APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, THIRD DIVISION
540 N.E.2d 1053, 184 Ill. App. 3d 945, 133 Ill. Dec. 187
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Lucia T. Thomas, Judge, presiding. 1989.IL.947
PRESIDING JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the opinion of the court. WHITE and CERDA, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE FREEMAN
Plaintiff, Cathy M. Paddock, filed a pro se complaint for review of the final administrative decision of defendant, the Illinois Department of Employment Security, denying her claim for unemployment compensation benefits. The circuit court of Cook County reversed defendant's decision. Defendant appeals.
Plaintiff voluntarily quit her employment as an engraver for Durable Engravers (Durable) on January 29, 1987. She claimed that the prolonged sitting and lifting, which she did in her position as an engraver, caused her chronic back pain. Plaintiff applied for unemployment compensation benefits for the period from February 8 to February 27, 1987, under the Unemployment Insurance Act (the Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 48, par. 300 et seq.). Thereafter, Durable notified defendant of plaintiff's possible ineligibility for benefits. Durable claimed that plaintiff might be restricting the duties she could perform for a new employer since she claimed that she had had surgery on, and a metal rod implanted in, her back. Therefore, Durable questioned whether plaintiff was actively seeking, available for and able to perform full-time work, as required by section 500C of the Act to be eligible for benefits thereunder. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 48, par. 420C.
Defendant's claimant questionnaire and claim certification forms, which plaintiff filled out on February 23, 1987, required plaintiff to list "contacts and other efforts" she had made to obtain employment in the preceding two weeks. Plaintiff listed nine such contacts or efforts: (1) checked the Chicago daily newspapers for openings; (2) updated resume and portfolio and obtained references; (3) Banner Rubber Stamp, a former employer, sent resumes to customers; (4) phone call to Vail Printing; (5) phone call to ABC Business Forms; (6) phone call to "Auto Mart, Hoffman Pub"; (7) sent resume in response to a blind ad in the Chicago Tribune; (8) sent resume in response to an ad by Venus Records; and (9) sent resume to Oakton Community College.
The claims adjudicator determined that plaintiff was eligible for unemployment benefits because she had voluntarily left her employment after being found physically unable to perform her work by a physician, as provided under section 601B of the Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 48, par. 431.) After Durable objected, the claims adjudicator reviewed his determination and again found plaintiff eligible for benefits. Durable appealed the determination to a referee. Plaintiff did not attend the referee's hearing because she had moved to California. After the hearing, the referee affirmed the claims adjudicator's determination that plaintiff had voluntarily left work after being found physically unable to perform. The referee, however, found plaintiff ineligible for benefits under section 500C and modified the claims adjudicator's determination accordingly. Specifically, the referee concluded that plaintiff's search for work was not realistic in that it was restricted by plaintiff's "inability to stretch or reach out from a sitting position."
Pursuant to plaintiff's request, the referee granted a rehearing at which plaintiff testified by telephone from California. At the hearing, the referee reviewed the contacts or efforts to find other employment which plaintiff had listed in the claimant questionnaire and claim certification forms and asked if that was the extent of her work search for the relevant two-week period. Plaintiff responded "Okay." With regard to the referee's Conclusion that plaintiff had unrealistically limited her work search, plaintiff testified that she was looking for work as an artist and that she had worked as such for six to seven years before working as an engraver. She further stated that she thought herself physically able to work as an artist since her back condition existed during those years. She also stated that she did not think herself physically able to work as an engraver again but that she didn't think that was limiting her job search.
Finally, the referee asked plaintiff if she found time to look for work in person because she had not done so during the two-week period covered by the claimant questionnaire. Plaintiff responded that in those two weeks she was putting her portfolio and her resume together, that she was uncertain where to look for employment and that she was "basically regrouping."
The referee subsequently concluded, again, that plaintiff's work search was unrealistic since it was restricted by her inability to stretch or reach out from a sitting position. The referee also concluded that plaintiff made no contacts in person with prospective employers during the review period. The referee denied plaintiff benefits under section 500C. The board of review affirmed the referee's decision.
At the hearing on plaintiff's complaint in the circuit court, Mark Miller, a nonattorney, appeared on behalf of plaintiff, who was in California. Defendant was represented by an assistant Attorney General. Defendant objected to Miller's appearance on plaintiff's behalf inasmuch as Illinois law prohibits a non-lawyer from representing anyone other than himself. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 13, pars. 1, 11.) Defendant also requested a continuance to allow plaintiff to obtain representation by an attorney.
The trial court denied the request and allowed Miller to represent plaintiff. In doing so, the trial court relied upon the fact, although not in haec verba, that the Act allows a union or any duly authorized agent to represent any individual or entity in proceedings under the Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 48, par. 474b.) It also relied upon the fact that the office of the clerk of the circuit court of Cook County had informed plaintiff by letter that if she could not obtain an attorney to represent her, a ...