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03/18/94 LESTER BONAGURO v. COUNTY OFFICERS

March 18, 1994

LESTER BONAGURO, APPELLANT,
v.
THE COUNTY OFFICERS ELECTORAL BOARD ET AL., APPELLEES.



Freeman, Heiple, Bilandic, Nickels

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Freeman

JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

The question presented for review is whether article VI, section 12(a), of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 12(a)) bars a political party from filling a vacancy in nomination for judicial office by party resolution. We need not reach this constitutional issue, because we hold that article 7 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/7-1 et seq. (West 1992)) does not authorize such a procedure.

BACKGROUND

Lester Bonaguro was a Republican candidate in the March 1992 primary election for circuit Judge for the 13th judicial subcircuit, Judgeship B, Cook County. He was elected as the Republican nominee to run for that office in the November 1992 general election.

No Democratic candidate ran in that primary election and none was nominated by petition. Subsequent to the primary, on May 14, 1992, the Democratic party nominated Arthur Janura as its candidate for that office. Janura was nominated by party resolution, purportedly authorized by section 7-61 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/7-61 (West 1992)).

Bonaguro filed objections to Janura's placement on the general election ballot with the State Board of Elections. He contended that Janura's nomination was unconstitutional. Bonaguro argued that article VI, section 12(a), of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 12(a)) requires candidates for judicial office to be nominated at primary elections or by petition, not by party resolution.

The State Board of Elections transferred the matter to the Cook County officers electoral board. (See 10 ILCS 5/10-8 (West 1992).) The electoral board overruled Bonaguro's objections and ordered that Janura's name be printed on the ballot for the November 1992 general election.

Bonaguro sought judicial review of the electoral board's decision in the circuit court of Cook County. (See 10 ILCS 5/10-10.1 (West 1992).) He named as respondents the Board of Elections, the electoral board, and Janura (appellees). The trial court confirmed the electoral board's decision. The court held that the Illinois Constitution does not bar a political party from filling judicial vacancies in nomination under Election Code section 7-61. The appellate court affirmed. (240 Ill. App. 3d 368.) We allowed Bonaguro's petition for leave to appeal (134 Ill. 2d R. 315(a)), and now reverse.

Discussion

Before reaching the merits, we must address at the outset a preliminary matter.

Mootness

We note, as did the appellate court, the obvious fact that the November 1992 election has already occurred and also that Bonaguro won. However, we agree with the appellate court that this cause is not moot.

One exception to the mootness doctrine allows a court to resolve an otherwise moot issue if the issue involves a substantial public interest. The criteria for application of the public interest exception are: (1) the public nature of the question, (2) the desirability of an authoritative determination for the purpose of guiding public officers, and (3) the likelihood that the question will recur. ( In re A Minor (1989), 127 Ill. 2d 247, 257, 130 Ill. Dec. 225, 537 N.E.2d 292; People ex rel. Wallace v. Labrenz (1952), 411 Ill. 618, 622, 104 N.E.2d 769.) A clear showing of each criterion is required to bring a case within the public interest exception. See Kohan v. Rimland School for Autistic Children (1981), 102 Ill. App. 3d 524, 527, 58 Ill. Dec. 197, 430 N.E.2d 139.

The present case meets this test. Of course, issues regarding the filling of judicial vacancies in nomination are of substantial public interest. Also, the appellate court correctly observed that issues regarding this subject are long-standing and have not been addressed by courts or the legislature (240 Ill. App. 3d at 371). (See Thurston v. State Board of Elections (1979), 76 Ill. 2d 385, 387-88, 30 Ill. Dec. 304, 392 N.E.2d 1349; Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, 1981 Annual Report to the Supreme Court of Illinois ...


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