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Scofield v. Board of Education

OPINION FILED JANUARY 23, 1952.

CHARLES J. SCOFIELD, JR., APPELLANT,

v.

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF COMMUNITY CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL DISTRICT NUMBER 181 ET AL., APPELLEES. — (ILLINOIS ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL BOARDS, INTERVENOR-APPELLEE.)



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. HARRY C. DANIELS, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MAXWELL DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Charles J. Scofield, Jr., as a resident, citizen and taxpayer, filed a complaint in the circuit court of Du Page County against the Board of Education of Community Consolidated School District Number 181, Du Page County, and the individuals constituting the members and secretary of such board, as defendants, to enjoin the spending of public funds to build schoolhouses and from issuing the bonds of such school district. A petition for leave to intervene as a party defendant and to file instanter a motion to dismiss was filed by the Illinois Association of School Boards, which was granted. Upon the motions of defendants and intervenor the trial court dismissed the complaint. Plaintiff appealed directly to this court on the grounds that the construction of the constitution and the validity of a statute are involved.

An agreed case was filed under Rule 48 of this court and a stipulation entered into by the parties as to the facts and points of law involved.

Briefly, the stipulated facts are as follows: that plaintiff is a citizen of the United States and a landowner, resident and taxpayer of the defendant school district; that the school district is existing under and subject to the School Code; that the individual defendants are the members and secretary, respectively, of the board of education of such school district; that an election was held in said school district on November 10, 1951, on twelve propositions, which included two propositions to select sites, two to purchase sites, four to build, alter or repair schoolhouses, and four to issue bonds; that such election was called pursuant to a petition signed by more than 300 persons who were citizens of the United States above the age of 21 years and who had resided in this State for one year, in the county for ninety days and in the school district for thirty days; that the petition to place the sites upon the ballots used at the election was signed by more than ten persons with like qualifications; that all persons who voted at such elections had all of the foregoing qualifications; that no person presented himself or herself and requested the right to vote who was not a citizen of the United States and above the age of 21 years and that a majority of the persons voting on each of the propositions submitted at said election voted in favor of such proposition.

The further stipulated facts were that the election was held under article 5A of the School Code, (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1951, p. 1024;) that section 5A-3 provides for residence in the State for one year, in the county for ninety days and in the school district for thirty days next preceding the election to be qualified to vote; that section 5A-2 states that the provisions of the Election Code shall not apply to any election held under article 5A unless expressly provided; that there is no other provision in article 5A in regard to qualifications of voters and that, unless enjoined, the defendants will purchase or condemn sites, build schoolhouses and issue bonds and levy taxes for the purpose of paying the principal of and interest on such bonds.

The points of law arising from the agreed facts are as follows:

1. Is article 5A of the School Code unconstitutional, inoperative and void under article II, section 2, or article III of the constitution of the State of Illinois?

2. Is the election held in Community Consolidated School District Number 181, Du Page and Cook counties, on November 10, 1951, a valid election?

Plaintiff contends that since there is no minimum age for voters specified, nor any provision that a voter must be a citizen of the United States, that the language found in sections 5A-2 and 5A-3 of article 5A is so incomplete, vague and uncertain with respect to the qualifications required for a voter at school elections as to render said article 5A inoperative and void.

The defendants argue that when all of the provisions of article 5A are read together, in conjunction with certain provisions of the Election Code, the legislative intent and plan is clearly discernible as to qualifying age and citizenry. Secondly, they argue that, apart from any statutory connotation, age and citizenry may be ascertained and supplied from the common law. Thirdly, in the alternative, they argue that if section 5A-3 of the School Code is unconstitutional, then the repeal of section 15-5 of such Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1949, chap. 122, par. 15-5,) is also void, and that section 15-5 would be effective.

The intervenor, and two school districts which were upon petition permitted to file briefs amici curiae, confine their briefs to arguments on statutory construction.

The primary question presented in this case is whether or not article 5A of the School Code, enacted by the Sixty-seventh General Assembly as House Bill 500, effective June 9, 1951, is unconstitutional, inoperative and void under article II, section 2, or article III of the constitution.

It is a generally accepted principle of statutory construction, and has been so held by this court many times, that in construing a statute or determining its constitutionality, all its sections are to be construed together in the light of the general purpose and plan, the evil intended to be remedied, and the object to be obtained, and if the language is susceptible of more than one construction, the statute should receive the construction that will effect its purpose rather than defeat it. A strong presumption exists in favor of the validity of enactments of the legislature, but where an act of the General Assembly or section thereof has no generally accepted body of precedents, no established set of standards of conduct and no common knowledge or understanding on which it is bottomed, the constitutionality of the act or section must be decided from the terms of the act or section alone. Boshuizen v. Thompson & Taylor Co. 360 Ill. 160.

In the case at bar, however, this court is not confined to the language of the sections of article 5A of the School Code in determining the intent of the legislature. By the repeal of section 15-5, which fixed voters' qualifications at school elections, and the fact that section 5A-3 of said article 5A attempts to define voters' qualifications but omits age and citizenship, to accomplish the legislative intention reference may be made to the qualification of voters in the Election Code, which applies to all elections, as it would not be assumed that the ...


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