Taser Injury


Chavez participated in a taser training conducted by a part-time police officer. During the training, the instructor inadvertently tased both Chavez and the spotter who was meant to catch Chavez's fall. As a result, Chavez fell and was injured. He filed suit against the instructor and the municipality, claiming he was injured because of the instructor's failure to conduct the course in a reasonably safe manner and that the instructor should have placed mats to catch his fall. 

The defendants argued they were entitled to discretionary immunity under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Act). The Act protects municipalities from liability for an injury resulting from an act or omission of its employee where the employee is not liable. The Act also protects a public employee from liability for an injury resulting from an act or omission of the employee acting in the exercise of his or her discretion. 

The trial court held that the instructor was not entitled to protection under the discretionary immunity act and awarded Chavez damages.  

On appeal, the Appellate Court reversed, holding that the instructor was protected by immunity. The Court found that the taser class was the sole responsibility of the instructor and he was the only person capable of making determinations for the method of instruction for the training. The Court also found that the instructor’s decision not to place mats, the choice and placement of the alligator clips, and how many exposures to give and policy determinations were made (i.e., conducting the course at a fire department to ensure medical personnel were nearby), all weighed in favor of a determination that the instructor acted in the exercise of his discretion. As a result, the Appellate Court held that both the instructor and municipality had immunity under the Act. Chavez v. Village of Kirkland.

Post Authored by Alexis Carter & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Former Deputy Chief Not Entitled to Rehearing on Retirement Pension


An Illinois Appellate Court recently reversed a trial court order that a firefighter pension fund board of trustees (Pension Board) must hold a new hearing, finding that the Pension Board had provided sufficient due process to the former deputy chief. Ibrahim v. Romeoville Firefighters’ Pension Fund

A month before the deputy fire chief retired, the mayor and village board increased the deputy chief's salary from approximately $125,000 to $150,000. When the deputy chief applied to the Pension Board to receive his pension, the Pension Board approved payouts based on the chief’s $125,000 salary. The deputy chief filed a request with the Pension Board to base the pension on his final $150k salary. The Pension Board reviewed the deputy chief's request at a Pension Board meeting, where the matter was included on the agenda and the deputy chief's attorney was permitted an opportunity to speak on the deputy chief’s behalf. The Pension Board ultimately denied the request, finding that basing the pension on an "unauthorized pension spike" would be against public policy and the regulations of the Illinois Department of Insurance, and would conflict with the Pension Board's fiduciary duties to the Fund and its members. The deputy chief then filed a lawsuit against the Pension Board, and the trial court ruled in the deputy chief’s favor and ordered the Pension Board to hold a new hearing on the matter. The Pension Board then appealed.  

The Appellate Court determined that the trial court could only order a new hearing if the deputy chief’s due process rights were violated. Here, the Appellate Court noted that due process required the deputy chief to be provided notice of the Pension Board meeting and a meaningful opportunity to be heard at that meeting. The Appellate Court noted that the deputy chief had prior notice of the meeting because he discussed the matter with the Pension Board’s attorney, and it was a listed agenda item at the Pension Board meeting. Additionally, the Appellate Court found that the deputy chief’s attorney spoke on the deputy chief's behalf at the Pension Board meeting, providing the deputy chief with a sufficient opportunity to be heard. As a result, the Appellate Court determined that the deputy chief’s due process rights were not violated, and as a result, the trial court had no authority to order a new Pension Board hearing. 

Post Authored by Daniel Lev, Ancel Glink

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Court Holds that Mayor is Not a "Public Body" Under FOIA


In 2022, an inmate submitted a request to a City for a copy of his own letter he had sent to the Mayor complaining about the conduct of the City's attorney. The City denied the request, arguing, among other reasons, that the letter was not a “public record” under FOIA because it was addressed to the Mayor who did not qualify as a “public body” under FOIA. The requestor sued the City claiming the City’s denial violated FOIA, and the circuit court ruled in the City’s favor.

On appeal, the Appellate Court upheld the circuit court’s ruling in Shehadeh v. City of Taylorville.

