APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIFTH DIVISION
519 N.E.2d 1092, 166 Ill. App. 3d 515, 116 Ill. Dec. 877 1988.IL.203
Petition for review of order of Illinois Human Rights Commission.
PRESIDING JUSTICE LORENZ delivered the opinion of the court. SULLIVAN and MURRAY, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE LORENZ
This appeal follows the order of the Illinois Human Rights Commission (Commission) denying complainant's request for attorney fees pursuant to the Illinois Human Rights Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 68, par. 8-101 et seq.) for legal representation in an administrative review action before the circuit court of Cook County. *fn1
Delphine Alexander (complainant) successfully brought an action against her employer, the Cook County treasurer's office, pursuant to the Illinois Human Rights Act for racial discrimination in promotional practices. On April 8, 1985, the county filed an action in the circuit court of Cook County appealing the decision pursuant to the Illinois Administrative Review Law. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 3-101 et seq.) The circuit court affirmed the Commission's decision, but remanded the case on the question of whether complainant was entitled to attorney fees, pursuant to the Illinois Human Rights Act, for representation in conjunction with the administrative review action in the circuit court. On remand, the Commission denied complainant's fee request. This appeal followed.
Illinois courts follow, with limited exception, the "American Rule," pertaining to the award of attorney fees, requiring each party to bear his own costs of litigation. (Kaplan v. Mahin (1979), 79 Ill. App. 3d 848, 399 N.E.2d 315.) Illinois recognizes no common law principle allowing attorney fees either as costs or damages (Caruso v. Board of Trustees (1984), 129 Ill. App. 3d 1083, 473 N.E.2d 417) and, absent an applicable statute or contractual provision, a successful litigant is not entitled to such fees. (In re Mac Harg (1983), 120 Ill. App. 3d 753, 458 N.E.2d 1154.) Any express statutory authorization providing for fees is to be strictly construed. Third Establishment, Inc. v. 1931 North Park Apartments (1981), 93 Ill. App. 3d 234, 417 N.E.2d 167.
Complainant urges on appeal that the court interpret subsections and of section 8 -- 108 of the Act as permitting fees for defending the appeal before the circuit court on administrative review. Section 8 -- 108 of the Act provides, in relevant part:
"Upon finding a civil rights violation, . . . the Commission . . . may provide for any relief or penalty identified in this Section, separately or in combination, by entering an order directing the respondent to:
. . . Pay to the complainant all or a portion of the costs of maintaining the action, including reasonable attorney fees and expert witness fees.
Complainant argues that the language "maintaining the action" in subsection should be read to permit the Commission to require the respondents to pay for fees incurred in the review of the Commission's decision, since the "action" continues until such time. Further, complainant states subsection contemplates compensation for costs complainant would not have incurred, but for respondent's initial wrongful conduct, including representation in the review action before the circuit court.
Complainant's interpretation of subsections and above is unpersuasive. Our review of the legislative debates concerning the Act reveals that the Act's purpose was only to combine 11 different enactments dealing with discrimination in Illinois into a single act, without affecting, in any way, existing substantive law in this State. 81st Ill. Gen. Assem., ...