Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Monica Reynolds, Judge Presiding.
Buckley, Campbell, Manning
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Buckley
JUSTICE BUCKLEY delivered the opinion of the court:
On September 6, 1991, the Department of Transportation of the State of Illinois ("IDOT") filed a complaint for administrative review in the circuit court of Cook County seeking to overturn a decision of the Illinois Commerce Commission ("ICC"). The trial Judge dismissed IDOT'S complaint as statutorily time barred. IDOT filed this timely appeal.
The facts relevant to this appeal are as follows: IDOT sought to use its power of eminent domain to acquire a temporary easement over certain property owned by the Chicago & Northwestern Transportation Company, Inc. ("CNW"). On May 8, 1991, the ICC issued an order in which it refused to approve IDOT's request for the temporary easement. This order was served on the parties on May 16, 1991. On June 12, 1991, IDOT mailed its motion for rehearing to the ICC. The rehearing motion was docketed before the ICC on June 17, 1991. On August 12, 1991, 56 days later, the ICC issued the following order:
"Notice is hereby given that the Commission in conference on August 7, 1991, DENIED the Motion for Rehearing." (Emphasis in original.)
Subsequently, on September 6, 1991, IDOT filed its complaint for administrative review in the circuit court.
CNW responded by filing a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction on the ground that IDOT's complaint was untimely. Specifically, CNW asserted that, according to the Illinois Commercial Transportation Law (the "Act"), the ICC can either issue a ruling on a motion for rehearing within 45 days or extend that period in writing to 90 days. CNW argued that, according to the Act, if the ICC fails to act within 45 days of the filing of a motion for rehearing, then the motion is "deemed denied by operation of law." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 95 1/2, par. 18c-2110(f) (now 625 ILCS 5/18c-2110(f) (West 1992)).) CNW contended, therefore, that since the ICC did not extend that period in writing, the motion was deemed denied as a matter of law after 45 days and the ICC's order of August 12, 1991, was a "nullity." Consequently, CNW maintained that IDOT's September 6, 1991 filing of its complaint for administrative review was not within the statutorily required 35 days after the denial of its motion for rehearing. Subsequently, the ICC filed its own motion to dismiss and adopted the argument of CNW.
IDOT, on the other hand, argued that the August 12, 1991 order was the statutorily required writing and "that the order indicatedthat the ICC had extended the time for consideration to 90 days." Thus, IDOT asserted that the ICC issued a valid order and that, consequently, its complaint for administrative review was filed within 35 days after the denial of its motion for rehearing. The trial Judge found that the complaint was untimely filed and granted the motions to dismiss. IDOT then filed this timely appeal.
The sole issue on appeal is whether the trial Judge erred in dismissing IDOT's complaint for administrative review on the ground that it was filed in an untimely manner. IDOT filed its motion for rehearing with the ICC on June 17, 1991. If the motion was denied by operation of law 45 days later on August 1, 1991, IDOT had until September 5, 1991, to seek judicial review. Consequently, the ICC and CNW contend that, since IDOT filed its complaint for review on September 6, 1991, it was untimely. If, however, as IDOT maintains, the ICC properly extended the period to 90 days and the motion was denied by order on August 12, 1991, its complaint for administrative review in the circuit court was well within the required 35-day review period.
A court's duty in construing a statute is to ascertain and effectuate the legislature's intent by first looking at the statutory language itself. ( In re Marriage of Logston (1984), 103 Ill. 2d 266, 277, 469 N.E.2d 167, 171, 82 Ill. Dec. 633.) If the language is clear it must be given effect and the court should not look to extrinsic aids for construction. ( Logston, 103 Ill. 2d at 277, 469 N.E.2d at 167.) "There is no rule of construction which authorizes a court to declare that the legislature did not mean what the plain language of the statute imports." ( People v. Moore (1978), 69 Ill. 2d 520, 523, 372 N.E.2d 666, 668, 14 Ill. Dec. 470, citing Franzese v. Trinko (1977), 66 Ill. 2d 136, 139-40, 361 N.E.2d 585, 587, 5 Ill. Dec. 262.) Additionally, courts will avoid construing a statute in a manner "which would render any portion of it meaningless or void." ( Harris v. Manor Healthcare Corp. (1986), 111 Ill. 2d 350, 363, 489 N.E.2d 1374, 1379, 95 Ill. Dec. 510.) Moreover, courts will assume the legislature did not pass a law whose provisions are absurd or senseless. Harris, 111 Ill. 2d at 363, 489 N.E.2d at 1379.
The Illinois Commercial Transportation Law (the "Act") provides that, in order to have standing to seek judicial review of an ICC order, a person must exhaust his administrative remedies. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 95 1/2, par. 18c-2201 (now 625 ILCS 5/18c-2201 (West 1992)).) In order to exhaust his administrative remedies, a person must, inter alia, file "a timely motion for reconsideration or rehearing which was denied by the or by operation of law. " (Emphasis added.) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 95 1/2, par. 18c-2201(2) (now 625 ILCS 5/18c-2201(2) (West 1992)).) Section 18c-2110 of the Actsets forth the time period in which the ICC must grant or deny a timely filed motion for rehearing and prescribes at what point a motion is deemed to have been denied by operation of law if the ICC fails to act. Specifically, section 18c-2110(f) of the Act provides as follows:
"(f) Grant or Denial of Motions. The Commission may grant or deny such motions, in whole or in part. If the Commission grants such a motion a new order shall be issued within 180 days after service of the order granting the motion unless the order granting the motion also disposed of the issues in the proceeding and is therefore a final, appealable order. If the Commission fails to act on any such motion within 45 days after it is filed, or up to 90 days if the period for acting on the motion has been extended by the Commission in writing, the motion shall be deemed to have been denied by operation of law. (Emphasis added.) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 95 1/2, par. 18c-2110(f) (now 625 ILCS 5/18c-2210(f) (West 1992)).)
Once a motion for rehearing has been denied, "[a] petition for judicial review must be filed within 35 days after the order of the becomes final." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 95 1/2, par. 18c-2201(3) (now 625 ILCS 5/18c-2201(3) (West 1992)).) According to section 3-101 of the Administrative Review Law, if an administrative agency rule requires an application for rehearing before judicial review can be sought, then any agency decision becomes final when the rehearing is had or denied. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 110, par. 3-101 (now 735 ILCS 5/3-101 (West 1992)).) Moreover, appeals from ICC decisions "are purely ...