First, the Appellate Court held that the requestor’s letter complaining about the conduct of the City's attorney was not a public record because it did not "pertain to the transaction of public business,” like business or community interests and instead pertained to the requestor’s private affairs.

Second, the Appellate Court ruled that the requestor’s letter addressed to the Mayor did not qualify as a public record under FOIA because it was not “received by, in the possession of, or under the control of a public body.” After analyzing FOIA’s definition of a “public body” and prior Illinois cases concluding that an individual alderperson was not a “public body” under FOIA, the Appellate Court concluded that the Mayor is not a “public body” under FOIA. The Court rejected the requestor’s argument that an individual Alderperson should be distinguished from a Mayor, noting that even though a Mayor (unlike an individual Alderperson) has legal authority to make certain unilateral decisions and actions, that distinction does not transform a Mayor into a "public body" under FOIA.

Finally, the Appellate Court determined that the requestor’s request asking for a copy of his own letter was inconsistent with FOIA’s legislative purpose of making public records open and accessible to the public, because requiring the City to provide the requestor with a copy of his own letter would do nothing to further this purpose.

Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov and Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

PAC (Again) Says Public Body Must Respond to FOIA Request


In its second binding opinion for 2024, the Public Access Counselor of the Attorney General's Office (PAC) found a public body in violation of FOIA for failing to respond to a FOIA request. PAC Op. 2024-02.

With so few binding opinions issued by the PAC each year (about 15 or so each year) and no website posting of the PAC's advisory opinions, there still isn't a lot of guidance for public bodies on the unique (or routine, for that matter) questions and issues that come up in their compliance with FOIA and OMA. 

Monday, February 12, 2024

Firefighter Not Entitled to Non-Duty Disability Pension From Former Employer's Pension Fund


A firefighter applied for a non-duty disability with his current fire pension fund but was denied because he was not eligible for a pension as he had only been with his current department for a year. He also filed a separate application with his former fire pension fund, which also denied his claim because he was no longer eligible for a pension since he was no longer an employee of the department and had voluntarily left to take a job with another fire department.

The firefighter then sued claiming he was entitled to a pension because he should be allowed to combine his creditable service from his current and former employment for pension eligibility under section 4-109.3 of the Pension Code. 

The court disagreed, finding that section only applies to a firefighter who begins employment with a new employer as a result of an IGA that eliminates the previous employer's fire department but does not apply to a firefighter who voluntarily left one job to start another one. The court also noted that the Pension Code makes it clear that only the last pension fund is responsible for a non-duty disability pension, and only if the firefighter has at least 7 years of creditable service with that last pension fund. The court also noted that had the legislature wanted to allow the type of "stacking" of creditable service proposed by the firefighter for non-duty disabilities, it would have included language to that effect but it did not. As a result, the court upheld the denial of a non-duty disability pension by his former employer's pension fund board. Wessel v. Wilmette Firefighters' Pension Fund

Monday, February 5, 2024

Quorum Forum Podcast: Ep. 80 - Not in My Park!


Ancel Glink has posted a new podcast episode on Quorum Forum: Episode 80: Not in My Park! Regulating Controversial Park Activities. 

Park and recreation agencies manage many acres of public space where controversial activities sometimes take place. What authority does your organization have to address resident complaints over the location of pickleball recreational facilities, homeless individuals’ and migrant populations’ use of public parks, and protests in parks? Find out as Ancel Glink attorneys Tyler Smith, Katie Nagy, and host Erin Monforti take over Ancel Glink’s Quorum Forum podcast! 

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Townships and General Assistance for Migrants


As migrants arrive in the Chicagoland area from the southern border, several questions have arisen regarding the legal authority for townships to provide financial aid through general assistance funds. While townships have the authority to provide financial assistance to migrants under the Public Aid Code, 305 ILCS 5/1-1 et seq., (Code), whether migrants are eligible for general assistance funds is a bit more complicated .

