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12/30/87 Ameen Azim Et Al., v. the Department of Central

December 30, 1987

AMEEN AZIM ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS

v.

THE DEPARTMENT OF CENTRAL MANAGEMENT SERVICES ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, THIRD DISTRICT

517 N.E.2d 718, 164 Ill. App. 3d 298, 115 Ill. Dec. 307 1987.IL.1966

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Peoria County; the Hon. Robert Manning, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE HEIPLE delivered the opinion of the court. STOUDER and WOMBACHER, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE HEIPLE

The plaintiffs filed an action under the Administrative Review Law (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 3-101 et seq.) seeking review of a decision rendered by the Illinois Civil Service Commission (Commission). The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the complaint was not timely filed and that summonses were issued late. The circuit court of Peoria County allowed the motion and dismissed the action. The plaintiffs appeal. We reverse and remand.

The plaintiffs alleged in their complaint that they were wrongfully terminated from their employment and that the Commission's determination that their layoffs should be upheld was erroneous. The Commission rendered its decision on September 17, 1986, and the decision was mailed to the plaintiffs on September 18.

On October 21, 1986, a secretary from the office of the plaintiffs' attorney mailed copies of the complaint to the clerk of the Peoria County circuit court and to the attorneys for the defendants. The complaint was received in the clerk's office on October 22, the 34th day after the mailing of the decision. Affidavits filed by the plaintiffs' attorney, Tom Edstrom, and his secretary stated the following. Joanie Crusen, an employee from the clerk's office, telephoned on October 22 and informed Edstrom that the filing fee had not been enclosed with the complaint. After Edstrom explained that the complaint needed to be file-stamped and served that day, Crusen told him that she would file-stamp the complaint and he could mail the fee to the clerk's office. Edstrom's secretary mailed a check for $52 to the clerk's office later that day. As a result of his conversation with Crusen, Edstrom believed that the complaint would be file-stamped and served on the defendants on October 22.

On October 29, 1986, the check which had been sent to pay the filing fee was returned to Edstrom's office. A form letter relating to alimony and child support payments accompanied the check and the notation on the letter indicates that the clerk could not identify the account to which the check was to apply. Edstrom spoke with a supervisor at the circuit clerk's office who explained that Crusen's earlier representations that the complaint would be file-stamped on October 22 were incorrect and unauthorized. The supervisor told Edstrom that someone from the clerk's office attempted to call him collect on October 22, after he spoke with Crusen, but the calls were not accepted because Edstrom was out of the office. Edstrom then resubmitted the check to the clerk's office, along with a letter identifying the case and requesting the check be accepted as the filing fee.

On November 7, 1986, the check was again returned to Edstrom's office. The check was accompanied only by a copy of the statute setting forth civil filing fees with the words "paid in advance" circled. On November 7, Edstrom again submitted the check to the clerk's office with a letter requesting that it be applied to pay the filing fee in this case. On that date Edstrom also sent additional copies of the complaint to the defendants' attorneys. The complaint was file-stamped November 10.

On November 24, 1986, Edstrom encountered an employee of the Department of Central Management Services (Department), one of the defendants herein, who informed Edstrom that the Department had not been served with summons in this case. On that date, Edstrom sent copies of the complaint, prepared summonses, and additional fees to the circuit clerk's office. The clerk's office issued summonses to the defendants on December 1, 1986.

The defendants moved to dismiss the case, alleging that the plaintiffs failed to comply with the Administrative Review Law (the Act), which provides in pertinent part:

"Every action to review a final administrative decision shall be commenced by the filing of a complaint and the issuance of summons within 35 days from the date that a copy of the decision sought to be reviewed was served upon the party affected thereby." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 3-103.)

Specifically, the defendants stated that the complaint was filed 53 days after the final decision was served and summonses were issued 74 days after the decision was mailed to the plaintiffs. In response to the motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs argued that because of the representations made by the employee of the clerk's office, they were led to believe that the complaint would be file-stamped and summonses would be issued within 35 days of the mailing of the administrative decision. The plaintiffs further noted that the defendants acknowledged receipt of the complaint for administrative review on October 23, 1986, 35 days after the administrative decision was served. The trial court found ...


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