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Cities Service Oil Co. v. Vil. of Oak Brook





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. HELEN C. KINNEY, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied June 24, 1980.

Plaintiffs, First National Bank of LaGrange as trustee under Trust No. 1090, and Frank Mitchell, a beneficiary, bring this appeal from an order of the circuit court of Du Page County entered May 3, 1979, denying their motion after judgment and from the judgment order entered March 8, 1979.

This matter has a rather lengthy history. Cities Service Oil Company originally filed an action seeking a declaratory judgment that setback restrictions of the zoning ordinance of the village of Oak Brook were void as applied to an existing gasoline station which it sought to improve and enlarge (Parcel 2) and that use restrictions were void as to its adjoining property (Parcel 1). The trial court entered its decree on February 18, 1972, granting the requested relief, based on the specified use proposed. This court affirmed in Cities Service Oil Co. v. Village of Oak Brook (1973), 15 Ill. App.3d 424.

On June 20, 1977, the defendant, village of Oak Brook, filed its petition for a rule to show cause against the present plaintiffs for failure to comply with the terms of the original decree. A hearing was had on said petition, without a jury. On December 19, 1978, at the conclusion of the hearing, the trial judge orally made certain findings, announced her proposed decision, and directed the village's attorney to prepare a written order accordingly. The trial judge expanded her findings in a letter to the parties dated December 20, 1978, and directed that these additional findings also be contained in the written order. The proposed judgment order was never entered. Rather, on January 20, 1979, an order was entered granting the motion of the village to withdraw its motion for entry of judgment, and leave was granted to the village to file its amended petition instanter. Rather than seeking a contempt finding, the amended petition sought a permanent injunction which would mandate that the plaintiffs use the subject property exclusively for an automobile service station and enjoin them from certain specified activities allegedly in violation of the original decree and of the village's ordinances which were allegedly incorporated by implication therein. On the basis of proofs already heard, the trial judge granted the permanent injunction in a written order entered on March 8, 1979. Subsequently, plaintiffs tendered to the court a "supplemental order" and moved for its entry. In effect, this "supplemental order" purported to set forth in writing the decisions and rulings the court orally announced on December 19, 1978, and expanded by the court in its letter of December 20, 1978. The court refused to enter this "supplemental order" and denied plaintiffs' motion. This appeal followed.

In substance, all of the issues raised by the plaintiffs on appeal concern questions of the court's jurisdiction.

• 1 At the outset, plaintiffs contend that this court lacks jurisdiction to entertain this appeal. They reason that once the trial judge had orally announced her findings and the decision in the case on December 19, 1978, and as expanded in her letter of December 20, 1978, and had directed defendant's attorney to reduce it to writing, such ruling, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 272 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110A, par. 272), did not become a final order until actually reduced to writing, signed and filed. Plaintiffs' attorney then cites Green v. Green (1974), 21 Ill. App.3d 396, as authority for his rather novel contention that until the oral decision is reduced to writing, signed and filed, the entire proceedings are in a state of temporary abeyance and the court has no jurisdiction to proceed further until such is accomplished. Green v. Green stands for no such proposition. It holds simply that the bare announcement of a final judgment, where the judge directs that it be reduced to writing, is of no effect until signed and filed. It is that oral judgment, and that alone, which is held in abeyance. It is that bare announcement of a final judgment which cannot be attacked by motion, or appealed from, or enforced. It in no way lessens the jurisdiction of the trial court to consider other motions or to enter other orders or judgments. The denial of the plaintiffs' post-trial motion on May 3, 1979, made the injunctive order of March 8, 1979, a final and appealable order.

• 2 Next, the plaintiffs contend that the original decree entered in this cause on February 18, 1972, was a final judgment that disposed of the entire proceeding and, therefore, the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider the petition for rule to show cause or any other matters. Plaintiffs argue that in order to enforce its decree after it becomes final, the court must specifically reserve jurisdiction for that purpose and cite Anundson v. City of Chicago (1970), 44 Ill.2d 491, as an example of such reservation of jurisdiction. While it is true that the decree in Anundson did contain such a reservation, it is not necessary when the sole purpose of the subsequent proceeding is to enforce a judgment or decree rather than to change or modify it.

