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Fletcher v. Civil Service Com. of Waukegan

JULY 26, 1972.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. JAMES H. COONEY, Judge, presiding.


Plaintiffs, who are former members of the Police Department of the City of Waukegan, appeal from a judgment of the Circuit Court of Lake County in a proceeding under the Administrative Review Act.

Written charges were filed with the defendant, Civil Service Commission of Waukegan, by the Chief of Police listing nine alleged violations of specified rules of the Commission governing plaintiffs' duties as officers of the police department. The charges all resulted from the failure of plaintiffs to report for duty as ordered from July 24th through July 28th, 1970, during a period of time when a labor dispute was in progress between them and their employer, the City of Waukegan.

After notice to them and hearing, the Commission found each plaintiff guilty of the charges and ordered their discharge. On review, the Circuit Court confirmed the decision of the civil service commission.

Plaintiffs appealed directly to the Illinois Supreme Court pursuant to its former Rule 302(a)(2) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 110A, sec. 302(a) (2)), which then provided for direct appeals from final judgments of the Circuit Court to the Supreme Court in cases involving questions arising under the Constitution of the United States. Ill. Const. 1870, art. 6, sec. 5(b).

The case was transferred to the Appellate Court by the Supreme Court after it adopted its Rule 302(a) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 110A, sec. 302(a)), no longer requiring direct appeal in such cases. Ill. Const. 1970, art. 6, sec. 4.

Plaintiffs do not argue on appeal that the decision of the Commission was against the manifest weight of the evidence presented to it insofar as the charges of rule violations against them are concerned. They urge here that they were deprived of due process as guaranteed to them by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States by reason of the manner in which the hearing before the Commission was conducted, and, that they have a right to strike protected by the equal protection provisions of the 14th Amendment.

Specifically, plaintiffs contend that it was not established that they received due and sufficient notice prior to the discharge hearing before the Commission and that they were denied a full opportunity to present their defense in the hearing. Further, they suggest that the Civil Service Commission lacked jurisdiction to consider charges against them stemming from a labor dispute by virtue of plaintiffs' constitutionally protected right to strike.

A review of the procedures followed by the Commission is necessary to consider the issues raised.

The charges were filed against plaintiffs with the Commission on July 28, 1970. On that day the secretary of the Commission, as is provided by its rules, mailed a notice to each plaintiff stating the time, place and subject matter of a hearing to be held August 4, 1970. Attached to the notice was a statement of the violations charged against each plaintiff and the particular rules of the Commission alleged to have been violated. The notices further advised plaintiffs they "may appear and be heard in your defense if you see fit."

The secretary thereafter filed with the Commission his affidavit that he had mailed the notices as herein stated.

On the August 4th hearing date, counsel appeared before the Commission on behalf of plaintiffs and at their request the hearing was continued to August 10th, at which time it was held. Plaintiffs were all represented by counsel at the hearing and no further requests for continuances were made by them.

The hearing proceeded with three witnesses being called in support of the charges who testified that plaintiffs did not report for duty or exercise any duties on the days in question although assigned to do so. They further testified none of the plaintiffs had been granted leave of absence during those days and that at a meeting of plaintiffs and other police officers held July 24th they voted to walk out as sick policemen and not report for work.

None of the plaintiffs chose to testify at the hearing, nor was any evidence tendered on their behalf refuting the charges ...

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