Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois

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Roberts sued City Colleges of Chicago following his termination as director of medical programs at Malcolm X College, alleging retaliatory discharge, violation of section 20 of the Whistleblower Act (740 ILCS 174/20), and wrongful termination. City Colleges gave no reason for his termination, which followed his complaints about the use of unqualified instructors. The circuit court dismissed the retaliatory discharge and Whistleblower Act counts with prejudice. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s Whistleblower Act claim but reversed the dismissal of the retaliatory discharge claim. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed with respect to the Whistleblower Act claim but reinstated the dismissal of the retaliatory discharge claim. Roberts did not establish that his termination violated a clearly mandated public policy; he failed to allege sufficient facts to conclude that the use of the instructors put federal funding at risk. Section 20 of the Whistleblower Act requires that an employee refuse to participate “in an activity that would result in a violation of a State or federal law, rule, or regulation.” The complaint lacked sufficient facts to conclude that appointment of the instructors violated the standards of a recognized accrediting agency or misrepresented the nature of its educational program or employability of its students. View "Roberts v. Board of Trustees of Community College District No. 508" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Jane and her parents, sued two individuals and several entities including and affiliated with the United Church of Christ (UCC) after Jane was sexually assaulted by a youth pastor. Plaintiffs alleged that the First Congregational Church of Dundee (FCCD) and its pastor, James, negligently and willfully and wantonly hired, supervised, and retained FCCD’s director of youth ministries, Plaintiffs amended their complaint twice. All counts of the second amended complaint were dismissed as against FCCD and James. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the striking of portions of the plaintiffs’ complaint but reinstated all counts of the complaint. The stricken statements concerned FCCD’s and James’s post-assault actions, which do not support plaintiffs’ claims of an ongoing conscious disregard for Jane’s welfare or a pattern of conduct prior to the assault nor do they make it more likely or less likely that they acted negligently before the assault. The negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and negligent retention counts were reinstated, as were the willful and wanton counts inasmuch as they overlap with the negligent supervision counts but not to the extent they overlap with the negligent retention counts. View "Doe v. Coe" on Justia Law

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The 2007 Act, 40 ILCS 5/16-106(10), amended the Pension Code, which governs the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS): An officer or employee of a statewide teachers’ union was permitted to establish TRS service credit if the individual: was certified as a teacher no later than February 27, 2007, applied to the TRS within six months, and paid into the system both the employee contribution and employer (state) contribution, plus interest, for his prior union service. Plaintiff worked as a union lobbyist from 1997 until his 2012 retirement. In 2006, plaintiff obtained a substitute teaching certificate. In January 2007, he worked one day as a substitute teacher. Within six months, plaintiff became a member of the TRS. Plaintiff then contributed $192,668 to the system for his union service. In 2011, the Chicago Tribune published an article, identifying plaintiff and criticizing the law that allowed him to qualify for a teacher’s pension. In response to the negative media coverage, the 2012 Act repealed the 2007 amendment and provided for a refund of contributions. TRS eliminated plaintiff’s service credits and refunded his contributions. Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that the retroactive repeal violated the state constitution’s pension protection clause (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIII). The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of plaintiff. The 2007 amendment's inclusion of a cutoff date did not render it unconstitutional special legislation (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV); the amendment applied generally to all eligible employees who met its criteria. Under the pension clause, “once a person commences to work and becomes a member of a public retirement system, any subsequent changes to the Pension Code that would diminish the benefits conferred by membership in the retirement system cannot be applied to that person.” View "Piccioli v. Board of Trustees of the Teachers’ Retirement System" on Justia Law

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The Property of Unincorporated Associations Act, 765 ILCS 115/2, requires a labor union to notify its members and obtain their approval before entering into an agreement to lease or purchase real estate. The circuit court held that an agreement is enforceable despite a union’s failure to follow these requirements because the Act is silent as to the consequences of noncompliance. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. Where a party lacks the legal authority to form a contract, the resulting contract is void ab initio. Absent compliance with the statutory prerequisites, an unincorporated association has no power to execute a valid real estate contract. The apparent authority doctrine is not relevant. A contract that is void ab initio is treated as though it never existed and, thus, cannot be enforced by either party. View "1550 MP Road LLC v. Teamsters Local Union No. 700" on Justia Law

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Mroczko was employed by A&R as a custodian in a building where Pepper was performing maintenance work. Pepper's subcontractor, Perez, was replacing the carpets. While Mroczko was cleaning, a desk that had been placed in an upright position fell and injured her. Mroczko filed a successful workers’ compensation claim against A&R but failed to file a timely personal injury action. A&R filed a subrogation action. The Workers’ Compensation Act. 820 ILCS 305/5(b), permits an employee to file her own personal injury action against a third-party tortfeasor to recover damages for a work injury. The employer is entitled to reimbursement of its workers’ compensation benefits out of the proceeds obtained by the employee and has a limited right to intervene to protect its workers’ compensation lien. If the employee fails to file her own action, the employer may file the same action that the employee could have filed. The statute is silent as to whether an employee has the right to intervene in the employer's action. While A&R’s litigation was pending, Mroczko filed her own personal injury action, which was dismissed as barred by the two-year statute of limitations. Mroczko filed an amended complaint against Pepper only, alleging that her injuries arose out of Pepper’s construction work so that her action was timely under the four-year construction statute of limitations. The court dismissed the action. Mroczko then sought to intervene in A&R’s subrogation action. The circuit court denied that petition, citing res judicata. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. Whether Mroczko had an interest in A&R’s action based on A&R’s pursuit of damages, including for her pain and suffering, is irrelevant to res judicata, which applies because Mroczko previously asserted the same claim against the same defendant, which resulted in a final judgment on the merits. View "A&R Janitorial v. Pepper Construction Co." on Justia Law

