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Murphy v. Collins

MAY 8, 1974.

THOMAS J. MURPHY, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE ILLINOIS LIQUOR CONTROL COMMISSION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

PHILIP W. COLLINS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE'S, SUBCOMMITTEE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DONALD J. O'BRIEN, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE ADESKO DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The plaintiff-appellee was subpoenaed to appear and testify before a subcommittee of the Executive Committee of the Illinois House of Representatives. The defendant-appellant was the Chairman of the subcommittee and the subpoena was signed by him. The plaintiff brought an action seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief on the ground that the defendant had no authority to subpoena him because the subcommittee was improperly created. The trial court issued a permanent injunction enjoining the defendant from conducting further hearings of the subcommittee. The trial court held that the subcommittee was created in a manner inconsistent with the rules of the House of Representatives of the 78th General Assembly and therefore could not conduct hearings and issue subpoenas. The defendant has appealed and raises numerous issues for review.

On June 6, 1973, W. Robert Blair, Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, wrote a letter to the defendant who was the Chairman of the House of Representatives' Executive Committee which is a standing committee of the House. The letter referred to a series of events involving Lawrence E. Johnson, the Governor's appointee as Chairman of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, and the withdrawal of his name on the eve of the Senate Confirmation. The letter directed the defendant "to appoint and head a fact finding subcommittee of the House Executive Committee to investigate this matter." The letter stated:

"The charge of the subcommittee should include, but not be limited to, determining whether or not there has been an intentional, willful violation of the operational independence of the Liquor Control Commission by one or more individuals within the Executive branch. If the subcommittee determines that such violations have occurred, or that there is a clear potentiality for such a condition, then you should be prepared to propose remedial legislation to the General Assembly to correct the situation."

On the same date the defendant appointed the subcommittee as directed and named himself as Chairman.

The subcommittee held initial hearings on June 11 and 18, 1973, and two members of the subcommittee, Representatives Harold Washington and John Matijevich, challenged the legal status of the subcommittee. The power and authority of the Speaker of the House to direct the creation of the subcommittee was challenged. The two Representatives also questioned the power of a subcommittee to issue subpoenas.

On July 5, 1973, the plaintiff who was the Executive Director of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission was subpoenaed to appear and testify before the subcommittee on July 10, 1973. The subpoena commanded the plaintiff to testify, "Concerning all things of which [he] may have knowledge concerning the operational independence of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission in general, and specifically, the circumstances surrounding the withdrawal of the nomination of Lawrence Johnson as Chairman of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission." The subpoena also stated that if plaintiff failed to appear he was subject to legal action for enforcement of the subpoena. Attached to the subpoena was a copy of the pertinent portions of the Illinois Revised Statutes concerning the neglect or refusal to appear before either house of the General Assembly, or any committee thereof, or a joint committee of both houses. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 63, par. 7 and par. 8.) These sections proscribe that a person who fails to appear may be arrested and compelled to give testimony and he shall be guilty of a petty offense.

On July 9, 1973, the plaintiff instituted his action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. At the same time a motion for a temporary restraining order was filed and on July 11, 1973, the trial court granted the temporary restraining order. The defendant filed a special and limited appearance for the sole purpose of contesting jurisdiction and on July 16, 1973, filed a motion to quash service and return of summons. Oral argument on the motion to quash was had on July 18, 1973.

At the hearing on the motion to quash, the defendant filed three affidavits. One was by Fredric B. Selcke, the Clerk of the Illinois House of Representatives, in which Mr. Selcke stated:

"I know of my own knowledge that chairmen of house committees have appointed subcommittees with investigative powers on numerous occasions in the past, without any resolution to that effect by the House of Representatives."

The affidavit of Ann Lousin, the Parliamentarian of the Illinois House of Representatives, was also presented. She stated that she had observed committee chairmen customarily create subcommittees without a resolution being passed by the House and that such subcommittees operate and function as a normal and accepted part of the legislative process. The affidavit of Noretta Lorene Sponsky, the Supervisor of Committee Clerks of the House, was also introduced at the hearing. In her affidavit she stated:

"* * * It has been and is the practice in standing committees of the Illinois House of Representatives that Chairman appoint subcommittees to consider such matters as bills and resolutions, election contests, and investigations into various matters of legislative concern."

