APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, SECOND DIVISION
General, Defendant and Intervenor-Appellee)
541 N.E.2d 1220, 185 Ill. App. 3d 907, 133 Ill. Dec. 782
June 27, 1989; As Corrected October 23, 1989.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Thomas J. O'Brien, Judge, presiding. 1989.IL.1001
JUSTICE SCARIANO delivered the opinion of the court. BILANDIC, P.J., and DiVITO, J., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE SCARIANO
Plaintiffs appeal the granting of summary judgment in favor of defendants, challenging the constitutionality of the Illinois Not-for-Profit Dispute Resolution Center Act (hereinafter the Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 37, pars. 851 through 856), and arguing that it violates section 12 of article I, section 13 of article IV, and section 1 of article II of the Illinois Constitution, as well as the due process and equal protection clauses of the United States and Illinois Constitutions; and that the trial court erred in deferring to the legislature's findings of fact.
"[That] the resolution of certain disputes can be costly and time-consuming in the context of a formal judicial proceeding; and that mediation of disputes has a great potential for efficiently reducing the volume of matters which burden the court system in this State; and that unresolved disputes which individually may be of small social or economic magnitude are collectively of enormous social and economic consequence; and that many seemingly minor conflicts between individuals may escalate into major social problems unless resolved early in an atmosphere in which the disputants can discuss their differences through an informal yet structured process; and that there is a compelling need in a complex society for dispute resolution centers in which people can participate in creating lasting resolutions to ongoing conflicts; and that not-for-profit dispute resolution centers can make a substantial contribution to the operation and maintenance of the courts of this State by keeping some matters from litigation and by providing a mechanism for resolving certain pending matters." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 37, par. 851.)
A dispute resolution center (hereinafter DRC) is defined as an organization that is "organized to provide mediation services at no charge to disputants who agree to utilize its services," and disputes handled "shall include, but not be limited to, disputes referred from the court system." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 37, par. 852(a).) All communications made during the resolution process, and all DRC memoranda, work product or case files are confidential. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 37, par. 856.
The Act provides that dispute resolution funds are to be established in (1) judicial circuits that include a county with a population in excess of 2 million inhabitants; and (2) in other judicial circuits, when the chief Judge of that circuit finds that a DRC "would significantly enhance the administration of Justice," and that a DRC "exists or should be created in the judicial circuit." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 37, pars. 853(b)(1), (b)(2).) In judicial circuits in which a dispute resolution fund is established, "the clerks of the circuit court shall charge and collect a dispute resolution fund fee of $1, such fee to be paid by the party initiating the action at the time of filing the first pleading in all civil cases." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 37, par. 853(c).) The fees are "assessable as costs, and shall be remitted by such clerk monthly to the county treasurers," who, in turn, shall disburse them to the dispute resolution fund. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 37, par. 853(c).
The chief Judge of the judicial circuit administers the fund and is to make yearly disbursements to qualified DRCs within the judicial circuit. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 37, par. 854(a).) Disbursements are "based on each center's proportionate share of the total number of cases resolved by all qualified centers in that circuit during the year prior to application"; however, no DRC may receive more than $200,000 in any one year, and amounts collected but not disbursed must be "paid to the county treasurer for the administration of Justice in the judicial circuit." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 37, pars. 854(b), (c)(1).) A DRC may also accept funds from other public entities or private sources. Additionally, the chief Judge is responsible for establishing rules and standards pertaining to the operation of DRCs within the circuit. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 37, pars. 855(a), (b).
On November 12, 1987, plaintiffs filed the instant suit on behalf of themselves and "all persons similarly situated," naming the clerk of the circuit court, his chief deputy, and the treasurer of Cook County as defendants; however, no class was certified. Plaintiffs alleged that the Act (1) violates their due process and equal protection rights in violation of the United States and Illinois Constitutions; (2) contravenes the prohibition against special legislation contained in article IV, section 13, of the Illinois Constitution; (3) offends article I, section 12, of the Illinois Constitution, which provides that "[every] person . . . shall obtain Justice by law, freely, completely, and promptly"; and (4) violates the doctrine of separation of powers found in article II, section 1, of the Illinois Constitution. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, an accounting, restitution, and attorney fees and costs.
The Illinois Attorney General was granted leave to intervene in the suit as a defendant, and the Chicago Bar Association was given leave to appear as amicus curiae on behalf of defendants. On December 9, 1988, the circuit court ruled on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, and held in favor of defendant, stating:
"[The] question presented is whether the fee paid to fund the dispute resolution center has any relation to the maintenance or operation of the circuit court system by reducing the burdens a litigant encounters in processing a case through that court system and the burden the court system itself bears by processing, monitoring, administering, and resolving civil disputes of all kinds?
Does the imposition of the fee in question, upon civil litigants who file a first pleading to support dispute resolution centers, not a part of the Illinois court system'improve the administration of Justice thus benefitting every civil litigant?' Or, put another way, does the operation of a dispute resolution center, not a part of the Illinois court system, relate to the 'operation and maintenance of the judicial system?'
The establishment of an alternative method of dispute resolution may tend to reduce the number of cases filed or offer a potential for earlier resolution by non-judicial methods. Thus, persons who elect to litigate in the county system will encounter fewer cases with which to compete for judicial attention and Disposition. The reduction of time that litigants suffer in trial delay is related to the maintenance and operation of the court system. Therefore, the Act can reasonably be said to apply to 'court purposes.'
. . . [Every] litigant who files suit and pays a fee benefits from the existence of a dispute resolution system that potentially reduces the number of cases filed, or eventually required to be resolved, in the circuit court, thus affording ...