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County of Champaign v. Hanks

OPINION FILED AUGUST 26, 1976.

THE COUNTY OF CHAMPAIGN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

GARY P. HANKS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. FREDERICK S. GREEN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE STENGEL DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant, Gary Hanks, appeals from a summary judgment entered in favor of plaintiff and, after a hearing, an award of damages for plaintiff of $2000 plus costs. The issues are whether the trial court erred in entering summary judgment for plaintiff on the theory of quasi-contract, whether defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint was improperly denied and whether the correct measure of damages was applied.

Defendant's first contention regarding the propriety of the summary judgment requires a review of the various pleadings, documents, and admissions which were before the trial court.

The complaint, filed on October 6, 1972, by the State's Attorney of Champaign County on behalf of the county, alleged that in March 1972 defendant had been charged with burglary and had executed an affidavit of assets and liabilities which showed that defendant was indigent and had no assets. The public defender was appointed to represent defendant and did so throughout the criminal proceedings. The complaint sets out in some detail the nature of the legal services afforded to defendant, which shows that defendant was represented by three different public defender attorneys and provided with thorough and extensive pretrial, trial and post-trial representation, including numerous motions and court appearances.

The complaint further alleged that at the time defendant executed the affidavit and the public defender was appointed, defendant had legal interests in three parcels of real property within the county of Champaign, with the estimated value of defendant's interests in two parcels being in excess of $50,000. One week after executing the affidavit of assets and liabilities defendant conveyed his interest in one parcel to Chet Hanks and Mabel Hanks for their lifetimes, with the remainder to defendant. The complaint alleged that defendant knew the representations made in the affidavit regarding his financial status were false, that the public defender was appointed in reliance upon these representations, and that defendant made the fraudulent representations in order to obtain the services of the public defender's office.

Defendant's answer to the complaint admitted certain allegations not relevant here and either denied or disclaimed sufficient information as to the other allegations. Defendant also answered plaintiff's interrogatories, in which he admitted that as of the date the public defender was appointed, defendant had a legal interest in a certain parcel of real property with an estimated value of $28,000.

On January 25, 1974, plaintiff filed a request to admit facts and genuineness of documents and notice of intent to use public records, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 216 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110A, par. 216). The request for admissions called for, inter alia, an admission that defendant executed an affidavit of assets and liabilities which showed no assets and no ownership of real property, an admission that the representations in the affidavit were false and an admission that defendant owned interests in three parcels of real property. In addition, plaintiff furnished a copy of defendant's affidavit and copies of instruments showing defendant's interests in the parcels of property and defendant's conveyance of one parcel to Chet and Mabel Hanks for their lifetimes.

Defendant did not respond to the request for admissions until March 19, 1974, the date scheduled for a hearing on plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Defendant admitted that he filed a statement of assets and liabilities showing no assets but denied this was an "affidavit," admitted that he had legal interests in the three parcels of real property at the time the public defender was appointed and admitted that he made the conveyance to Chet and Mabel Hanks.

We note first that defendant failed to respond to plaintiff's request for admissions until 53 days had elapsed. Under Supreme Court Rule 216(c) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110A, par. 216(c)), a failure to respond within 28 days is deemed an admission. All we have before us and all the trial court had before it was whether or not on this record there is a genuine issue of material fact to be tried. The trial court thought not and we agree. Even considering defendant's answers to the requests, along with other documents, pleadings and admissions before the trial court, the undisputed facts show that at the time defendant executed an affidavit showing no assets and the public defender was appointed, defendant had legal interests in real property with a value which, if revealed to the trial court at the indigency hearing, clearly would have disqualified defendant from free representation.

• 1 A quasi-contract, or contract implied in law, is one which reason and justice dictate and is founded on the equitable doctrine of unjust enrichment. (Board of Highway Commissioners v. City of Bloomington (1911), 253 Ill. 164, 97 N.E. 280.) A contract implied in law does not depend on the intention of the parties, but exists where there is a plain duty and a consideration. The essential element is the receipt of a benefit by one party under circumstances where it would be inequitable to retain that benefit without compensation. Comm v. Goodman (1st Dist. 1972), 6 Ill. App.3d 847, 286 N.E.2d 758; First National Bank v. Glenn (1st Dist. 1971), 132 Ill. App.2d 322, 270 N.E.2d 493.

• 2 The county does not officiously confer the benefits of free legal representation, but furnishes legal services to those criminal defendants who qualify by virtue of their indigency. The undisputed facts reveal that defendant received free legal representation when he clearly was not entitled to such representation and that defendant failed to disclose his assets. Under these circumstances the law will imply a promise by defendant to compensate the county and, accordingly, we find that summary judgment was properly granted.

Defendant next contends that the complaint should have been dismissed on his motion before the trial court because the State's Attorney did not obtain authorization from the county board to institute this suit.

Section 5(1) of "An Act in regard to attorneys general and state's ...


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