It is an elementary principle of law that judicial power essentially involves the right to enforce the results of its own exertion. (Virginia v. West Virginia (1917), 246 U.S. 565, 62 L.Ed. 883, 38 S.Ct. 400.) A court has inherent power to enforce its orders and decrees and should see to it that such judgments are enforced when called upon to do so. (46 Am.Jur.2d Judgments § 898 (1969); cf. Gatto v. Walgreen Drug Co. (1974), 23 Ill. App.3d 628, 641-43, rev'd on other grounds (1975), 61 Ill.2d 513.) Even when there was a distinction between the more limited powers of courts> of law and the broader powers of courts> of equity, it was recognized that courts> of law had equitable jurisdiction over their own judgments and process. (Watson v. Reissig (1860), 24 Ill. 281, 282.) All such distinction has now been eliminated by the Illinois Constitution of 1970. (Lopin v. Cullerton (1977), 46 Ill. App.3d 378, 380; see Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 9.) The trial judge correctly ruled that, while she did not have jurisdiction to modify the original decree, she did have jurisdiction to enforce it.

• 3 The original decree in this matter granted the original plaintiff relief from the zoning ordinances of the defendant village upon certain conditions as set forth in that decree. That order is binding on the parties to that action and on the present plaintiffs, as successors in interest to the original plaintiff. To contend that the court does not have the authority to enforce compliance with the terms of that decree would make the orders of the court meaningless. Nor does the fact that more than two years have elapsed, so that a petition under section 72 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110, par. 72) is no longer available, in any way diminish that power. See Weaver v. Bolton (1965), 61 Ill. App.2d 98, 105.

Illinois law is clear that the court has power to compel compliance with its orders and to punish for failure to do so. "All courts> are vested with an inherent power to punish for contempt as an essential incident to the maintenance of their authority and the proper administration and execution of their judicial powers." People v. Javaras (1972), 51 Ill.2d 296, 299; People v. Loughran (1954), 2 Ill.2d 258, 262; City of Park City v. Brosten (1974), 24 Ill. App.3d 442, 447-48, cert. denied (1975), 423 U.S. 838, 46 L.Ed.2d 57, 96 S.Ct. 66.

• 4 The trial court properly allowed the filing of the amended petition pursuant to the provisions of paragraphs (1) and (3) of section 46 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110, pars. 46(1), (3).) The amended petition sought, on the basis of evidence already heard, the imposition of injunctive relief. In its injunctive order, the trial court, after making findings of fact, ordered the plaintiffs to conform to the terms of the 1972 decree restricting the premises to be used exclusively for an automobile service station and to refrain from performing certain specified acts which the judge had found were in contravention of the express language and fair intendment of the 1972 decree and of certain zoning ordinances of the village.

Plaintiffs contend that the injunctive order was erroneous in a number of respects: first, since they had not chosen to exercise their adjudicated right to improve and enlarge the existing gasoline station as proposed in the 1972 decree, there was nothing to enforce; second, the 1972 decree did not affect or terminate the commercial zoning which parcel 2 enjoyed under the village's zoning ordinances and the present uses enjoined by the injunctive order were permitted uses in areas zoned for commercial use; third, the 1972 decree did not incorporate within its terms the provisions of the zoning ordinances and therefore the court did not have the authority to enjoin violations of the village's zoning ordinances under the guise of enforcing its 1972 decree. Such action on the part of the court, the plaintiffs contend, would be an impermissible modification of the 1972 decree and an act beyond its jurisdiction.

An understanding of the decree itself and the circumstances prior to its entry will be helpful in understanding these issues. At the time of the institution of the original proceedings, parcel 2 was being used as an automobile service station; it was zoned for commercial use, which use included service stations, but changed setback requirements of the village had made the use nonconforming. Parcel 1 adjacent thereto was zoned residential. In the 1972 decree, the court found, among other things (1) that the plaintiff's proposed use consisted of an enlargement of the existing automobile service station by the addition of a third bay and construction of a canopy, and that a 40-foot area on the northern portion of parcel 1 would be grassed and landscaped, all pursuant to exhibits attached to the pleadings and testimony received at trial; (2) that the setback lines of the village's zoning ordinance prevented the proposed use of parcels 1 and 2 by depriving the owners of major portions of the property to be used for ...

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