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03/31/95 UNITED LEGAL FOUNDATION AND ELIJAH

March 31, 1995

UNITED LEGAL FOUNDATION AND THE ELIJAH MUHAMMAD FOUNDATION, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE; THOMAS C. HYNES, COOK COUNTY ASSESSOR; EDWARD J. ROSEWELL, COOK COUNTY TREASURER AND COLLECTOR; DAVID D. ORR, COOK COUNTY CLERK; ROSENTHAL FREDERICK, A/K/A FREDERIC ROSENTHAL; JESSE WEST; AND OAK PARK INVESTMENTS, INC., DEFENDANTS. UNITED LEGAL FOUNDATION AND THE ELIJAH MUHAMMAD FOUNDATION, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES, V. OAK PARK INVESTMENTS, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. The Honorable Alexander P. White, Judge Presiding.

As Corrected April 3, 1995. Rehearing Denied May 26, 1995. Released for Publication June 23, 1995.

The Honorable Justice T. O'brien delivered the opinion of the court: MC Nulty, J., concurs. Cousins, P.j., dissents.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'brien

[EDITOR'S NOTE: THE ORIGINAL SLIP OPINION CONTAINED ILLEGIBLE WORDS AND/OR MISSING TEXT.]

The Honorable Justice T. O'BRIEN delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiffs, the United Legal Foundations and the Elijah Muhammad Foundation (collectively, the Foundations), obtained a preliminary injunction against defendant Oak Park Investments, Inc. (Oak Park). The circuit court enjoined Oak Park from proceeding on its petition for the issuance of a tax deed. Oak Park challenges the propriety of the injunction. We reverse.

Background

The Foundations acquired certain properties in 1989. In January 1991, the Foundations filed applications for tax exemptions for the property for the year 1990. The Cook County Board of Appeals denied the applications, and the Foundations sought a hearing from the Department. The Department conducted a hearing and affirmed the Board of Appeals' denial on January 13, 1993. The Foundations filed a complaint for administrative review of the Department's decision on February 17, 1993. In addition to naming the Department as a defendant, the Foundations also named Thomas C. Hynes, Cook County Assessor, Edward Rosewell, Cook County Treasurer, and David Orr, Cook County Clerk (collectively, County defendants) as defendants. The Foundations alleged that the County defendants illegally had assessed the property during the time the exemption applications were under consideration. They further claimed the County defendants had treated the property as delinquent by "offering [them] for sale for alleged delinquent taxes." The Foundations also challenged the Department's findings as to the Foundations' status as charitable organizations as well as the Department's findings regarding the use of the property during the time in question.

Eleven months passed without any significant action in the case. On January 25, 1994, the Foundations moved for summary judgment and a preliminary injunction. In the motion, the Foundations claimed several of the parcels subject to administrative review had been sold, with the redemption period to expire on February 14, 1994. They also asserted they were without funds to redeem any of the property. The Foundations maintained they were entitled to injunctive relief because they were without a remedy at law and would suffer irreparable injury in losing the property. The Foundations identified Oak Park as one of the tax buyers.

The circuit court permitted the Foundations to amend their complaint to include as defendants the various tax buyers who had purchased the back taxes of the lots at issue. The Foundations again sought administrative review against the Department and requested injunctive relief against the County defendants and the tax buyers. Ultimately, the Foundations filed a three count second amended complaint. In Count I, the Foundations sought administrative review of the Department's decision regarding the tax exempt status of the property. Count II sought injunctive relief against the County defendants, and Count III sought injunctive relief against Oak Park and various other tax buyers.

In its motion to dismiss, Oak Park maintained that it had purchased the property at the annual tax sale held on February 24, 1993. The sale was conducted pursuant to a circuit court order of judgment and sale. Oak Park argued the Foundations' injunctive action constituted an improper collateral attack on the judgment and sale proceedings. Oak Park claimed it had filed a tax deed petition on July 1, 1993, of which the Foundations had notice. The Foundations did not deny receiving notice.

The circuit court indicated that it would hear and decide the administrative review portion of the second amended complaint at a later date. However, the court stayed the effect of the Department's denial of the Foundations' applications for tax exemption. *fn1

As to Oak Park and the County defendants, the circuit court ruled the Foundations had met the requirements for a preliminary injunction, concluding that they would suffer irreparable harm in the loss of the property. The court found the Foundations had a protectable interest in the property, were without an adequate remedy at law, and were likely to succeed on the merits. The court enjoined Oak Park from procuring the forfeiture of plaintiffs' "rights regarding the tax proceedings which are the subject hereof" or procuring "the issuance of a tax deed respecting the subject property *** ." The order further "tolled and stopped the running of the period of plaintiffs' redemption respecting the tax sale *** until resolution of this cause." In other words, the injunction prohibited Oak Park from obtaining its tax deed until the circuit court completed its administrative review of the Department's denial of the Foundations' application for tax exemption. Oak Park appealed.

Analysis

Both the Department and Oak Park maintain the circuit court improperly granted the preliminary injunction because the court only had jurisdiction to review the propriety of the Department's exemption decision. We disagree.

Although section 138 of the Revenue Act of 1939 (35 ILCS 205/138 (West 1992) now 35 ILCS 200/8-40 (West 1994 Supp.)) *fn2 gives the circuit court the power to review final decisions rendered by the Department, the preliminary injunction which is the subject of this appeal had nothing to do with the administrative review action. The circuit court here allowed the Foundations to amend their administrative review complaint to include separate counts for injunctive relief against defendants other than the Department. The circuit court is vested with the power to grant ...


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