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United Biscuit Co. v. Voss Truck Lines

OPINION FILED NOVEMBER 27, 1950.

UNITED BISCUIT COMPANY OF AMERICA, APPELLANT,

v.

VOSS TRUCK LINES, INC., APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Third Division of the Appellate Court for the First District; — heard in that court on appeal from the Municipal Court of Chicago; the Hon. JOSEPH A. POPE, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE GUNN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

In a statement filed in the municipal court of Chicago, United Biscuit Company of America, appellant, claimed that on January 26, 1946, it, by its servant, was operating a truck with due care on route 66, near Braidwood, Will County, and that the Voss Truck Lines, Inc., appellee, by its servant was operating a truck in the opposite direction on the same route, and that the defendant, by its servant, so negligently operated its truck as to collide with plaintiff's truck, damaging it to the extent of $1500. The defendant filed a defense denying it was negligent in the operation of the truck, or that the plaintiff, by its servant, was in the exercise of care in the operation of its truck, and denied that there was any damage. Defendant also filed a counterclaim asking for $600. The case came up for trial before the court without a jury. Upon learning that the cause of action arose in a collision occurring outside of the city of Chicago, the court decided it did not have jurisdiction of the subject matter, and entered a judgment dismissing the case.

At the trial the following stipulation was made: "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."

In an exhaustive opinion the Appellate Court for the First District affirmed the municipal court of Chicago, holding that the municipal court had no jurisdiction because the accident out of which the damages were suffered did not occur in Chicago; that the municipal court derived its powers from section 1 of article VI of the constitution, and hence the powers and jurisdiction of the municipal court should be construed in the same manner as those of city courts, authorized to be created by said section 1 of article VI. The case comes to this court upon a certificate of importance issued by the Appellate Court.

The question presented by this appeal is whether the municipal court of Chicago has jurisdiction of a civil action for damages to personal property, which were suffered outside of the city, where the plaintiff is a resident of the city, and the court has jurisdiction of the person of the defendant. The decision of this question will require considering: (a) which of the two different specified sections of the constitution govern the creation of an action in the municipal court of Chicago; and (b) in either case to what extent, if at all, has such municipal court jurisdiction of causes of action where damages accrue to personal property caused by events occurring outside of the city of Chicago.

Section 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."

Section 34 of article IV of the constitution of 1870, adopted some thirty-four years after that constitution was adopted, authorizing a complete system of local municipal government for the city of Chicago, contained a provision with respect to courts to be used in the system, as follows: "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 city of Chicago. * * * and in case the General Assembly shall create municipal courts in the city of Chicago * * * 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."

There were two limitations to this general power, one that the general scheme must be consented to by a majority vote of the people of Chicago; and second, that no special or local law especially affecting any part of the city of Chicago "shall take effect until consented to by a majority of the local voters of such part of" the city of Chicago. In addition to the foregoing, said section 34 of article IV made other provisions which applied only to the system of municipal government in Chicago which, if adopted, permitted the General Assembly to do many things prohibited by the constitution, as adopted in 1870, viz., (a) for said municipal system it could enact any general, special, or local law; (b) it could provide a complete system of local municipal government for Chicago alone; (c) it could provide for consolidation, assumption of debts and debt limitation for the different corporate authorities within the city; (d) could abolish justices of the peace within the city of Chicago and retain them throughout the county outside of Chicago; and other special authorizations and limitations of authority, unnecessary to mention.

Thus, section 34 of article IV abolished in whole or in part certain limitations upon the power of the General Assembly contained in the constitution of 1870, as originally adopted, in so far as they affected the municipal system which might be created in Chicago, and left them in force throughout the balance of the State. An examination of the new amendment discloses it allowed a total or partial disregard in many respects of the prohibition against passage of local or special laws, as contained in section 22 of article IV of the constitution, and in particular relieved such system of municipal government that might be created in Chicago from the limitations of section 29 of article VI, requiring all laws relating to courts to be general and uniform in operation.

These departures from previous constitutional limitations authorized by the adoption of section 34, which were to apply to the city of Chicago alone, must be considered in determining whether "municipal courts," mentioned therein, that may be created by the General Assembly are permitted as a new and distinct type or kind of court, or whether such court comes within the designation contained in section 1 of article VI, which permitted "such courts as may be created by law in and for incorporated towns," commonly called city courts.

At first glance it would seem that under the constitution of 1870, as originally adopted, it was not possible under article VI, by reason of other constitutional limitations, to abolish justices of the peace in Cook County alone, nor to create courts with jurisdiction and practice, at the will of the General Assembly, nor courts of special type, where one locality alone required only the vote of the locality to put it into existence; or, finally, to create a court that was not general and uniform in its operation.

The only possible way to remove such limitations would be by an amendment of the organic law, viz., the constitution itself. And when we examine the broad power given the General Assembly by section 34 of article IV, with respect to the city of Chicago and its municipal system and the courts as a part thereof, it becomes almost a matter of certainty that the amendment of the constitution by the adoption of section 34 of article IV was designed for such specific purpose, and, of a surety, if article VI be considered the original source of all judicial power, its breadth has been extended by section 34 of article IV to encompass a new type or species of court, not known or contemplated at the original adoption of the constitution in 1870.

It must be recognized that in some of the cases announced shortly after the adoption and ratification of section 34 of article IV, there appears language in the opinions which would justify a conclusion that the municipal court of Chicago derives its powers entirely from section 1 of article VI of the constitution, and, consequently, its powers and jurisdiction did not exceed those of city courts named therein. These cases must be critically analyzed and studied to see whether that point was actually involved, and whether all implications arising from this comprehensive amendment had been fully considered.

The first case coming before the court, City of Chicago v. Reeves, 220 Ill. 274, held the amendment was legally adopted and the Municipal Court Act of Chicago valid and constitutional. Then, in Swigart v. City of Chicago, 223 Ill. 371, before the question of the jurisdiction of the court had been considered, we said, with respect to the constitutional amendment: "Since the adoption of this amendment the legislature is not restricted in the passage of local or special laws applicable alone to the city of Chicago in furtherance of the general purposes of the amendment, except such restrictions and conditions as are contained in the amendment itself." Shortly thereafter, in Miller v. People, 230 Ill. 65, there came before the court a case in which a defendant was indicted and convicted of grand larceny in the municipal court of Chicago. The cause was reversed and the opinion expressed the belief that the municipal courts, in their natural and ordinary meaning, meant the same as city courts authorized by section 1 of article VI. It was not necessary to state this in the opinion as, in the first place, the municipal court had no jurisdiction of felonies under the terms of the Municipal Court Act, (People ex rel. Melton v. Whitman, 243 Ill. 471,) and the case could also properly have been disposed of upon the proposition that the ...


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