Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fourth District; heard
in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon
County, the Hon. John B. Wright, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE DOOLEY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Here we are called upon to decide whether an "association," in the posture of this record, has standing to appeal an order of the Illinois Commerce Commission pursuant to the statute providing for review of Commission orders by the courts> (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 111 2/3, par. 72). In 1974 the Illinois Commerce Commission revised certain general orders concerning the credit and service practices of all utilities, including telephone companies. The Illinois Telephone Association, an unincorporated association, on behalf of all telephone companies in Illinois, appealed the revision of General Order No. 197 to the circuit court of Sangamon County, which nullified the Illinois Commerce Commission order for failure to make the statutorily mandated findings of fact (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 111 2/3, par. 69). On remand, the Commerce Commission entered a General Order No. 197.
The Association filed a petition for rehearing, which the Commission denied. On appeal to the circuit court of Sangamon County, the Association again moved to set aside the order of the Commission, alleging that the required findings of fact were not made. The Commission moved to dismiss the appeal of the Association, asserting that it had failed to perfect its appeal, was not a person or corporation affected by the Commission order, and was without standing to appeal. The circuit court denied the motion of the Commission to dismiss the appeal of the Association, and reversed the order of the Commission.
The Commission appealed the denial of its motion to dismiss and the vacation of its order to the Appellate Court for the Fourth District, which held that an unincorporated association could sue or be sued in its own name only if all its members were joined as parties. (38 Ill. App.3d 740.) The Association, it concluded, was without standing. It did not pass upon the other issues in the appeal. We granted the Illinois Telephone Association's petition for leave to appeal under Rule 315 (58 Ill.2d R. 315).
The appellate court, in holding that the action could not be maintained without all members of the Association being joined as parties, relied upon American Federation of Technical Engineers, Local 144 v. La Jeunesse (1976), 63 Ill.2d 263. There the union local, through its president, filed an action at law to recover fines which had been assessed against certain members of the union because they disobeyed instructions from the union to honor a lawful strike and picket line, and alleging that the fines had been assessed under the union disciplinary procedures. That action was dismissed and another action in equity filed, praying for an order directing the defendant members to perform their contractual obligations under the union's constitution and bylaws by paying the fines assessed against them.
But here we have under consideration an act of the General Assembly whereby associations are specifically recognized and accorded full privileges of a litigant. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 111 2/3, par. 72.) La Jeunesse is not applicable.
Fenyes v. State Employees' Retirement System of Illinois (1959), 17 Ill.2d 106, was referred to by the appellate court. It, however, did no more than describe the scope of judicial review under the Administrative Review Act. As we shall point out, the proceedings in the circuit court were statutory in character. They did not come within the Administrative Review Act but were governed by section 68 of the Public Utilities Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 111 2/3, par. 72), providing for the method of review of orders of the Illinois Commerce Commission.
Simply stated, the issue is whether an unincorporated association has authority to appeal a decision of the Commission which affects its membership. In determining this question, the Public Utilities Act itself, as well as the rules of practice of the Illinois Commerce Commission, are relevant.
In statutory construction, it is fundamental that the intent of a legislature should be determined and given effect. (People ex rel. Carey v. Power (1975), 59 Ill.2d 569, 571.) The legislative language itself affords the best means of its exposition, and if the legislative intent can thus be ascertained, it must be given effect. (People ex rel. Mayfield v. City of Springfield (1959), 16 Ill.2d 609, 614.) It has been often stated that words employed in the statute should be given their plain and ordinary or commonly accepted meaning, unless to do so would defeat the legislative intent. Lincoln National Life Insurance Co. v. McCarthy (1957), 10 Ill.2d 489, 494; Droste v. Kerner (1966), 34 Ill.2d 495, 503; People v. Dednam (1973), 55 Ill.2d 565, 568.
The General Assembly in its deliberate and constitutional conduct has defined the word "corporation" in the Public Utilities Act to include "any corporation, company, association, joint stock company or association, but not municipal corporations." (Emphasis supplied.) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 111 2/3, par. 10.11.) So also, a "public utitlity" is defined by statute to include "every corporation, company, association, joint stock company or association, firm, partnership or individual, their lessees, trustees, or receivers" that operate plants, equipment, or property used in connection with the transmission of telegraph or telephone messages. (Emphasis supplied.) Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 111 2/3, par. 10.3.
Within these terms an association could become a public utility engaging in the transmission of telephone messages, and subject to the Illinois Commerce Commission.
The legislature likewise brought within the ambit of "common carrier" an "association" managing such an agency for public use in the transportation of persons or property. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 111 2/3, par. 10.4.) The same is true of its concept of an "express company." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 111 2/3, par. 10.9.
Of course, if an association were engaging in the work of common carriage or in the transportation of freight or property, it would be a common carrier or an express company and ...