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United Biscuit Co. v. Voss Truck Lines





Appeal by plaintiff from the Municipal Court of Chicago; the Hon. JOSEPH A. POPE, Judge, presiding. Heard in the third division of this court for the first district at the October term, 1949. Judgment affirmed. Opinion filed May 3, 1950. Released for publication May 23, 1950.


In a statement of claim filed in the municipal court of Chicago, United Biscuit Company of America alleged that on January 26, 1946, it, by its servant, was operating a truck with due care in a southerly direction on Route 66 near Braidwood, Will county, Illinois; that the Voss Truck Lines, Inc., by its servant, was operating a truck in a northerly direction on the same route; and that the defendant, by its servant, so negligently operated its truck as to collide with plaintiff's truck, greatly damaging it. Plaintiff asked damages of $1,500. The record does not show whether defendant was served with a summons. Defendant filed a "Defense" denying that it, by its servant, was negligent in the operation of its truck, or that plaintiff, by its servant, was in the exercise of due care in the operation of its truck, and also denied that there was any damage. Defendant filed a counterclaim asking damages of $600. The case came on for trial before the court without a jury. The judge, on learning that the cause of action arose outside the city, decided the court did not have jurisdiction of the subject matter and entered judgment dismissing the case. Plaintiff appealed. By leave of court Mr. Hirsch E. Soble filed a brief as amicus curiae. At the time the judgment was entered the parties filed the following stipulation:

"That the plaintiff is a resident of the City of Chicago, County of Cook and State of Illinois. That the defendant is a foreign corporation engaged in the transportation of freight by motor vehicle and maintains a terminal and dock facilities within the city limits of Chicago. That on January 26, 1946, a collision occurred between a truck belonging to the plaintiff and a truck belonging to the defendant. That this collision occurred on Route 66 near Braidwood, Will County, Illinois. That no question is raised as to the jurisdiction of the Municipal Court of Chicago over the person of the defendant. That the sole question on this appeal is whether the Municipal Court of Chicago had jurisdiction over the subject matter in question."

Sec. 1 of article VI of the Constitution of 1870 reads:

"The judicial powers, except as in this article is otherwise provided, shall be vested in one supreme court, circuit courts, county courts, justices of the peace, police magistrates, and such courts as may be created by law in and for cities and incorporated towns."

Secs. 23 to 28, inclusive, of that article deal with the courts of Cook county. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, known as sec. 34 of article IV, ratified November 8, 1904, reads:

"The General Assembly shall have power, subject to the conditions and limitations hereinafter contained to pass any law (local, special or general) providing a scheme or charter of local municipal government for the territory now or hereafter embraced within the limits of the city of Chicago. . . . and in case the General Assembly shall create municipal courts in the city of Chicago it may abolish the offices of Justices of the Peace, Police Magistrates and Constables in and for the territory within said city, and may limit the jurisdiction of Justices of the Peace in the territory of said county of Cook outside of said city to that territory, and in such case the jurisdiction and practice of said municipal courts shall be such as the General Assembly shall prescribe; and the General Assembly may pass all laws which it may deem requisite to effectually provide a complete system of local municipal government in and for the city of Chicago. No law based upon this amendment to the Constitution, affecting the municipal government of the city of Chicago, shall take effect until such law shall be consented to by a majority of the legal voters of said city voting on the question at any election, general, municipal or special; and no local or special law based upon this amendment affecting specially any part of the city of Chicago shall take effect until consented to by a majority of the local voters of such part of said city voting on the question at any election, general, municipal or special. Nothing in this section contained shall be construed to repeal, amend or affect section four (4) of Article XI of the Constitution of this State."

An Act in relation to a municipal court in the City of Chicago was approved May 18, 1905, and adopted at an election held November 7, 1905. Sec. 1 of that Act states that there shall be established "in and for the City of Chicago a Municipal Court which shall be a court of record and shall be styled The Municipal Court of Chicago." Sec. 2 provides that the court shall have jurisdiction in six classes of cases. Cases of the first class embrace all actions for the recovery of damages for injuries to personal property when the amount of damages sought to be recovered, as claimed by the plaintiff, exclusive of costs, exceeds $1,000. Plaintiff's action, therefore, comes within this classification.

Our Supreme Court has discussed territorial jurisdiction of city and municipal courts in numerous cases. In Miller v. People, 230 Ill. 65, the court, speaking through MR. JUSTICE CARTWRIGHT, said (p. 74):

"The General Assembly in proposing and the people in adopting the amendment of 1904 are presumed to have used the words `municipal courts' in their natural and ordinary meaning. . . . The word `municipal' is defined by all authorities as meaning of or pertaining to a city or corporation having the right to administer local government. The municipal court of the city of Chicago is therefore one which pertains to the corporate or local government of the city and the administration of the law within the city. . . . Municipal courts may be invested with jurisdiction of prosecutions for crimes and misdemeanors occurring within the municipality and may also be given civil jurisdiction. They are limited, territorially, to the municipality in and for which they are created, and their jurisdiction is usually limited in amount or to petty offenses. (Black's Law Dict.; 21 Am. & Eng. Ency. of Law, - 2d ed.-1.) Under the rule that the words `municipal courts' were used in the amendment in their ordinary and natural meaning, the municipal court of Chicago is to be regarded as a local court of the city, established for the purpose of administering the law within the city, and not as a part of the judicial department of the government of the State at large. It was because we were convinced of the correctness of that view that we were enabled to hold the amendment to be single in character, relating to but one subject, and to sustain the amendment and the main features of the Municipal Court act. This leads to the conclusion that the authority conferred upon the General Assembly by the amendment was to establish municipal courts with civil and criminal jurisdiction confined to the limits of the municipality. . . . There is no substantial or material difference between the terms `city court' and `municipal court,' both of which are courts of the municipality in which they are established, and the constitution of 1848, as well as the present constitution, provided for the establishment of such courts. It was repeatedly held before the adoption of this amendment, in cases arising under each of those constitutions, that the General Assembly had no power to extend the jurisdiction of courts of that character beyond the territorial limits of the municipality. . . . In these cases the courts were called courts of common pleas, city courts or recorder's court, but they were all municipal courts under various names, and were the same kind of courts as the municipal court of Chicago. It must be held that the General Assembly in proposing and the people in adopting the amendment had in view the construction uniformly given by this court as to territorial limits of the city or municipal courts." (Italics supplied.)

While the Miller case was a criminal case, most of the decisions relied upon were civil cases.

The validity of the constitutional amendment and of the Municipal Court Act were sustained by the Supreme Court in City of Chicago v. Reeves, 220 Ill. 274. In that case no question was raised as to the territorial jurisdiction. The court said (p. 302):

"The Municipal Court act, hereinbefore referred to, consists of sixty-seven sections, and creates in and for the city of Chicago a court of record ...

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