She also stated that the chairman of a standing committee appoints members to a subcommittee at his discretion subject to being overridden in his actions by the full committee. The affidavit also contained the statement that in the 78th General Assembly there were numerous subcommittees created by chairmen of standing committees and that they were engaged in the study of various matters of legislative concern. The plaintiff also introduced an affidavit by Frederic B. Selcke, the Clerk of the Illinois House of Representatives. In this affidavit Mr. Selcke stated that he had found no resolution of any kind adopted by the House of Representatives creating an investigative subcommittee with power to investigate the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. He also stated that there was no resolution creating any special committee to conduct such an investigation or granting the Executive Committee of the House the power to create a subcommittee with power to investigate the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. *fn1

The trial court denied the defendant's motion to quash service and return of summons but allowed the defendant to have the motion considered as a motion to dismiss the complaint. After further argument, the trial court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint and the defendant elected to stand on his motion in lieu of filing an answer. On July 20, 1973, the trial court issued an order granting a permanent injunction. The trial court found that the subcommittee created pursuant to the directions contained in the Speaker of the House of Representatives' letter was not legally constituted and that the purported subcommittee did not have the power to issue subpoenas. The injunction permanently restrained the defendant from conducting further hearings of the subcommittee. The order of the trial court also excused compliance with the subpoena issued to the plaintiff and quashed the subpoena.

The first issue raised by the defendant is that the plaintiff lacks standing to sue. This contention is based on the assertion that the plaintiff could not institute an action for a declaratory judgment and an injunction on the ground that the subcommittee was improperly constituted and therefore, the subpoena was unlawfully issued when the complaint did not allege any harm suffered by the plaintiff and the suit was commenced before the plaintiff even appeared before the committee. The plaintiff maintained that he had standing to sue because a hearing by a legislative body that totally lacks jurisdiction violates the constitutional provisions relating to due process of law. We are of the opinion that the plaintiff did possess the necessary standing to challenge the legal authority of the subcommittee and its power to issue a subpoena to him.

• 1, 2 We commence an analysis of this issue from the position that "standing to sue" is an amorphous concept and not susceptible of a ready definition. However, prior judicial decisions supply much guidance in this area and perhaps the most illuminating statements as to what is meant by "standing to sue" can be found in the United States Supreme Court decision of Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 20 L.Ed. 2, 947, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 1968. As the Supreme Court delineated in Flast, the salient aspect of standing is its focus on the party seeking an adjudication and not the issue he desires to have adjudicated.

"The `gist of the question of standing' is whether the party seeking relief has `alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions.' Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204 (1962). In other words, when standing is placed in issue in a case, the question is whether the person whose standing is challenged is a proper party to request an adjudication of a particular issue and not whether the issue itself is justiciable." (Flast, supra, at 99 to 100; accord, Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727 at 732, 31 L.Ed.2d 636 at 641, 92 S.Ct. 1361 at 1364 (1972).)

The Supreme Court went on to say:

"We have noted that, in deciding the question of standing, it is not relevant that the substantive issues in the litigation might be non-justiciable. However, our decisions establish that, in ruling on standing, it is both appropriate and necessary to look to the substantive issues for another purpose, namely, to determine whether there is a logical nexus between the status asserted and the claim sought to be adjudicated." (Flast, supra, at 101 to 102.)

When we follow the analysis as outlined in Flast, it cannot be denied that the plaintiff had standing to sue.

• 3, 4 The status asserted by the plaintiff in the case at bar was that of a citizen of the State of Illinois, endowed with all of the protections afforded to citizens under the United States and Illinois Constitutions, who was subpoenaed to appear and testify before a purported subcommittee of the House of Representatives. The claim sought to be adjudicated was whether the subcommittee of the Executive Committee was legally constituted and whether it had the power to issue a subpoena to the plaintiff. The substantive issues in the case at bar necessarily involve the concept of due process of law. The fundamental requirements of due process are notice and an opportunity to be heard or to defend.

