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Knuepfer v. Fawell





Original action for writ of mandamus.


This case involves the question as to the circumstances in which the judicial branch of government may properly order production of facilities for its use when the legislative or executive agency primarily responsible for doing so has failed to act. We granted Jack T. Knuepfer, chairman of the Du Page County Board, leave to file this original action seeking a writ of mandamus or a supervisory order directing vacation of an administrative order entered by defendant, Chief Judge Bruce R. Fawell of the 18th judicial circuit. That order, entered on January 29, 1982, commanded the Du Page County Board to evict a private business tenant operating a cafeteria in the county administration building and to remodel the resulting space into five courtrooms. The county board was additionally required to make available certain other rooms to accommodate staff personnel. Plaintiff's emergency motion to stay defendant's administrative order was allowed, and the Urban Counties Council of Illinois was granted leave to file a brief as amicus curiae.

Because of the extraordinary nature of this action, the importance of the underlying issue, and its potential impact upon the delicate relationships between the several departments of local government, this court took the unusual step of authorizing pretrial conferences by its resident member with the parties to this cause in a manner similar to that provided for the appellate court by our Rule 310 (87 Ill.2d R. 310.) The failure to reach agreement after numerous conferences necessitates our resolving the issue.

This regrettable dispute followed approximately two years of combined legislative and judicial efforts at the local level to formulate a suitable plan to meet the increasing judicial need for space in Du Page County. That county, which constitutes the entire 18th judicial circuit, is one in which there has been rapid population growth in recent years resulting in a substantial increase in the number of judges. The existing judicial facilities are primarily located in the old courthouse and courthouse annex, with two additional courtrooms located in the north wing of the newer county administration building, known as Du Page Center. The record indicates that in September 1979 defendant contacted the Judiciary and Law Enforcement Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Building and Grounds Committee of the Du Page County Board. He informed them that an anticipated addition of three or four judges in 1981 would result in a need for additional court facilities and requested an appropriation of funds for that purpose.

In November 1979 the Judiciary and Law Enforcement Committee formed the User's Committee for Space Planning, which explored both short-term and long-term plans for expanding the judicial facilities before presenting a proposal to the Judicial and Law Enforcement Committee on May 19, 1980. During this period, representatives of the court reminded county board members that additional judgeships were planned for the early part of 1981. The User's Committee suggested that a third floor be constructed above the cafeteria in the north wing of Du Page Center to house new courtrooms and chambers. This addition would have provided the court with 8,100 square feet of additional space. The proposal and budgetary considerations were examined by various county board committees and judicial representatives until a final construction plan was adopted on April 22, 1981. The State's Attorney's office was then authorized to negotiate and finalize the necessary contracts.

The anticipated four additional judges joined the court in June 1981. When the construction contracts were still unexecuted at the end of September 1981 defendant notified the Building Administration Committee chairman that the judiciary would intervene if additional facilities were not provided by March 1, 1982. At the end of October 1981 the court was informed that the planned addition would have to be postponed and possibly cancelled due to a recently discovered structural problem in the north wing. The Building Committee then met four times in November 1981 to discuss alternate proposals to expand the judicial facilities. Because the construction plans were suitable for use in remodeling the cafeteria or the space underneath it occupied by the local election commission, the Building Administration Committee decided in December 1981 to terminate the lease held by the Du Page County board of election commissioners. The election commission was given until the end of April to vacate the premises in order to minimize any disruption of the March 1982 primary elections.

On January 4, 1982, defendant conducted an administrative hearing in order to determine the needs of the judiciary and what action should be taken to meet those needs. Testimony was heard from the court administrator, three circuit court judges, a legal assistant, and the executive director of the election commission. Although members of the county board were present and invited to testify, they declined to do so. The executive director testified that the election commission's lease had been terminated and that relocation to other space within Du Page Center would not provide the commission with sufficient space.

