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People Ex Rel. Scott v. Chicago Park Dist.

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 3, 1976.

THE PEOPLE EX REL. WILLIAM J. SCOTT, ATTORNEY GENERAL, ET AL., APPELLEES,

v.

THE CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT ET AL. — (UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION, APPELLANT.)



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Francis T. Delaney, Judge, presiding.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied March 16, 1977.

The General Assembly passed Senate Bill 782 (Laws of 1963, at 1229-31) on June 17, 1963, and it was signed by the Governor on June 26, 1963. The bill, in essence, provided for the conveyance by the State of Illinois of 194.6 acres of land submerged in waters of Lake Michigan to the United States Steel Corporation, hereafter referred to as defendant, upon its paying to the State Treasurer $19,460 and upon the Chicago Park District reconveying to the State an interest in the land it had received by certain legislation. Shortly after the bill was signed, Albert C. Droste brought two separate taxpayer actions in the circuit court of Cook County for the purpose of enjoining the sale. In one, his petition for leave to file a complaint under "An Act in relation to suits to restrain and enjoin the disbursement of public moneys by officers of the state" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1963, ch. 102, pars. 11-16) was denied on the ground that this act did not give Droste as a taxpayer standing to sue. In the other, his complaint for declaratory relief was dismissed for want of equity. Droste appealed directly to this court, alleging constitutional questions were involved, and we affirmed both judgments on the ground that Droste lacked standing to sue. Droste v. Kerner, 34 Ill.2d 495, 504-05.

The defendant, which proposes to construct a steel plant on the land to be reclaimed, tendered its draft on August 13, 1973, in the amount of $19,460 to the State Treasurer, but it was returned three days later. The Attorney General commenced this action by filing a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County. The complaint sought a declaratory judgment that "An Act for the sale to United States Steel Corporation of the interest of the State of Illinois in certain lands" (Senate Bill 782) was void. Named as defendants were the Governor, the Secretary of State, the State Treasurer, the State Comptroller, United States Steel Corporation, the Chicago Park District and the Commissioners of the Chicago Park District. Subsequently, the Governor, the Secretary of State, the State Treasurer and the State Comptroller, on their motions, were realigned as plaintiffs. The trial court allowed the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, holding that Senate Bill 782 was void on the grounds that it violated the public trust doctrine, the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution, and the following provisions of the Illinois Constitution of 1970: article I, section 2; article IV, section 13; and article VIII, section 1(a). The defendant appealed directly to this court under our Rule 302(a) (58 Ill.2d R. 302(a)); no appeal was brought by the Chicago Park District or its commissioners.

The defendant contends that the decision of this court in Droste v. Kerner, 34 Ill.2d 495, operates as a bar under the doctrine of res judicata to the plaintiffs' challenging the validity of the legislative action. However, the burden of showing that a challenge is barred under res judicata is upon the party invoking the doctrine (Chicago Historical Society v. Paschen, 9 Ill.2d 378; City of Geneseo v. Illinois Northern Utilities Co., 378 Ill. 506), and we consider the defendant has not met this burden.

This court in La Salle National Bank v. County Board of School Trustees of Du Page County, 61 Ill.2d 524, 528, considered a question of res judicata and, quoting from People v. Kidd, 398 Ill. 405, 408, stated: "[A] final judgment rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction on the merits is conclusive as to the rights of the parties and their privies, and, as to them, constitutes an absolute bar to a subsequent action involving the same claim, demand or cause of action." Thus, before an adjudication can stand as a bar to a subsequent action, it must be determined whether the first action resulted in a final judgment on the merits. See People ex rel. Williams v. Board of Education, 350 Ill. 597, 601; see also Monroe v. Collins, 393 Ill. 553; People ex rel. Porter v. Minnie Creek Drainage District, 311 Ill. 228; 2 A. Freeman, Law of Judgments secs. 723-25 (5th ed. 1925).

