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Gaca v. City of Chicago





APPEAL from the Superior Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOHN A. SBARBARO, Judge, presiding.


This appeal, involving the constitutionality of section 1-15 of the Revised Cities and Villages Act, (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1949, chap. 24, par. 1-15,) comes direct from the superior court of Cook County. On March 29, 1949, appellee, John Gaca, filed suit against appellant, the city of Chicago, to recover the sum of $2300 which represented the amount of a judgment obtained against him by Mary and Edward Mallory in the superior court of Cook County, by reason of their having been falsely arrested. Appellee's right to recovery in this action is predicated upon the foregoing statutory enactment, the pertinent provision being: "In case any injury to the person or property of another is caused by a member of the police department of a municipality having a population of 500,000 or over, while the member is engaged in the performance of his duties as policeman, and without the contributory negligence of the injured person or the owner * * *, the municipality in whose behalf the member of the municipal police department is performing his duties as policeman shall indemnify the policeman for any judgment recovered against him as the result of such injury, except where the injury results from the wilful misconduct of the policeman."

The appellant, the city of Chicago, filed its amended motion to strike, alleging that the statute involved is unconstitutional and void because it contravenes section 22 of article IV of the constitution of the State of Illinois. The trial court, ruling adversely to this claim, entered judgment for the plaintiff and against the city in the sum of $2300 and costs. The defendant stood on its motion to strike.

The statute under consideration undertakes indemnification for injuries to person or property caused by Chicago policemen, who, in the course of their employment, injure another. Injuries resulting from the wilful misconduct of policemen are excepted. It is contended by appellant that this statute is violative of section 22 of article IV of the constitution in that it constitutes a special or local law granting a special privilege and is special legislation applying only to the city of Chicago.

The purpose of section 22 of article IV of the constitution of this State, prohibiting special laws and granting special privileges, is to prevent the enlargement of the rights of one or more persons and the impairment of, or discrimination against, the rights of others. Michigan Millers Mutual Fire Ins. Co. v. McDonough, 358 Ill. 575.

Let us quote from appellant's brief so that we may have clearly defined their contentions made upon this subject: "Indemnifying policemen for judgments rendered against them while engaging in a performance of their duties, has no relation to large concentrations of population, organized crime or congested traffic * * *. The fact that some individuals are policemen in Springfield and Evanston, and others are policemen in Chicago, affords no ground for denying indemnity to the policemen of Springfield or Evanston and granting an indemnity to the policemen of Chicago; it affords no ground for granting to Springfield or Evanston an immunity from indemnity while placing on the citizenry of Chicago the financial responsibility to indemnify its policemen. In maintaining law and order within their territorial limits, all municipalities are agents of the State, performing an identical governmental function, and all should receive the same treatment at the hands of the Legislature."

The following principles of law have been announced by this court, which should provide for us a guide in resolving this question. Establishing classifications is primarily a legislative function, and judicial interference is never warranted except for the purpose of ascertaining whether the legislative action is clearly unreasonable. A classification will suffice as a basis for legislation if such classification is based on a rational difference of situation or condition found to exist in the persons or objects upon which the classification rests. Before a court can interfere with the legislative judgment in this case, it must be able to say that there is no fair reason for the law which would not require with equal force its extension to other cities of smaller population which are not affected. (Hansen v. Raleigh, 391 Ill. 536.) The legislative classification need not be so broad and comprehensive as to include all the evils which might possibly be brought within its terms. Nor need the classification be scientific, logical, or consistent, provided it is not arbitrary and rests upon a reasonable basis. (Bagdonas v. Liberty Land and Investment Co. 309 Ill. 103.) Legislation is not special or local because it relates to only one city where the classification, based on population, has a reasonable relation to the purposes and objects of a statute and where the General Assembly could reasonably have concluded that there was a difference of situations and conditions between cities of 500,000 or more and those in cities of smaller populations. People v. City of Chicago, 349 Ill. 304.

Furthermore, we must bear in mind that there is a presumption that the General Assembly and its committees did their duty, and that they acted conscientiously in making a survey of the conditions prevailing in Chicago and other municipalities in the State before they enacted the present legislation. Quite analogous to the situation presented to us on this appeal was that involved in People v. Kastings, 307 Ill. 92. That case considered legislation which required indemnity bonds as a condition precedent to the issuance of licenses to operate taxicabs in a city having more than the population specified in the statute, namely, 100,000. At the time of the passage of that statute Chicago was the only city in Illinois with a population in excess of that figure. This court in that case judicially noticed the difference caused by density and concentration of population in traffic conditions and situations in Chicago, as contrasted with smaller cities, and then said "that there is much greater probability of injury to persons and property in the streets of such cities than in the streets of smaller cities." Compelling is the force of the language employed by this court in that case, which appears applicable to our present situation: "The act is not special or local legislation, within the meaning of the constitution, because it is limited in its application to cities having a population of 100,000 or more. In Illinois there were no cities having a population of more than 100,000 people when this legislation was enacted except Chicago, but the act may apply to any city that shall hereafter have more than 100,000 population. We may take judicial notice of the fact that in cities of more than 100,000 people, like Chicago, the streets and highways are much more congested by pedestrians and various other travelers and by traffic, and that there is much greater probability of injury to persons and property in the streets of such cities than in the streets of smaller cities. There is no objection to the legislation by reason of the fact that at present Chicago is the only city to which this legislation applies, if there is any reasonable basis for such classification. Under the stipulated facts in this case Chicago has 2,700,000 more population than any other city in Illinois. The greater the danger, the greater the necessity for police regulation. It is a fact that greater danger exists in cities of greater population, and that is the very reason for basing the classification on population in this State, and it is sustainable, we think, without question. It is within the power of the legislature to classify cities on the basis of population and enact laws applicable to each class, where there is a reasonable basis for the classification in view of the objects and purposes to be accomplished by the legislation. People v. De Kalb and Great Western Railroad Co. 256 Ill. 290; Chicago Terminal Railroad Co. v. Greer, 223 id. 104; People v. Grover, 258 id. 124; Douglas v. People, 225 id. 536."

