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Horan v. Foley

JANUARY 18, 1963.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. CHARLES S. DOUGHERTY, Judge, presiding. Reversed and order dismissed here.


Rehearing denied February 7, 1963.

This is an action for a declaratory judgment. Plaintiff, John F. Horan, an employee of the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago, seeks a judgment declaring that the defendants, members of the Civil Service Board of the District, have lost jurisdiction to hear or to determine charges filed against him. Defendants appeal from a judgment on the pleadings in favor of plaintiff, entered after a denial of their motion to dismiss.

The principal question is whether plaintiff was entitled to judicial relief before he had exhausted the administrative remedies available to him. Plaintiff's theory is that he was entitled to challenge the jurisdiction of the Board judicially "without waiting to go through the useless and expensive process of a full hearing before the Board." The complaint alleges all of the factual recitations made in this opinion.

On August 8, 1961, plaintiff was notified by the acting general superintendent of the district that he was suspended from his civil service position for a period of 30 days commencing August 12, 1961. On August 25, 1961, plaintiff was personally served with "Notice and Charges," "Statement of Charges," and "Specifications," by which he was informed that charges had been filed against him and that the Civil Service Board had set the matter for hearing on September 12, 1961. Plaintiff was informed of his right to be heard, with counsel, in his own defense.

On September 8, 1961, plaintiff's attorneys mailed to the Board a "motion to quash and dismiss charges," based on the contention that the statutory 30 days from date of suspension, within which the Board was empowered to conduct the hearing, would expire prior to September 12, 1961. Plaintiff was absent from Chicago from September 8 until about 1:00 p.m., September 11, 1961. Upon returning home, he was handed, by his wife, two sealed envelopes bearing his name and address. He brought the envelopes to the office of his attorneys, where they were opened in his presence. The envelopes contained "Notices of Resetting" in the matter of charges filed against the plaintiff as aforesaid, advising that the hearing thereon would be held on Monday, September 11, 1961, at 10 o'clock a.m. at the place indicated in the original notice of August 25, 1961. Plaintiff was served neither personally, nor by registered mail, with the "Notice of Resetting."

On September 12, 1961, plaintiff, with his attorneys, appeared at the time and place indicated in the notice served upon him on August 25, 1961. He was there informed that the defendant members of the Board had convened on Monday, September 11, 1961, with respect to the charges filed against him, and that the matter had been "continued" to September 12, 1961. Neither plaintiff nor his attorneys were present on September 11, 1961, and he did not request or consent "to the `continuance' of any hearing from September 11, 1961, to September 12, 1961."

On September 12, 1961, the Board denied plaintiff's motion to quash and dismiss the charges; it allowed his motion for a bill of particulars, and continued the hearing to October 3, 1961. On that date, plaintiff again moved to quash and dismiss the charges on the ground of the Board's asserted lack of jurisdiction; after consideration, the Board on October 4, 1961, advised plaintiff "that it had determined it had jurisdiction to proceed in the matter of the charges" and continued further hearing to October 16, 1961. Plaintiff then brought this action on October 11, 1961.

Defendants' motion to dismiss, denied by the trial court, was on the ground that the trial court was without jurisdiction of the subject matter, since plaintiff had not exhausted the administrative remedies available to him. As the defendants elected to stand on their motion to dismiss the complaint, the court sustained plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings and declared and found that "defendants herein have no jurisdiction to proceed to a hearing or to determine the charges filed against plaintiff John F. Horan, under date of August 25, 1961, because of the failure of said Board to properly convene for, or to conduct a hearing on said charges within the thirty-day period from plaintiff's suspension under said charges, as required by the statute and rules. . . ."

Defendants' objection to judicial review at this stage of the proceedings is based on the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies — "the long settled rule of judicial administration that no one is entitled to judicial relief for a supposed or threatened injury until the prescribed administrative remedy has been exhausted." (Myers v. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., 303 U.S. 41 (1938).) The doctrine of exhaustion of remedies is followed in Illinois. (Bright v. City of Evanston, 10 Ill.2d 178, 139 N.E.2d 270 (1956); Brader v. City of Chicago, 26 Ill.2d 152, 185 N.E.2d 848 (1962).) "The courts of this state have refused to interfere with administrative hearings and have forced complainants to exhaust their administrative remedies before appealing to the judiciary." People ex rel. Trapp v. Tanner, 19 Ill. App.2d 138, 146, 153 N.E.2d 246 (1958).

Our Supreme Court has indicated that the exhaustion doctrine is subject to limitation. In Bright v. City of Evanston, 10 Ill.2d 178, 139 N.E.2d 270 (1956), the court said (pp 184, 185):

"[W]here it is claimed the effect of an ordinance as a whole is to unconstitutionally impair the value of the property and destroy its marketability, direct judicial relief may be afforded without prior resort to remedies under the ordinance. . . . Under this rule one who seeks relief from an ordinance on the ground that it is void in its entirety is not obliged to pursue the machinery of the ordinance itself for his remedy.

"On the other hand, where the claim is merely that the enforcement or application of a particular classification to the plaintiff's property is unlawful and void, and no attack is made against the ordinance as a whole, judicial relief is appropriate only after available administrative remedies have been exhausted."

Similarly, when the power of the Chicago Civil Service Commission to demote police officers in large numbers was attacked in People ex rel. Hurley v. Graber, 405 Ill. 331, 90 N.E.2d 763 (1950), our Supreme Court did not require that the police officers therein exhaust their various administrative remedies before seeking judicial relief. There, the attack on the Commission's power was based on its asserted lack of jurisdiction to proceed with the intended demotions. ...

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