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In 2012, then-Governor Quinn nominated Gregg to be a salaried member of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board (IPRB). Gregg submitted a statement of economic interests for the preceding calendar year, indicating that in 2011, he was mayor of Harrisburg. Asked to identify any gift valued over $500 and its source, Gregg wrote “None.” At the time, Gregg was recovering from an illness. Gregg did not complete a statement of economic interests for calendar year 2012. In 2013, Gregg resigned as mayor of Harrisburg. A former Harrisburg city treasurer notified the Illinois Department of Corrections that Gregg failed to include in his statement of economic interests a medical lift chair received as a gift. IPRB legal counsel investigated; neither the IPRB nor the Governor’s office took further action. In November 2013, the Illinois Senate approved Gregg’s appointment for a six-year term. In 2014, Gregg filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. Governor Rauner took office in 2014 and removed Gregg from the IPRB based on his misstatements and omissions on the statement of economic interest and his bankruptcy petition. The circuit court found that Gregg’s removal was judicially reviewable and determined that Rauner wrongfully terminated Gregg’s appointment. The Illinois Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Rauner’s decision to remove Gregg from the IPBR was not subject to judicial review. The Illinois Constitution, article V, section 10 provides: “The Governor may remove for incompetence, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office any officer who may be appointed by the Governor.” The IPRB is not one of those rare agencies whose functions require complete independence from gubernatorial influence. View "Gregg v. Rauner" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, participants in public pension funds, sued, challenging the constitutionality of three reforms in Public Act 97-651, which altered articles 8, 11, and 17 of the Illinois Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/8, 11, 17) and modified the calculation of annuities. The circuit court invalidated two provisions eliminating the right to earn union service credit for leaves of absence beginning after the amendments' effective date as violating the Illinois Constitution's (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIII, 5) pension-protection clause but upheld the constitutionality of the third reform. The Illinois Supreme court affirmed regarding the elimination of the right to earn service credit for a union leave of absence; for participants who were already members on the Act's effective date, the ability to earn service credit on leave of absence for labor organization employment is a "benefit" that "cannot be diminished or impaired." The court reversed the dismissal of a claim that the change in the law to deny the use of a union salary under section 8-226(c) or 11-215(c)(3) to calculate the “highest average annual salary” violate the pension clause. The court also reversed the rulings on the that resulted from the circuit court’s construction of section 8-226(c)(3) to include defined contribution plans within the definition of “any pension plan.” View "Carmichael v. Laborers' & Retirement Board Employees' Annuity & Benefit Fund of Chicago" 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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Beggs, a tenured teacher, was dismissed from her employment by Murphysboro Community Unit School District. Caring for her parents, Beggs had accrued several absences and was tardy several days. She had received a “letter of concern” and a “remedial warning,” had taken sick leave, and had been suspended before her termination. Beggs requested a hearing, Illinois School Code, 105 ILCS 5/24-12. A hearing officer issued findings of fact and recommended that Beggs be reinstated with back pay and benefits because the Board failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that she had violated the notice of remedial warning or that she had engaged in irremediable conduct that constituted grounds for dismissal. The Board nonetheless dismissed her. The circuit court ordered Beggs reinstated with back pay and benefits. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. While the Board’s frustration with Beggs before the notice of remedial warning was “understandable and well documented,” it was unclear from the Board’s decision whether it would have found cause for discharge based on a tardiness incident of March 19, 2012, alone. Only a clear and material breach of the warning notice that was causally related to her past deficiencies would support dismissal. That single incident was not a clear and material breach of the warning notice. The court expressed “a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” View "Beggs v. Board of Education of Murphysboro Community Unit School District No. 186" on Justia Law

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Bayer, an ironworker with Area Erectors, which was hired by Garbe to build Panduit’s warehouse facilities, fell and is now quadriplegic. Bayer filed a claim against Area under the Workers’ Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/1). Area began making temporary total disability payments and payments for Bayer’s medical expenses. Bayer also sued Panduit, Garbe, and a structural engineering company for negligence. Panduit and Garbe sued Area under the Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act (740 ILCS 100/0.01). Bayer's settlement with Area was approved, so Area was discharged from contribution liability. Other claims were resolved, leaving only Bayer’s action for negligence against Panduit. Judgment ($64 million) was entered in Bayer’s favor. Under the Workers’ Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/5(b)), Area was entitled to recover out of that judgment the amount of compensation it paid or would pay to Bayer, including amounts paid or to be paid under the Act for medical expenses, vocational rehabilitation, and temporary partial disability benefits. The court suspended future workers’ compensation payments. The Act provides that where, “the services of an attorney at law of the employee . . . have . . . substantially contributed to the procurement ... of the proceeds out of which the employer is reimbursed, then, in the absence of other agreement, the employer shall pay such attorney 25% of the gross amount of such reimbursement,” 820 ILCS 305/5(b), so Bayer’s lawyers were entitled to fees equal to 25% of the amount Area had paid for lost wages, medical expenses, and other compensable items before payments were suspended. Building on its 1990 holding that the gross amount of reimbursement subject to attorney fees includes both benefits paid before the third-party recovery and the amount of such benefits the employer will be relieved from paying in the future by reason of the third-party action, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the value of future medical care should be included in this calculation. View "Bayer v. Panduit Corp." on Justia Law