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Legislative Investigating Com. v. Markham





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. RICHARD J. FITZGERALD, Judge, presiding.


This appeal arises out of petitions brought by the Executive Director of the Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission (Commission) to the circuit court of Cook County. The petitions sought a grant of immunity to each of the named respondents under section 15 of the Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 63, par. 315) in order to compel their testimony before the Commission. The trial court granted the petitions; however, the Commission appeals contending that in so doing the trial court impermissibly restricted the scope of the Commission's investigatory powers under section 15 of its enabling act. Thus, the Commission contends that the sole question on appeal is the scope of its immunity as petitioned for under section 15.

We dismiss the appeal. The pertinent facts follow.

On December 17, 1973, the Commission unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing investigation of the criminal redistribution of stolen property. In furtherance thereof, respondents were called in September of 1975 to testify before the Commission. Respondents appeared as commanded but invoked the fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions posed to them individually by the Commission.

On September 29, 1975, the Commission authorized its Executive Director to petition the circuit court of Cook County to compel respondents to answer questions posed by the Commission and to grant respondents immunity for such compelled testimony. Such petitions were filed, pursuant to section 15 of the Commission's enabling act, which reads:

"§ 15. In any examination by or hearing before the Commission, if a person refuses to answer a question or produce evidence of any other kind on the ground that he may be incriminated thereby, and if the Chairman or the Executive Director, in writing, requests a Circuit Court of the State to order that person to answer the question or produce the evidence, the court shall so order unless it finds that to do so would be contrary to the public interest, and that person shall comply with the order. After complying, and if, but for this Section, he would have been privileged to withhold the answer given or the evidence produced by him, that person shall not be prosecuted for or on account of any transaction, matter or thing concerned which, in accordance with the order, he gave answer or produced evidence. He may, nevertheless, be prosecuted or subjected to penalty or forfeiture for any perjury or contempt committed in answering, or failing to answer, or in producing or failing to produce, evidence in accordance with the order. The court shall not order any such person to testify or produce evidence if it reasonably appears to the court that such testimony or evidence, documentary or otherwise, would subject such witness to an indictment, information or prosecution (except for perjury committed in the giving of such testimony or the producing of such evidence) under the laws of another State or of the United States."

A hearing was held on November 21, 1975, on the Commission's petitions. The court ruled that the respondents should appear and answer questions before the Commission, indicating that the questions propounded should conform to the strictures of section 15 and further indicating that in the event a dispute should arise concerning any particular question, then the court would "probably have to decide" whether such a question was proper.

On December 12, 1975, the trial court entered orders pursuant to the petitions of the Commission. The Commission filed a notice of appeal. On February 13, 1976, respondents filed a motion to dismiss the appeal which was ordered taken with the case.


We have determined that respondents' motion to dismiss this appeal should be granted. The December 12 orders entered by the trial court require respondents to appear before the Commission and answer questions pursuant to section 15. As to each individual respondent the order is identical, and reads in pertinent part as follows:

"THEREFORE, the petition herein is allowed and [respondent] is hereby released from all liability to be prosecuted or punished under the laws of Illinois, or any other State, or the United States, on account of any transaction, matter, or thing concerning that which he may be required to testify or produce evidence, documentary or otherwise, in the above-entitled hearings before the Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission or any other proceedings, legislative, judicial, or administrative arising therefrom, except for perjury or contempt of court by said [respondent] during public hearings or any subsequent proceedings in the same matter. The Court does further hereby order said [respondent] to be and appear before the said Commission at such date and place as the said Commission shall designate in writing mailed to the said [respondent] at his last known place of residence not less than five days before the date set for such appearance and to then and there answer the questions propounded to him."

Nothing appears in the orders of the court which in any way restricts the scope of the questions which the Commission may ask respondents. In our view the Commission obtained the full relief which it requested.

The Commission concedes that it received the orders which it originally proposed to the court. It argues, however, that the court, during the November 21 hearing, placed certain restrictions on its orders which the Commission cannot disregard. It contends that the court "ruled that the Commission is limited in its questioning of respondents to areas related solely to Illinois transactions which could not subject the respondents to prosecution under the laws of another State or of the United States." Such a restriction, it is alleged, would effectively terminate the Commission's investigation, as it relates to these particular respondents, since questions concerning the criminal redistribution of stolen property necessarily involve other jurisdictions and cannot be isolated into "solely" Illinois transactions.

In response, we note that, as stated above, no such restriction appears on the face of the orders entered by the trial court. Furthermore, we have reviewed the record thoroughly and can find no such ...

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