There is little, if any, difference between the indemnity of a taxicab company for payment of judgments for injuries to person and property arising from the negligence of the taxi drivers and requiring the city wherein the taxicabs are operated to provide the same indemnity for injuries to person and property arising from the negligence of drivers of police vehicles. Mathews v. City of Chicago, 342 Ill. 120, is another case which is illustrative of the power of the General Assembly to enact legislation where the population factor is controlling. Therein the issuance of bonds to create a working cash fund was authorized for cities having a population of 150,000 or more, for counties having a population of 500,000 or more or for school districts having a population exceeding 100,000. It was contended that this legislation violated the constitution because the acts were local and special laws in relation to cities, county affairs and management of common schools and granting special privileges and immunities in violation of section 22 of article IV of the State constitution. The opinion reads, in part: "There are cities and villages having a small population of a few hundred or a few thousand, with a police force of one or half a dozen or a dozen men, a fire department with a half dozen volunteer firemen or perhaps some paid firemen — a simple organization with small revenue. More than one-third of the counties of the State have less than 20,000 population and less than 500 square miles of territory. The three municipalities which are now affected by the acts under consideration have populations exceeding 3,000,000 people on a little over 900 square miles of territory — more than 3200 to the square mile — with a density of population fifty times as great as the average density in the rest of the State. These municipalities have more than 35,000 employes. The annual revenue of each of them is measured by hundreds of millions of dollars instead of thousands. * * * It is true that there are no other counties, cities or school districts in the class with those which are made defendants in these three suits. There are none very close to the class and there may never be any in the same class, but this does not render the classification void. The conditions there existing furnish a reasonable basis for making the acts in question have effect only in the municipalities to which they respectively apply, and the acts are therefore valid though similar conditions may never exist in another municipality."

A complete support for our conclusions in this cause can be found in the cases of Littell v. City of Peoria, 374 Ill. 344, and People ex rel. Moshier v. City of Springfield, 370 Ill. 541. Therein the court had before it two legislative acts involving a minimum wage of policemen and firemen. It provided for specified minimum wages to employees in municipalities of 10,000 or more population but less than 25,000 and higher wages in municipalities having a population of 25,000 but less than 150,000. Those cases passed upon the constitutionality of each of those acts and passed upon the same questions as are presented here. In upholding the validity of the Policemen's Minimum Wage Act in the Littell case, the court said: "The purpose of the act and the extent to which there has been an exercise of the police power cannot be determined solely from an evaluation of the personal benefits accruing to those engaged in police work in the city of Peoria. It must be determined from the character of service police officers are required to render in behalf of the State in the preservation of peace and order. As heretofore pointed out, police protection is a matter of general concern to the whole State. Failure to detect and check crime in the more populous centers might leave the remainder of the State a prey to disorder and violence. The legislature could well conclude that the risk attendant upon the duties of a police officer, the hours that he is subject to call and the general character of service he is required to render, demanded special consideration and that a higher wage would result in securing greater efficiency in the service and more securely protect the peace and order of the whole State."

It would appear, therefore, that this court placed its sanction upon the legislative determination that the hazards and risks of police work were greater in a city of 10,000 to 25,000 than in a smaller community and likewise greater in cities of 25,000 to 150,000 than in those in the category of 10,000 to 25,000 population.

Relieving the policemen of the city of Chicago of the burden of carrying public liability insurance, which is the effect of section 1-15, indirectly increases their wages. When we consider the high rates in Chicago, as compared with other parts of the State, this saving is no small item. We are asked by the appellant to hold that the legislature transcended its power in providing, by this indirect method, an improvement in the salaries of policemen in that city.

We must constantly be on our guard to prevent a substitution of judicial discretion for legislative judgment. In considering the reasonableness of the classification made by the General Assembly, courts will not attempt to assert their judgment as against the judgment of the General Assembly, nor refuse to uphold legislation merely on the ground that their judgment in this regard differs from that of the General Assembly. The question of classification, as we have said heretofore, is distinctly within the province of the legislature, and this has never been a judicial question except for the purpose of ascertaining whether the legislative action is clearly unreasonable.

Was the legislature, therefore, in the instant case, unreasonable in giving the policemen of Chicago additional security because their problems are essentially different from those of policemen in other cities of Illinois? We do not think that it was unreasonable for the General Assembly to conclude that a policeman's job in the city of Chicago is fraught with hazards uncommon to any other city in Illinois. The people of the State of Illinois are vitally interested in law enforcement in the city of Chicago. By increasing the wages and the security of members of their police department an improvement in the personnel of that law-enforcement agency will surely follow. Preliminary to the passage of the present legislation it must be presumed that some committee of the legislature made a conscientious study and survey of conditions in Chicago to find out if this legislation was warranted. This investigation would doubtless reveal congestion in travel, both pedestrian and vehicular, causing an uncommon number of automobile accidents; blight and slum areas; areas of unassimilated foreign elements where crimes are bred and ...

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