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09/21/87 Dr. Wilfred Buddell, v. the Board of Trustees

September 21, 1987

DR. WILFRED BUDDELL, APPELLEE

v.

THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES, STATE UNIVERSITY RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF ILLINOIS ET AL., APPELLANTS



SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

514 N.E.2d 184, 118 Ill. 2d 99, 112 Ill. Dec. 718 1987.IL.1389

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County, the Hon. Nicholas G. Byron, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE RYAN delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE RYAN

The Board of Trustees of the State University Retirement System of Illinois brought this direct appeal in this action concerning the constitutionality of a limitation clause of section 15-113(i) of the Illinois Pension Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 108 1/2, par. 15-113(i) (the questioned clause is now found in Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 108 1/2, par. 15-113.7)). This case arose from the Board's denial of Dr. Wilfred Buddell's application for prior service credit under section 15-113(i). Dr. Buddell sought administrative review of the Board's denial in the circuit court of Madison County, which found the disputed clause of section 15-113(i) unconstitutional. Direct appeal was taken to this court pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 302(a) (107 Ill. 2d R. 302(a)), and we now affirm.

Dr. Buddell was first employed by the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in 1969. As an employee of the University, Dr. Buddell participated in the State University Retirement System of Illinois. Sometime prior to Dr. Buddell's employment at the University, he was on active duty in the armed forces of the United States for approximately 1 3/4 years.

At the time that Dr. Buddell became employed by the University, the version of section 15-113 in effect allowed employees to purchase service credit for time spent in the military service. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 108 1/2, par. 15-113(i).) Section 15-113 was amended in 1974 to provide as follows:

"This paragraph shall not apply to individuals who become participants in the system after September 1, 1974. Credit for military service under this paragraph shall be allowed only to those who are eligible for credit under this paragraph and have applied for such credit before September 1, 1974." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 108 1/2, par. 15-113(i).

In 1983, Dr. Buddell applied to the University Retirement System to purchase military service credit. The University Retirement System denied his application because of the deadline contained in section 15-113(i). Dr. Buddell was advised that the University Retirement System's denial constituted a final administrative decision under the Administrative Review Law (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 110, par. 3-101 et seq.). He subsequently sought review of the denial in the circuit court.

The circuit court of Madison County concluded that section 15 -- 113(i) was unconstitutional in light of article XIII, section 5, of the Illinois Constitution of 1970, which provides:

"Sec. 5. Pension and Retirement Rights

Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired."

The court reasoned that since there was no time limitation imposed on the application for military service credit at the time Dr. Buddell became a participant in the University Retirement System, article XIII, section 5, of the Illinois ...


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