Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon.
WILLIAM R. DUSHER, Judge, presiding. Decree reversed and cause
remanded with directions.
Jasper Lee Robinson, a student at Auburn Senior High School in Rockford, filed, on December 15, 1962, his two-count complaint in the Circuit Court of Winnebago County against the Illinois High School Association, its officers and directors, and the Board of Education of School District 205, Winnebago County. The first count prayed for an order restraining the defendants, (1) from preventing plaintiff from competing in athletic contests of Auburn Senior High School; (2) from declaring him ineligible to compete in further athletic competitions at said high school after December 10, 1962; and (3) from refusing to recognize the birth date of plaintiff as being December 24, 1943.
The second count of the complaint prayed that a writ of mandamus issue against the defendants, commanding them to declare plaintiff eligible, under Article 1 of Section 9 of the bylaws of the Illinois High School Association, to represent Auburn Senior High School in any athletic contest in which said high school may desire to compete as a member of said Illinois High School Association.
On December 19 and December 21, 1962, separate answers were filed by the several defendants and also a counterclaim. The issues made by the pleadings were heard by the Court, resulting in a finding and decree establishing the date of plaintiff's birth as December 24, 1943, and enjoining the defendants from failing or refusing to recognize December 24, 1943, as the birth date of plaintiff, and from failing or refusing to declare plaintiff eligible, under the rules of the Illinois High School Association, pertaining to age, to compete in interscholastic activities at Auburn Senior High School until April 10, 1963, and from refusing to accord him all the rights, duties and privileges in connection therewith. To reverse this decree the defendants appeal.
The record discloses that the Illinois High School Association is an organization comprised of approximately 734 high schools in Illinois; that plaintiff is a student at Auburn Senior High School, which is a member of this association, and is governed and controlled by the Board of Education in and for School District No. 205 of the City of Rockford; that under the rules of said Association, if Jasper Lee Robinson's 19th birthday was on December 24, 1962, he is eligible to participate in interscholastic athletics at Auburn Senior High School until April 10, 1963, but if he became 19 years of age on or before December 10, 1962, he became ineligible on December 11, 1962; that under this rule the Board of Education for School District No. 205 declared plaintiff ineligible, and he was not permitted to participate in interscholastic activities at Auburn Senior High School.
Counsel for appellee state that the sole issue in this case is the age of Jasper Lee Robinson; that there is evidence in the record which sustains the decree of the trial court, and therefore the decree should be affirmed.
The theory of counsel for appellants is that after three hearings the Board of Directors of the Illinois High School Association found that Jasper Lee Robinson was, under its constitution, bylaws, and rules, ineligible to compete in interscholastic athletic contests; that this determination, in the absence of fraud, or capricious conduct, is valid, having been made in accordance with its constitution and bylaws; that the trial court substituted its finding on the issue of plaintiff's age for that of the association, notwithstanding, the evidence upon the instant hearing discloses that the decision of the association was not arbitrary, fraudulent, collusive, or capricious and based upon competent evidence.
In disposing of the case, the learned trial court stated that the question presented for its determination was whether plaintiff was, or was not, eligible to play basketball on the team of Auburn Senior High School of Rockford, and that under the rules and regulations of the Illinois High School Association, if plaintiff's birthday occurred on December 24, 1962, he would be eligible to play basketball until April 10, 1963, and ineligible thereafter.
The court then stated that it "did not intimate or wish to be understood as intimating that the Association made a wilful mistake or acted wrongly or improperly. A review and consideration of the evidence before the court will demonstrate there was much uncertainty even as to the year of birth. For instance, his present Illinois driver's license shows his age as one year older than that contended by him. The Association should not properly certify a player as to age unless and until it is thoroughly satisfied with the proof of age." The court then referred to the testimony of the father and to the testimony of two sisters of the father, all of whom testified that plaintiff was born on December 24, 1943, and held that plaintiff was entitled to an order and a decree establishing the date of his birth as December 24, 1943.
The trial court's statement that the evidence demonstrates that there is much uncertainty even as to the year of plaintiff's birth finds abundant support in the record. The original certificate of birth was signed by Azzie Turner, grandmother of plaintiff, and Mrs. P.V. Neese. They certified that plaintiff was born at the hour of six a.m., 12-2-43, and the date the certificate bears is 7-28-44. On October 18, 1962, the date on this certificate of plaintiff's birth was changed from 12-2-43 to 12-24-43, the change on the original record in Union County Arkansas being made solely upon the affidavit of Willie Robinson, father of the plaintiff. The record shows that this amendment was made October 10, 1962.
Harold Nelson testified that he was the principal of the Auburn Senior High School; that in 1956 the original birth certificate was used to correct the school records so that they disclosed plaintiff's birth date was December 2, 1943.
Ross Fairchild testified that he was and had been for nine years the Superintendent of Lincoln Park School District and had charge of, and brought with him, school records pertaining to plaintiff. He further testified that a student is asked the date of his birth, and the progressive school register, which this witness produced, indicated thereon that the date of plaintiff's birth was December 24, 1942.
Harold Moyer testified that he was and had been for eleven years Executive Director of the Kenrock Community Center and the records he produced upon the hearing indicate that plaintiff gave December 9, 1942, and also December 24, 1944, as his birth date.
John Wyeth testified that he was and had been for two and one-half years principal of the Auburn Senior High School; that plaintiff enrolled in that school on September 8, 1960; that he received the original birth certificate of plaintiff from plaintiff and produced, on the hearing, a photostat thereof. This witness testified as to certain correspondence he had had with the United States Department of the Navy as to what the Navy records showed as to the date of plaintiff's birth. Counsel for defendants, in answer to a query by the court whether there was a certificate by the Navy Department, stated that there was no certified copies of the records but that they were using the letter by agreement in order to expedite the case, and it was stipulated by counsel that the name of the father of the plaintiff appeared in the records of the Navy under the name "Robeson." The letters which were received in evidence state that the Navy records show that "Jasper Lee ...