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Fruhling v. County of Champaign

OPINION FILED APRIL 24, 1981.

HENRY G. FRUHLING, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT AND CROSS-APPELLEE,

v.

THE COUNTY OF CHAMPAIGN ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES AND CROSS-APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. ARTHUR D. NICOL, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE CRAVEN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal from the trial court's ruling in a declaratory action suit for recovery of back pay and reinstatement.

The trial court held that plaintiff, a deputy sheriff, was improperly suspended and discharged by the sheriff of Champaign County. The court awarded plaintiff money damages for back pay to the date of the illegal discharge. The court denied plaintiff's claim for reinstatement and back wages for the period subsequent to the date of discharge on the theory of laches. Plaintiff appeals this latter portion of the trial court's order. Defendants cross-appeal the court's decision awarding any damages to plaintiff on the theory that plaintiff's entire claim is barred by laches. Alternatively, defendants cross-appeal for failure to allow setoffs from the amount awarded. Defendants also purport to "cross-appeal" several evidentiary rulings.

The events giving rise to this litigation are complex. It is necessary to set out in some detail the history of events. It should be noted that this court has taken judicial notice of its records from two previous appeals so that we have a complete chronology:

1. December 22, 1976 Champaign County Merit Commission suspends plaintiff for 180 days to begin January 1, 1977.

2. December 29, 1976 Petition for writ of certiorari filed with the Champaign County Circuit Court.

3. December 29, 1976 Order for writ of certiorari issued requiring Merit Commission to certify record to the trial court. Stay of enforcement order granted.

4. January 3, 1977 County sheriff files motion to quash writ.

5. January 25, 1977 Hearing on motion to quash. Sheriff requests stay order be vacated. Motion denied, stay in full force.

6. January 25, 1977 On the same day, sheriff unilaterally suspends plaintiff for an undisclosed period of time.

7. January 26, 1977 Plaintiff injured in automobile accident.

8. January 26, 1977 Plaintiff files petition for rule to show cause why sheriff should not be held in contempt for violation of writ of certiorari.

9. February 22, 1977 Hearing on rule to show cause held.

10. March 10, 1977 Memo and opinion of trial court holds that sheriff is not in contempt because writ directed to Merit Commission and not to sheriff.

11. March 11, 1977 Notice of interlocutory appeal filed.

12. July 14, 1977 Letter from sheriff to plaintiff requesting information about plaintiff's physical condition and when plaintiff can return to work.

13. July 26, 1977 Letter from plaintiff to sheriff stating he is ready to perform work but that doctors advise him not to place himself in a situation where he might have to perform work of a combative nature. Plaintiff also requests clarification as to whether suspension was for indefinite period or for the 180 days as ordered by the Commission.

14. August 3, 1977 Sheriff in letter to plaintiff requests medical reports from doctors. Sheriff indicates that order of suspension of January 25, 1977, is self-explanatory.

15. August 29, 1977 This court issues a Rule 23 order in case No. 14330 affirming the trial court's finding that the writ was directed only to the ...


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