"Due process of law implies the administration of equal laws according to established rules, not violative of the fundamental principles of private right, by a competent tribunal having jurisdiction of the case and proceeding upon notice and hearing. (McGehee on Due Process of Law, p. I.)" (People v. Niesman, 356 Ill. 322, at 325, 190 N.E. 668 at 669 to 670 (1934)) (Emphasis added.)

The principles of due process are not applicable only to court proceedings but as stated in People v. Scott, 326 Ill. 327 at 353, 157 N.E. 247 at 258 (1927):

"The terms `law of the land' and `due process of law' are synonymous, and extend to every proceeding which may deprive a person of liberty or property, whether the process be judicial or administrative or executive in its nature. (People v. Strassheim, 242 Ill. 359.)" Overruled on other grounds, People ex rel. Noren v. Dempsey, 10 Ill.2d 288 at 294 (1957).

The proceedings involved in the case at bar definitely threatened the plaintiff with a deprivation of his liberty and therefore, the principles of due process of law were applicable. The purported subcommittee seeking to require the plaintiff's testimony must be competent and have jurisdiction to comply with the principles of due process. The plaintiff brought an action questioning the competency and jurisdiction of the purported subcommittee and it is the opinion of this court that a logical nexus exists between the plaintiff's status and the claim sought to be adjudicated. When attention is focused on the plaintiff, it is evident that he has alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy that the concrete adverseness that is required is assured.

In asserting that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue, the defendant maintains that the plaintiff's complaint did not state that the plaintiff's constitutional or other rights were interfered with or infringed upon. Defendant also maintains that there was no averment that the plaintiff has been or would be unable to raise his claim of the subcommittee's supposed illegality before the subcommittee itself or the Executive Committee. These points are made to support the defendant's contention that none of the plaintiff's rights were invaded and thus he had no standing to sue. We do not find these attacks on the plaintiff's complaint persuasive and they do not alter our judgment that the plaintiff had standing to sue.

The Illinois Civil Practice Act provides that a liberal construction shall be given to pleadings and that "[n]o pleading is bad in substance which contains such information as reasonably informs the opposite party of the nature of the claim or defense which he is called upon to meet." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 110, pars. 33(3) and 42(2).) As stated in Irving v. Rodriquez, 27 Ill. App.2d 75, at 81, 169 N.E.2d 145 at 147 (1960):

"The essential test of a complaint is that it has informed the the defendant of a valid claim under a general class of cases of which the court has jurisdiction as distinguished from a complaint that states no cause of action at all." (Citations.)

While we agree with the defendant that there was no specific allegation in the plaintiff's complaint that his constitutional rights were being threatened with infringement, a reading of the complaint in its entirety, reveals that it contained such information as to reasonably inform the defendant of the claim which he was called upon to meet.

The sixth paragraph of the complaint stated that there was no resolution passed by the House of Representatives creating a subcommittee of the Executive Committee nor setting forth the powers and nature of an investigation to be made by such a subcommittee and the rights of witnesses testifying before the subcommittee. The eighth and ninth paragraphs of the complaint alleged that the rules of the Illinois House of Representatives did not give the Speaker of the House nor the Chairman of the Executive Committee the power to create a subcommittee of the Executive Committee for the purpose of conducting an investigation. In the tenth paragraph the plaintiff alleged that the rules of the House did not provide that a subcommittee of the Executive Committee could compel witnesses to appear and testify before the subcommittee. The final paragraph of the complaint alleged that the said subcommittee was not legally constituted and had no power to issue a subpoena to the plaintiff.

"In deciding whether plaintiff has stated facts sufficient to allege a cause of action, the court must look to the plain and fair intendment of the language used by plaintiff and the facts which may be reasonably implied from such language." (Annerino v. Dell Publishing Co., 17 Ill. App.2d 205 at 210, 149 N.E.2d 761 at 763 (1958).)

When the complaint in the case at bar is read in the light of all the foregoing principles of law, it is clear that the fair intendment of the language utilized by the plaintiff was that any proceeding by the purported subcommittee of the House Executive Committee in which he was compelled to testify would violate plaintiff's constitutional right to due process of law. Therefore, contrary to the ...


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