First, to receive general assistance under the Code, recipients must either be United States citizens or in a category of eligible non-citizens. The Code provides definitions of those categories, but a township may need to consult with an immigration attorney or legal non-profit for guidance on application of this provision of the Code to the migrants within their jurisdiction. 

Second, for migrants to receive general assistance, they must not be eligible under any other section of the Code. The Code allows the administration of funds for several programs that migrants may be eligible for depending on certain immigration classifications. Townships may need to seek expert guidance on the classification question as well.

Third, assuming those preliminary hurdles are cleared, townships have legal authority to administer general assistance to migrants. While general assistance is usually limited to residents of Illinois, an exception exists to provide non-state residents with general assistance for a temporary period when they will suffer “great hardship.” Migrants arriving in the Chicagoland area typically have no money, food, or shelter which would likely qualify as a great hardship under the Code.

General assistance is split into two categories: 1) transitional assistance; and 2) family and children assistance. The first category, transitional assistance, is for individuals 18 years or older who are “chronically needy” and townships have the power to expand categories of “chronically needy.” If a township wants to provide aid to migrants through transitional assistance, they have the power to do so. The second category, family and children assistance, is for families with children under 18 or pregnant women. There may also be other aid programs for needy families that migrants may be eligible for depending on immigration status. 

Finally, nothing in the Code should be construed to mean that townships are required to provide general assistance to migrants in their communities, but only that they appear to have the authority to do so, subject to certain status or classification issues. 

Post Authored by Daniel Lev, Ancel Glink

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Court Allows Nuisance Claims Regarding Industrial Development to Move Forward


An Illinois Appellate Court allowed a group to proceed with some of its claims in its lawsuit to stop a proposed development of an industrial park. Stop Northpoint, LLC v. City of Joliet

In October 2020, a group sued a city and developer to prevent the annexation of over 1000 acres of unincorporated property for the purpose of developing an industrial business park for warehouses and truck terminals. The city and developer agreed to an annexation and development agreement and development approvals after conducting multiple public hearings. After amending the lawsuit several times, the trial court ultimately considered five claims:

1) whether the development would cause a private nuisance to individuals;

2) whether the development would cause a public nuisance to the community at large;

3) whether the annexation agreement was void for being too vague;

4) whether a November 2021 plan commission hearing about the development was invalid due to inadequate notice; and

5) whether November and December 2021 plan commission’s in-person hearings violated the Open Meetings Act for not following the Governor’s mask mandate.

The trial court dismissed all five of the group’s issues, and the group appealed.

The Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s dismissal of the third, fourth, and fifth claims. On the vagueness claim, the court held that imperfect drafting did not make the annexation agreement illegal or unauthorized. On the notice claim, the court held that the group did not allege they suffered any harm from inadequate notice, so there was no prejudice to justify an improper notice claim. On the mask mandate claim, the court stated the statewide mask mandate was targeted towards individuals, not governments, and there was no legal basis to invalidate an ordinance or annexation agreement passed at a public hearing where face masks were not worn by attendees. 

However, the Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the first and second claims. On the private nuisance claim, the court held that plaintiffs' allegations about the potential impact of air and noise pollution, vibrations, and safety concerns were immediate and specific enough for group members who lived closest to the development to meet the pleading requirements for that claim. On the public nuisance claim, the court found that the plaintiffs sufficiently stated a claim for a common-law public nuisance in their allegations relating to a potential increase in truck traffic and the impacts on the community. 

In sum, the Appellate Court held that the trial court should have let plaintiffs' private and public nuisance claims move forward to the next stage of litigation and remanded the case back to the trial court.

Post Authored by Daniel Lev, Ancel Glink

 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Trial Court Erred in Applying Balancing Test in Ordinance Enforcement Action


The Illinois Supreme Court recently held that a trial court had no authority to balance the interests of the parties in determining whether to enforce compliance with an ordinance. City of Rock Falls v. Aims Industrial Services, LLC.