Illustrating the necessity that a judgment on the merits is a requisite to the application of res judicata, this court has held the doctrine is not available when the prior action was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. (Weiland Tool & Manufacturing Co. v. Whitney, 44 Ill.2d 105, 113-14; City of Geneseo v. Illinois Northern Utilities Co., 378 Ill. 506, 513-14.) In Weiland Tool & Manufacturing Co. the plaintiff sued to enforce its common law lien on the defendant's property; the defendant filed an answer and a counterclaim. The appellate court reversed a judgment in the plaintiff's favor and remanded the cause for disposition of the defendant's counterclaim. The plaintiff then filed a petition for leave to appeal with this court, which was dismissed on the ground that the judgment from which the plaintiff was seeking to appeal was not final. Thereafter the trial court entered a judgment in the defendant's favor on the counterclaim, and the judgment was affirmed by the appellate court. When the plaintiff filed a new petition for leave to appeal with this court the defendant contended that this court's dismissal of the plaintiff's first petition for leave to appeal was a judgment on the merits which barred this court's considering the plaintiff's claim. In rejecting this contention, it was said:

"The petition for leave to appeal to this court was not denied but was dismissed on Whitney's motion that the judgment appealed from lacked finality. Dismissal was a determination only that this court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the appeal at that time. A dismissal of a cause for lack of jurisdiction does not constitute an adjudication of the substantive issues involved. (City of Geneseo v. Illinois Northern Utilities Co., 378 Ill. 506.) The first judgment of the Appellate Court may have been the `law of the case' for that court, but that does not apply to us. This is the first time the cause has been before us on the merits and our review must necessarily cover all matters properly raised and passed upon in the course of this litigation." 44 Ill.2d 105, 113-14.

When a cause of action is dismissed by this court on the ground that the plaintiff lacks standing, it is not necessary for the court to consider the substantive issues involved. (See, e.g., Schiller Park Colonial Inn, Inc. v. Berz, 63 Ill.2d 499; Greater Chicago Indoor Tennis Clubs, Inc. v. Village of Willowbrook, 63 Ill.2d 400; Edelen v. Hogsett, 44 Ill.2d 215.) Thus, the dismissal of the suits brought by Droste because he lacked standing did not amount to an adjudication on the merits that would bar the Attorney General's complaint for a declaratory judgment.

The defendant, calling our attention to the language in the opinion in Droste, argues that this court did pass upon the constitutionality of the legislative grant. However, all of the language in an opinion does not necessarily express the actual holding by the court. This court observed in Adams v. Pearson, 411 Ill. 431, 437: "It is well settled, however, that what has been adjudicated is to be determined not from the opinion rendered but from a consideration of the judgment actually entered in reference to the issues presented for decision. [Citations.]"

This court indicated the judgments it was entering in Droste in reference to the issues presented for review at pages 504 and 505 of its opinion. It was held that the respective trial courts>' dismissals of the suits were being affirmed on the ground that the plaintiff lacked standing.

"Accordingly, we conclude the trial court was correct in its determination that the Public Moneys Act did not give plaintiff standing to maintain this action.

* * * The amended complaint of plaintiff in this action is totally devoid of allegations which set forth such special damage. Without such allegations he has no standing to bring this suit.

* * * We conclude that cause No. 38905 was properly dismissed for the failure of plaintiff to allege facts giving him standing to maintain the action." 34 Ill.2d 495, 504-05.

At the time Droste was decided there had to be a constitutional question to give this court jurisdiction on direct appeal. This court declared that the constitutional question presented in Droste was sufficient to give the court jurisdiction to entertain the appeal. (34 Ill.2d 495, 502.) What the court said beyond that concerning the constitutionality of Senate Bill 782 must be regarded as dicta and not as the holding of the court. This construction of Droste is consistent with related holdings of this court. For example, we recently stated in Schiller Park Colonial Inn, Inc. v. Berz, 63 Ill.2d 499, 510-11, that "[t]his court will not determine the constitutionality of provisions of an act which do not affect the parties to the cause under consideration. (Rosewood Corp. v. Fisher, 46 Ill.2d 249.) A party who would attack a statute as unconstitutional must bring himself within the class as to whom the law is unconstitutional. (People v. Bombacino, 51 Ill.2d 17, cert. denied, 409 U.S. 912, 34 L.Ed.2d 173, 93 S.Ct. 230.)" This court specifically declared in Droste that the taxpayer lacked standing and could not bring the action. He did not allege, the court pointed out (34 Ill.2d 495, 504), that he would suffer special damages different in degree and kind from damage sustained by the public at large through the operation of this statute. (This requirement was eliminated in Paepcke v. Public Building Com., 46 Ill.2d 330, 341-42.) There was, therefore, at that time, no need to pass upon the constitutionality of Senate Bill 782.

As we have observed, the burden is upon the party that is asserting that res judicata is applicable, and we must conclude that the defendant has not met that burden by showing there was a judgment on the merits in Droste. Chicago Historical Society v. Paschen, 9 Ill.2d ...


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