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April 20, 1995


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Ogle County. Nos. 88-TX-1; 90-TX-39; 91-TX-46. Honorable John L. Moore and Dennis J. Riley, Judges, Presiding.

Rehearing Denied May 15, 1995.

Presiding Justice McLAREN delivered the opinion of the court: Bowman and Colwell, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mclaren

PRESIDING JUSTICE McLAREN delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiff, Tampam Farms, Inc. (Tampam), appeals from a decision of the trial court, after a bench trial, in favor of the defendants, supervisor of assessments for Ogle County, county treasurer of Ogle County, and the County of Ogle. The plaintiff also appeals from an earlier trial court decision to decertify the class which the plaintiff had hoped to represent against the defendants. We affirm.

The procedural history of this case needs amplification. The present litigation was initiated in 1986 by the plaintiff with a complaint seeking administrative review of the 1986 real estate tax assessments levied against the plaintiff's farmland located in Ogle County, Illinois. On June 3, 1988, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint which alleged that public roads and highways which lie within the legal description of the plaintiff's property, as well as other land of no agricultural value, were being improperly assessed and taxed by Ogle County authorities. These allegations constituted count I of the amended complaint. Additionally, the plaintiff sought certification as a representative party of all Ogle County farmers who were similarly situated. Also included in count I of the complaint was a claim for relief pursuant to the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1871 (42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1994)). The plaintiff's request for judicial review of the administrative appeal was now contained in count II of the amended complaint.

On October 24, 1988, Tampam filed a second amended complaint, which added to the section 1983 claim (42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1994)) in count I an allegation that the defendants had not debased the value of the farmland which contained fields of irregular size and shape.

Subsequently, the trial court, after a hearing, certified Tampam as the class representative for "all owners of farms in Ogle County, Illinois, containing public roads or highways, wasteland, and other land which has been illegally and unconstitutionally assessed and taxed by defendants."

The parties presented a stipulation for settlement to the trial court on May 2, 1989, which the court approved on that same date. The settlement agreement covered only the contentions in count I with reference to the improper assessment of public roads and highways and the improper assessment of wasteland. The administrative review contained in count II and the other issues contained in count I, specifically the assessor's failure to debase fields on the basis of their irregular size and shape and the alleged improper classification of certain lands, such as woodlots, were not settled by the stipulation. Under the settlement agreement, Tampam's attorneys also agreed to submit to the court their claims for fees and costs.

The trial court allowed the plaintiff attorney fees and costs in an amount which the plaintiff believed was inadequate. This court, on appeal, affirmed the trial court's decision with regard to awarding attorney fees and costs to the plaintiff for the wasteland claim under section 1988 (42 U.S.C. § 1988 (1994)) but not the public roads claim under section 1988 (42 U.S.C. § 1988 (1994), for the public roads claim was not viable under section 1983 (42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1994)). See Tampam, Inc. v. Property Tax Appeal Board (1991), 208 Ill. App. 3d 127, 153 Ill. Dec. 55, 566 N.E.2d 905.

Subsequently, proceedings were reinstated before the trial court with regard to the remaining claims in the plaintiff's complaint. On September 24, 1990, count II of the plaintiff's complaint, which concerned the review of a final administrative decision, was dismissed without prejudice and without objection from the plaintiff. Consequently, the Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB) was dropped as a defendant.

The plaintiff's third amended complaint, filed on May 24, 1993, contained only the section 1983 count (42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1994)).

The plaintiff also attempted to certify a class, using the same language as it had before the settlement, but omitting language relating to the claims which were resolved via the stipulation. The trial court denied certification of the class, reasoning:

"The plaintiff, TAMPAM, INC., is the only taxpayer that paid the subject tax under protest and, otherwise, followed the state remedies; and, therefore, it has a different set of ...

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