The City of Rock Falls had an ordinance in place that requires any property within city limits that is being serviced by a private sewage disposal system to be converted and redirected to the public sewage disposal system upon the sale of that property. Aims Industrial Services, LLC (Aims) purchased a commercial property located within Rock Falls that was being serviced by a private sewage disposal system. Despite being notified by the City that it needed to comply with the ordinance, Aims did not take action to connect its property to the public sewage disposal system. The City filed a lawsuit to enforce compliance with the ordinance.

The trial court found in favor of Aims and held there was no reason, outside of compliance with the ordinance, to force Aims to connect to the public sewage system. In ruling in favor of Aims, the court balanced the competing interests of the parties, and considered Aim's costs of compliance of approximately $150,000, and the fact that the private sewer system was not in disrepair nor a threat to public health. 

The City appealed, arguing that the trial court should not have considered the interests of the parties and instead should have enforced the requirements in the ordinance. The Appellate Court agreed and reversed the ruling in favor of Aims. The Appellate Court stated that “where a governmental agency is expressly authorized by statute to seek injunctive relief, the traditional equitable elements necessary to obtain an injunction need not be satisfied.” Further, the Appellate Court explained that "because there is a presumption of harm to the public when an ordinance is violated, a governmental agency seeking an injunction need only show that the ordinance was violated and that the ordinance specifically provides for injunctive relief." The Appellate Court concluded that because the City only had to prove that Aims violated the Code and that the Code specifically authorized injunctive relief as a remedy, "the construction work and cost required to connect to the City’s sewage system, as well as the exemption granted to the other business, were irrelevant."

Aims appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which upheld the Appellate Court's ruling in favor of the City. The Illinois Supreme Court made it clear that a "court is not free to disregard or 'rebalance' the policy determinations made by a legislative body" and when a trial court is confronted “with a continuing violation of statutory law, it has no discretion or authority to balance the equities so as to permit that violation to continue.” The trial court should only have considered whether the City met its burden in establishing a violation of the ordinance had occurred.

Post Authored by Alexis Carter & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink

Monday, January 29, 2024

PAC Orders Finds Public Body in Violation of FOIA for Withholding Settlement Agreement


After a public body denied a FOIA request for a settlement agreement, the requestor submitted a request for review to the PAC. In PAC Op. 24-001, the PAC found the public body in violation of FOIA for withholding the agreement because (1) settlement agreements are public records expressly subject to disclosure pursuant to section 2.20 of FOIA, and (2) the public body did not claim that any portion of the agreement was exempt.

The public body argued that because the agreement included a mutual non-disparagement clause in the agreement, release of the agreement could expose it to liability because disclosure might cause harm to the other contracting party, such as disparagement. The PAC rejected that argument, and also noted that even if the agreement contained a confidentiality provision prohibiting disclosure of the agreement, that provision would be unenforceable because section 2.20 of FOIA provides that settlement agreements are public records disclosable to the public, subject to redaction of exempt information.

Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov, Ancel Glink

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Illinois Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Pension Consolidation Act


Pursuant to P.A. 101-610, the Illinois General Assembly consolidated local police and firefighter pension fund assets into two statewide pension investment funds, one for police and the other for firefighters. In February 2021, 36 individual active and retired beneficiary members from a few suburban and downstate police and firefighter pension funds filed a lawsuit against the Governor and other state officials. The lawsuit claimed the Act diminishes and impairs their pension benefits because (1) prior to the Act, the local funds could “exclusively manage and control their investment expenditures and income”; (2) their “voting power and thereby an effective say in the selection of investment managers, investments, risks, rates of return, costs and expenses” was diluted by the participation of members of other local funds; and (3) the Act constituted an unconstitutional "taking" of their property.

The trial court ruled in favor of the defendants, rejecting plaintiffs' arguments. The case made its way to the Illinois Supreme Court which also ruled in favor of the defendants. Specifically, the Illinois Supreme Court found that plaintiffs had no constitutional right to how the local pension funds are invested (whether at the state or local level) or in the selection of investment managers. The Court also rejected the plaintiffs' constitutional "takings" claim, holding that while participants have a right to receive their promised benefits, they do not have a private property right in the source of funding for those payments. Arlington Heights Police Pension Fund v. Pritzker, et al.