APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOSEPH
M. WOSIK, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE DOWNING DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
The plaintiff, individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated recipients of financial aid under the Illinois General Assistance Program (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 23, pars. 6-1 through 6-6), appeals orders of the circuit court of Cook County denying his motion for a preliminary injunction, granting the defendants' motion to dismiss his complaint, and denying his motion to vacate the dismissal and for rehearing. The sole issue before this court is whether the trial court erred in dismissing the plaintiffs complaint on the basis of plaintiff's failure to exhaust the administrative remedies provided in the Public Aid Code. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 23, par. 1-1 et seq.
Plaintiff brought this class action against the Illinois Department of Public Aid ("IDPA") which is responsible for the administration of the Public Aid Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 127, par. 48a), IDPA's director, and the director of the Cook County Department of Public Aid which is responsible for the administration of public aid in cities of more than 500,000 inhabitants subject to the supervision and direction of IDPA (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 23, par. 12-18.5). Plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that he was in need of, and on March 30, 1977, had requested, eyeglasses and non-emergency dental care from IDPA. He further alleged that his request had been denied on the basis of IDPA regulation PO-1115 which provides for financial assistance for dental care only in emergencies to relieve pain and infection, and on the basis of IDPA policy which denies financial assistance for eye care and the correction of visual impairments.
Plaintiff contends that this regulation and policy fail to comply with the standards for public assistance set forth in the following statutes establishing and governing the defendants' operation:
"The Illinois Department of Public Aid shall establish such standards of financial aid and services as will encourage and assist applicants and recipients to maintain a livelihood compatible with health and well being and to develop their self-reliance and realize their capacities for self-care, self-support, and responsible citizenship." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 23, par. 1-1.)
"Financial aid in meeting basic maintenance requirements for a livelihood compatible with health and well-being, plus any necessary treatment, care and supplies required because of illness or disability, shall be given under this Article to or in behalf of persons who meet the eligibility conditions of Sections 6-1.1 through 6-1.6." (Emphasis added.) Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 23, par. 6-1.
Plaintiff also contends that the defendants' regulation and policy are unconstitutional in that they treat General Assistance recipients less favorably than those who receive aid under the defendants' other programs, and treat those General Assistance recipients in need of eye and non-emergency dental care less favorably than those with other medical needs. Plaintiff's prayer for relief sought (1) a declaration that the defendants had violated the foregoing laws, and (2) an injunction preventing them from failing to provide the health care services sought.
Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint contending, inter alia, that the plaintiff had failed to exhaust the administrative remedies provided by the Public Aid Code. Plaintiff then filed a motion for a preliminary injunction supported by his affidavit and the affidavits of his dentist and optometrist. The trial court continued the plaintiff's motion pending a decision on the defendants' previously filed motion to dismiss.
Following extensive briefing by the parties, the trial court dismissed plaintiff's complaint on the ground that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and also had an adequate remedy at law. Plaintiff's motion to vacate the dismissal was denied, whereupon this appeal followed.
1 The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies provides that a party aggrieved by administrative action ordinarily cannot seek review in the courts> without first pursuing all administrative remedies available to him. (Illinois Bell Telephone Co. v. Allphin (1975), 60 Ill.2d 350, 358, 326 N.E.2d 737.) This doctrine has been developed (1) to allow the full development of the facts before the agency; (2) to allow the agency an opportunity to utilize its expertise; (3) to permit the aggrieved party to succeed before the agency, rendering judicial review perhaps unnecessary (Ill. Bell Telephone Co.); and (4) to allow the agency to correct its own errors, clarify its policies, and reconcile conflicts (Kenilworth Insurance Co. v. Mauck (1st Dist. 1977), 50 Ill. App.3d 823, 826, 365 N.E.2d 1051).
2 However, in some cases the foregoing reasons for requiring the exhaustion of administrative remedies are not to be found. Therefore, exceptions to the exhaustion doctrine have been carved out. Thus, the exhaustion of administrative remedies has not been required where (1) an ordinance, statute, or regulation is attacked on its terms as unconstitutional (Walker v. State Board of Elections (1976), 65 Ill.2d 543, 552, 359 N.E.2d 113; Bio-Medical Laboratories, Inc. v. Trainor (1977), 68 Ill.2d 540, 548, 370 N.E.2d 223; Health Resources Foundation v. Department of Health (1st Dist. 1978), 61 Ill. App.3d 335, 339, 377 N.E.2d 1056); (2) where seeking administrative review would be futile (Herman v. Village of Hillside (1958), 15 Ill.2d 396, 408, 155 N.E.2d 47; Fiore v. City of Highland Park (2d Dist. 1966), 76 Ill. App.2d 62, 67, 221 N.E.2d 323); (3) where irreparable harm will result from the delay incident to further pursuit of administrative remedies (People Gas Light & Coke Co. v. Slattery (1939), 373 Ill. 31, 39-46, 25 N.E.2d 482); or (4) where an administrative agency has no power to proceed because it lacks jurisdiction (People ex rel. Hurley v. Graber (1950), 405 Ill. 331, 348-350, 90 N.E.2d 763; see Kenilworth Insurance Co., at 827).
We acknowledge that in People ex rel. Naughton v. Swank (1974), 58 Ill.2d 95, 317 N.E.2d 499, Chicago Welfare Rights Organization v. Weaver (1973), 56 Ill.2d 33, 305 N.E.2d 140, cert. denied (1974), 417 U.S. 962, 41 L.Ed.2d 1135, 94 S.Ct. 3164, and Ballew v. Edelman (1st Dist. 1975), 34 Ill. App.3d 490, 340 N.E.2d 155, the exhaustion doctrine was applied to public assistance recipients attacking agency regulations and ...