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Thompson v. Cronin

OPINION FILED MAY 12, 1977.

LEE THOMPSON ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

JOSEPH M. CRONIN, STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES. — (JOLIET TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 203 ET AL., INTERVENING RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES.)



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Grundy County; the Hon. JAMES J. WIMBISCUS, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SCOTT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied June 8, 1977.

This is an appeal from an order of the circuit court of Grundy County which dismissed a complaint filed by the plaintiffs-appellants (hereinafter referred to as the plaintiffs) which sought the issuance of a writ of certiorari for the purpose of reviewing a ruling made by Joseph M. Cronin, State Superintendent of Education of the State of Illinois (hereinafter referred to as the defendant), the effect of which was to set aside an order of the Regional Superintendent of Educational Service Region, Grundy County, which had granted the prayer of the plaintiffs' petition to organize a community unit school district. During the oral argument of this appeal the intervening respondents, Joliet Township High School District No. 204 and Troy Community Unit School District No. 30-C (hereinafter referred to as the respondents), were present by their counsel and this court further had the benefit of an amicus curiae brief and argument of certain parties who were designated as a committee of 10 to represent as attorney-in-fact all petitioners and certain interested school districts not a party to the litigation.

In order to determine the issues presented for review in this appeal it is necessary to set forth in some detail the factual background and procedural aspects of this litigation.

On November 22, 1972, a petition was filed by 273 residents and legal voters in the office of the Regional Superintendent of Educational Service Region, Grundy County, and said petition prayed for the organization of a community unit school district pursuant to the provisions of section 11-6 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 122, par. 11-6). On December 8, 1972, and prior to any action on the petition, Joliet Township High School District No. 204 and Troy Community Consolidated School District No. 30-C filed a declaratory judgment and injunction proceedings in the circuit court of Will County in which it was alleged that certain portions of section 11-6 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 122, par. 11-6) were unconstitutional and that the proceedings to create a community unit district instituted by the plaintiffs should be enjoined.

On March 23, 1973, the circuit court of Will County found that certain portions of section 11-6 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 122, 11-6) were void and unconstitutional and ordered the issuance of a writ enjoining the plaintiffs and the Regional Superintendent of Educational Service Region, Grundy County, from proceeding upon the petition to organize a community unit school district. Subsequently the supreme court of our State vacated the judgment of the circuit court of Will County and remanded the cause for further proceedings. On October 29, 1974, the circuit court of Will County found that portion of our School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 122, par. 11-6) which had been subject to attack to be constitutional and denied the injunctive relief which had been previously granted.

On December 11, 1974, the Regional Superintendent of the Education Service Region, Grundy County, commenced a hearing on the petition filed on November 22, 1972, and which prayed for the organization of a community unit school district. The respondents Joliet Township High School District No. 204 and Troy Community Consolidated School District No. 30-C filed objections to the proceedings based upon territorial requirements, proof of the number of voters signatures, and the assessed valuation concerning the property involved.

After several hearings the Regional Superintendent of Educational Service Region, Grundy County, entered an order on June 20, 1975, granting the prayer of the petition requesting that an election be called for the purpose of voting for or against the establishment of a community unit school district.

The Superintendent of Educational Service Region, Grundy County, sent the entire record of the hearing which he had held on the petition to the defendant Joseph M. Cronin, State Superintendent of Education, for review of the same. On July 23, 1975, the defendant Cronin denied the petition for the organization of a community unit school district.

On August 14, 1975, Lee Thompson and others, the plaintiffs, filed a petition for writ of certiorari against the defendant Cronin and the Regional Superintendent of Educational Service Region, Grundy County. The writ of certiorari was sought for the purpose of permitting the circuit court of Grundy County to review and determine the validity of the order of the defendant Cronin which denied the plaintiffs' petition to organize a community unit school district. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant Cronin wrongfully abused his authority in denying their petition and that he was without jurisdiction to do so. The plaintiffs further prayed that a writ of mandamus be directed to the Regional Superintendent of Educational Service, Grundy County, commanding him to proceed with the calling of an election upon the proposition of establishing a community unit school district.

After various pleadings were filed by all parties the circuit court of Grundy County on January 29, 1976, dismissed the petition of the plaintiffs which sought the issuance of a writ of certiorari and a writ of mandamus.

A further recital of the facts and procedural aspects of this case will be set forth as they become pertinent to the issues raised in this appeal.

We first direct our attention to the question as to whether the defendant Cronin as State Superintendent of Education has jurisdiction to deny a petition to organize a community unit school district.

Prior to the adoption of our present State constitution we had an elected State officer known as the Superintendent of Public Instruction. It is undisputed that pursuant to section 11-6 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 122, par. 11-6), this official possessed the authority to deny a petition to organize a community unit school district; however, the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction was eliminated by our State Constitution of 1970. In lieu of this official the Constitution of 1970 provides for a State Board of Education (presently comprised of 17 members from throughout the State) and this board is specifically empowered and directed to appoint a chief State educational officer. (See Ill. Const. 1970, art. X, § 2(a)(b).) This official known as the State Superintendent of Education was to assume office upon the existence of a vacancy in the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction but no later than at the end of this latter official's term which was ...


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