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People Ex Rel. Scott v. Janson





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Third District.


Rehearing denied June 28, 1974.

On October 16, 1970, the People of the State of Illinois ex rel. William J. Scott, Attorney General, and Robert S. Calkins, State's Attorney of Peoria County (hereafter plaintiffs), filed an action in the circuit court of Peoria County against Charles M. Janson (hereafter defendant) and others. Plaintiffs sought to enjoin defendant's use of land as a commercial garbage dump in violation of certain provisions of the Environmental Protection Act (Ill. Rev. Stat., 1970 Supp., ch. 111 1/2, par. 1001 et seq.) until the premises were placed in compliance with that statute and to impose monetary penalties for the violations. They further prayed that a hearing be conducted and a permanent injunction issue. The trial court granted an ex parte injunction as permitted by this statute when immediate danger to the public health might exist. (Ill. Rev. Stat., 1970 Supp., ch. 111 1/2 par. 1043.) The matter was also set for hearing. A monetary penalty was ultimately assessed against defendant and he was adjudged in contempt of court for failure to produce books and records after citation proceedings were commenced to discover assets to satisfy the penalty. He was ordered confined to the county jail until such time as he complied with the court's prior directive to produce the documents. The appellate court, one justice dissenting, reversed and found that the trial court did not have the requisite subject-matter jurisdiction to assess a penalty or enter the contempt order. (People ex rel. Scott v. Janson, 10 Ill. App.3d 787.) We granted leave to appeal. The issue now presented is whether the necessary jurisdiction existed.

The complaint charged that defendant was the lessee and operator of a multi-acre refuse dump wherein garbage was burned in violation of law. It also alleged that the unsanitary conditions of the refuse dump produced a breeding place for rodents in the area and that a nearby stream was polluted by the refuse. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint on October 20, 1970, alleging, inter alia, that there were insufficient facts to justify the conclusion that an immediate danger existed to the public health.

On October 22, 1970, the Attorney General countered with a "motion for [an] anti-pollution injunction" pursuant to section 2 of "An Act in relation to the prevention and abatement of air and water pollution" (Ill. Rev. Stat., 1970 Supp., ch. 14, par. 12) (hereafter Attorney General's Act). Pursuant to this statute the Attorney General requested a new injunction order restraining defendant from operating his premises as he had prior to this action and further ordering defendant to alter the present condition of the land to conform with the requirements of law and to do so pursuant to the supervision of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The trial court dismissed the ex parte injunction on October 22, 1970, after finding that "there is no circumstance of extreme emergency creating conditions of immediate danger to public health in existence at defendant's premises." Defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint was continued generally. Three weeks later plaintiffs noticed all matters for a hearing on December 7, 1970. Included for consideration was defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint and the motion for an antipollution injunction. On the day set, defendant was granted a continuance, and on December 15, 1970, the trial court denied the motion to dismiss and ordered trial on the merits to commence the following week. Defendant thereafter interposed several dilatory motions and sought discovery.

On February 16, 1971, the parties entered into a stipulation in which defendant agreed that he would suspend further dumping operations; that Keith Weeber, an engineer for the Environmental Protection Agency, would supervise the construction of an earthen wall; that refuse could be dumped within the confines of the wall with Weeber's approval; and that further dumping would be conducted in accord with the Environmental Protection Act. The parties also agreed that Weeber's recommendations as to the operation of the dump site would be accepted by the parties without dispute and that the trial court might enter appropriate orders to enforce compliance with the stipulation. If defendant failed to operate the site in accordance with Weeber's plan, it was agreed that defendant could be penalized for the monetary remuneration necessary to comply with Weeber's restoration plan and that defendant could be held in contempt of court for nonpayment of said penalty without hearing and without notice. The trial court approved the stipulation following a conference with defendant and the respective attorneys.

Several weeks later a restoration plan was presented pursuant to the stipulation. Thereafter plaintiffs filed a petition for penalties seeking to have defendant pay to restore the premises to a sanitary condition as set forth in the stipulation. It was alleged that improper dumping operations had not abated. After extensive hearings, the trial court assessed a $5,000 penalty against defendant for his failure to adhere to the stipulation and the February 16 court order. The penalty was to be made payable to the State of Illinois. Further use of the dump site was also prohibited until there was full compliance with the aforesaid restoration plan.

On June 4, 1971, Weeber informed the court that defendant was complying with the restoration plan. It would appear from the record that dumping operations were then permitted to begin in certain areas of the site. Defendant later sought to vacate the $5,000 penalty, but the trial court denied his motion after Weeber's subsequent report indicated that certain difficulties relating to the operation of the dump site had recently arisen. On August 24, 1971, plaintiffs sought to hold defendant in contempt of court for failure to pay the penalty. They further alleged that the dump had been reopened in June, that numerous violations of pollution regulations had subsequently occurred and that there had been recent noncompliance with the restoration plan. They requested that the court afford them appropriate injunctive relief. On September 2, 1971, defendant filed a notice of appeal. The transcript of proceedings indicates that the following day an independent action, not at issue in this appeal, may have been brought against defendant pursuant to the Attorney General's Act seeking injunctive relief for pollution violations previously described in the August 24 pleadings.

The record establishes that defendant did not file a bond to stay enforcement of the trial court's judgment for payment of the penalty. A citation to discover assets was issued requiring production of relevant documents, which defendant failed to produce, and the contempt order was entered.

The majority of the appellate court held that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the subject matter of the proceedings after dissolution of the ex parte injunction on October 22, 1970, thereby rendering the trial court's subsequent actions void. It observed that the relief plaintiffs sought was identical to the relief which may have been obtained in administrative proceedings under the Environmental Protection Act. The majority found that this statute did not authorize the circuit court to so act. In reaching this conclusion it narrowly construed the complaint, emphasizing that it appeared to be predicated only on the aforementioned statute.

Sections 42 and 43 of the Environmental Protection Act read in pertinent part:

"Section 42. Any person who violates any provision of this Act, or any regulation adopted by the Board, or who violates any determination or order of the Board pursuant to this Act, shall be liable to a penalty of not to exceed $10,000 for said violation and an additional penalty of not to exceed $1,000 for each day during which violation continues, which may be recovered in a civil action, and such person may be enjoined from continuing such violation as hereinafter provided.* * *

The State's Attorney of the county in which the violation occurred, or the Attorney General shall bring such actions in the name of ...

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