Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon.
Arthur D. Nicol, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE SPITZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied May 19, 1986.
The plaintiffs herein applied for disability assistance under articles III and V of the Illinois Public Aid Code (Code) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 23, arts. III (pars. 3-1 through 3-15), V (pars. 5-1 through 5-14)) in the early months of 1983. The plaintiffs were denied assistance based upon the determination of the Social Security Administration (SSA) that they were not disabled. The plaintiffs appealed the denial of their applications by the Illinois Department of Public Aid (IDPA) within 60 days of the notice thereof. The IDPA refused to grant the plaintiffs a hearing to review the adverse disability determinations.
The plaintiffs then brought this class action seeking a writ of mandamus ordering the IDPA to provide a hearing to any applicant who has received an adverse determination regarding disability by the SSA who appeals within 60 days. On August 11, 1983, a consent decree was entered into by the parties which provided, in pertinent part:
"2. Changes in Defendant's AABD Categorical Assistance Manual. Defendants shall have completed changes in their AABD Categorical Assistance Manual by August 26, 1983, which changes shall provide that Defendants will make their own disability determinations in all AABD and AABD-MANG cases which are denied because the applicant has been found not disabled by the Social Security Administration (hereinafter SSA) upon an application to SSA for benefits and that decision by SSA has been used by the Defendants as an initial determination of not disabled.
3. Provision of a Hearing. Defendants will provide a hearing on the issue of disability which complies with Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 23 secs. 11-8 through 11-8.7, 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(3), 42 C.F.R. secs. 431.205, 431.220(a), 431.240, 431.242, and 431.243, and the due process clauses of the United States and Illinois Constitutions, to all persons coming within the class definition on or after August 26, 1983, to the named Plaintiffs, and to all other class members whose names are submitted to Defendants by a Legal Services Program within 30 days of the date that the notice provided in paragraph 4 (four) is mailed to those class members by Defendants' attorneys."
The consent decree applies to applicants for financial and/or medical assistance under articles III or V of the Code.
On August 30, 1983, Public Act 83-0193, which added the following language to section 3-4 of the Code, became effective:
"The Illinois Department may accept determinations as to disability performed under the auspices of the Federal Social Security Administration and properly certified to the Department. The Department shall not consider such determinations final if they have been appealed until a determination is made by an administrative law judge. Furthermore, the Department shall not terminate assistance provided under this Article until there has been such a final determination and certification." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 23, par. 3-4; 1983 Ill. Laws 732.
On October 25, 1983, the plaintiffs filed a complaint for rule to show cause for IDPA's failure to comply with the provisions of the consent decree. On November 9, 1983, and again on November 23, 1983, the IDPA moved unsuccessfully to modify the consent decree. In its third motion to modify the decree, the IDPA asserted for the first time that Public Act 83-0193 eliminated its obligation to provide a hearing. After a hearing, the court allowed the motion to modify.
The circuit court relied upon People ex rel. Fahner v. Colorado City Lot Owners & Taxpayers Association (1985), 106 Ill.2d 1, 476 N.E.2d 409, wherein the supreme court considered the authority of the circuit court to modify a consent decree, stating:
"Once a consent decree is entered, it is generally considered to be binding upon the parties and it cannot be amended or varied without the consent of each party. [Citations.] This is not, however, without exception. In United States v. Swift & Co. (1932), 286 U.S. 106, 76 L.Ed. 999, 52 S.Ct. 460, the Supreme Court upheld the authority of a court to modify an injunctive order, entered by consent, in order to adapt to changes in the conditions surrounding the entry of the order. The court stated that a court of equity `does not abdicate its power to revoke or modify its mandate if satisfied that what it has been doing has been turned through changing circumstances into an instrument of wrong.' [Citations]." (Emphasis added.) (106 Ill.2d 1, 8-9, 476 N.E.2d 409, 412.)
It was upon the "changing circumstances" exception which the circuit court relied in allowing a modification of the consent decree.
The court ordered that the following language be added to paragraph three of the consent decree:
"On and after April 2, 1984, the defendants' compliance with Public Act 83-0193 shall fulfill their duty to provide a hearing hereunder to the extent that such compliance otherwise satisfies the requirements of the due process clauses of the United States and Illinois Constitutions."
The plaintiffs timely brought this appeal, claiming that the circuit court erred in modifying the decree. Among other grounds, plaintiffs claim that the consent decree, as modified, violates Federal Medicaid law and ...