Testimony heard from the other witnesses indicated that the existing judicial facilities were inadequate in that the lack of space impaired the court's ability to function in a dignified and efficient manner, particularly after the additional judges joined the court the preceding June. The four new judges were able to use vacationing judges' chambers and courtrooms during the summer of 1981. When all of the judges returned, however, the new judges were forced to search for unused courtrooms before convening each of their sessions because only 24 courtrooms were available for the 28 judges assigned to hear cases. Proceedings initiated in one courtroom frequently had to be finished in another courtroom, and this constant shuffling of courtrooms created confusion to the extent that parties and witnesses often failed to appear because they were waiting in a different courtroom. Moreover, cases assigned to these judges were frequently delayed. One of the judges attempted to hold proceedings in his chamber, but discarded the practice when it became obvious that the cramped quarters increased the animosity between the parties and impaired the court's ability to function with decorum. Another new judge was not even assigned chambers.

Following the administrative hearing, defendant entered an order commanding the county board to supply the court with a plan providing a minimum of 8,100 square feet of additional space; the deadline for submitting the plan was January 15, 1982. The order also required the plan to be capable of completion on or before March 1, 1982. Defendant stated in his order that he would seize 8,100 square feet in Du Page Center if the county board failed to comply. The county board held its own hearing on January 14, 1982, and on January 15, 1982, defendant and plaintiff apparently reached a tentative agreement on a plan to provide the court with temporary additional facilities until the election commission's space could be remodeled. The record does not indicate why this agreement collapsed, but on January 29, 1982, defendant entered his administrative order commanding the county board to surrender the cafeteria at Du Page Center by February 2, 1982. The county board subsequently rescinded its termination of the election commission's lease.

Defendant initially urges this court to find that plaintiff lacks standing because the county board had not passed a resolution authorizing plaintiff to act upon its behalf when he instituted this action. It is unnecessary to decide whether plaintiff had contemporaneous authority in the absence of a prior resolution because the county board subsequently adopted a resolution expressly providing retroactive authority, and ratifying and confirming plaintiff's actions. Plaintiff's action had obviously been undertaken on behalf of the county board, and it is well established that an informed ratification is equivalent to an original authorization. (Vetesnik v. Magull (1932), 347 Ill. 611, 617; Neenan v. Industrial Com. (1928), 329 Ill. 48, 56-57. See also Bragg v. Fessenden (1850), 11 Ill. 544.) Furthermore, while this court continues to regard mandamus as an extraordinary remedy, we may consider a petition for the writ when it presents, as is true here, an issue which is both novel and of crucial importance to the administration of justice; in such cases, all of the normal requirements for mandamus need not be present initially. See, e.g., People ex rel. Bier v. Scholz (1979), 77 Ill.2d 12, 16; People ex rel. Carey v. Covelli (1976), 61 Ill.2d 394, 400-01; People ex rel. General Motors Corp. v. Bua (1967), 37 Ill.2d 180, 192.

The crucial issue before us, however, is found in plaintiff's argument, joined by amicus, that defendant's order exceeded the scope of his authority. Contending that the judiciary's inherent power is applicable only to regulate facilities already existing, respondent's order is characterized as an impermissible intrusion into the legislative domain. That argument is bottomed upon the separation-of-powers provisions incorporated in article II, section 1, of our 1970 constitution:

"The legislative, executive and judicial branches are separate. No branch shall exercise powers properly belonging to another."

The import of this language is the same as that of its predecessors in our earlier constitutions (City of Waukegan v. Pollution Control Board (1974), 57 Ill.2d 170, 173) and is "that the whole power of two or more of these departments shall not be lodged in the same hands, whether of one or many." (Field v. People ex rel. McClernand (1839), 3 Ill. (2 Scam.) 79, 84, quoted approvingly in City of Waukegan v. Pollution Control Board (1974), 57 Ill.2d 170, 174.) The separation-of-powers doctrine was not designed, however, to achieve a complete divorce between the three departments (City of Waukegan v. Pollution Control Board (1974), 57 Ill.2d 170, 174; People v. Reiner (1955), 6 Ill.2d 337, 342.) It is abundantly clear from our opinion in City of Waukegan that there exists no constitutional prohibition forbidding every exercise of functions by one branch of government which ...

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