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10/19/95 ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE ILLINOIS COURTS ET

October 19, 1995

ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE ILLINOIS COURTS ET AL., PETITIONERS,
v.
STATE AND MUNICIPAL TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS AND HELPERS UNION, LOCAL 726, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, AFL-CIO, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



The Honorable Justice Freeman, dissenting.

PER CURIAM:

This is an original action for a writ of prohibition (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, ยง 4(a); 134 Ill. 2d R. 381) brought by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts and by 20 of the 22 chief circuit judges of the State of Illinois. In their complaint, the plaintiffs seek to prohibit the Illinois State Labor Relations Board from considering a union representation/certification petition submitted to the State Board pursuant to the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (5 ILCS 315/1 through 27 (West 1992)). As we explain below, we conclude that separation of powers concerns require that this court, as an employer of the employees at issue here, not be subject to the authority of the administrative agency. Accordingly, we issue the requested writ of prohibition and enjoin the administrative agency from proceeding further with the present matter.

The origins of the case at bar lie in a representation/certification petition filed with the Illinois State Labor Relations Board on November 30, 1992, by Local 726 of the State and Municipal Teamsters, Chauffeurs and Helpers Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, AFL-CIO (Local 726). The Illinois State Labor Relations Board (State Board) has jurisdiction "over collective bargaining matters between employee organizations and the State of Illinois," among other employers. (5 ILCS 315/5(a) (West 1992).) Local 726 is seeking to represent, for collective-bargaining purposes pursuant to the Public Labor Relations Act, certified court reporters employed in the circuit courts of Illinois. The union's petition designated the State of Illinois as the employer of the court reporters and identified the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts as the employer representative. A copy of the petition was served on William M. Madden, then acting director of the Administrative Office.

An evidentiary hearing on the petition was conducted on January 11, 1993. At the hearing, Local 726 asserted that the State is the employer of the court reporters and that the Administrative Office is an appropriate employer representative. The Administrative Office took an opposing view, contending that the court reporters in each circuit are jointly employed by this court and the chief judge of the circuit. The Administrative Office maintained further that this court and the chief judges would be necessary parties to a proceeding under the Act but that the State Board could not exercise jurisdiction over the court without violating the separation of powers doctrine. The only witness to testify at the hearing was the acting director of the Administrative Office.

The hearing officer issued a recommended decision and order on February 23, 1993. The hearing officer found that this court is the sole employer of the court reporters. The hearing officer rejected the Administrative Office's contention that the chief circuit judges should be viewed as joint employers, concluding that whatever authority the chief judges might possess in that regard is subject to the greater authority of this court. In addition, the hearing officer disagreed with the Administrative Office's argument that this court cannot be subject to the jurisdiction of the State Board. The hearing officer believed that proceedings under the Labor Act would affect only nonjudicial, administrative matters and thus would not intrude on this court's judicial function. The hearing officer directed that a representation election be held in a bargaining unit that would comprise all court reporters employed by the State in the circuit courts, with the exception of court reporters serving in administrative, supervisory, confidential, or managerial capacities.

The Administrative Office and Local 726 separately filed exceptions to the hearing officer's recommended decision and order. Both parties challenged the hearing officer's conclusion that the supreme court is the sole employer of the court reporters. After hearing arguments by the two parties, the Illinois State Labor Relations Board issued a decision and order in the matter on May 25, 1993. In its decision, the State Board identified three possible employers of the court reporters: this court, the Administrative Office, and the chief judges of the State's 22 judicial circuits. The Board noted that only the Administrative Office had been served with notice of the proceedings and had appeared at the evidentiary hearing; without the participation of the two other potential employers, the Board found the record insufficient to identify the employer or employers of the court reporters. The Board therefore remanded the matter to the hearing officer for further proceedings, with directions to the hearing officer to amend the union's certification/representation petition and to serve the amended petition on the supreme court, the Administrative Office, and the 22 chief judges. The Board also directed the hearing officer to conduct further hearings as necessary and to issue a supplemental recommended decision and order.

A supplemental hearing was scheduled for June 18, 1993. The chief judges jointly entered their appearances before the Board on June 3, 1993; this court did not enter an appearance. On June 11, 1993, the Administrative Office and 20 of the 22 chief circuit judges instituted the present case, filing in this court a motion for leave to file an original complaint for a writ of prohibition. Named as defendants in the complaint are the State Board and Local 726. By their complaint, the plaintiffs seek to prevent the hearing officer and the State Board from taking any further action on the pending representation/certification petition. We entered an order staying the administrative proceedings, and we later granted the plaintiffs leave to file the present complaint for a writ of prohibition.

The plaintiffs contend that the supreme court and the chief judges are joint employers of the official court reporters. The plaintiffs further maintain that the Public Labor Relations Act cannot be applied to supreme court employees without infringing on this court's constitutional authority and violating the separation of powers doctrine. In response, the State Board and Local 726 both argue that the present matter is not ripe for adjudication because a number of factual questions remain unresolved and because the State Board has not decided any issue adversely to this court. The State Board also contends that the matter falls within its primary jurisdiction and that this court should therefore defer to the agency so that the agency may make the initial determination. With respect to the separation of powers question, the Board and Local 726 contend that prior decisions of this court have established that there is no constitutional infirmity in applying the Labor Act to the judicial branch and, in any event, that application of the Act to employees of this court does not infringe on this court's judicial authority. In addition to the preceding arguments, Local 726 raises the alternative contention that this court alone should be regarded as the employer of the court reporters and that the Administrative Office is an appropriate employer representative.

The parties agree that a writ of prohibition will not be awarded unless the following prerequisites have been satisfied:

"For a writ of prohibition to be issued, the action to be prohibited must be judicial or quasi-judicial in nature; the jurisdiction of the tribunal against which the writ is sought must be inferior to that of the issuing court; the action to be prohibited must be either outside the tribunal's jurisdiction or, if within its jurisdiction, beyond its legitimate authority; and the petitioner must be without any other adequate remedy. ( People ex rel. No. 3 J. & E. Discount, Inc. v. Whitler (1980), 81 Ill. 2d 473, 479-80, 43 Ill. Dec. 721, 410 N.E.2d 854.)" Orenic v. Illinois State Labor Relations Board (1989), 127 Ill. 2d 453, 468, 130 Ill. Dec. 455, 537 N.E.2d 784.

The parties also agree that the first two requirements governing the issuance of a writ of prohibition have been met in this case: the action to be prohibited is quasi-judicial in nature, and the tribunal against which the writ is sought is inferior to this court. The present dispute centers on the third and fourth requirements listed above: whether the action to be prohibited is outside the Board's jurisdiction or authority, and whether the plaintiffs are without any other adequate remedy. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that this is a proper case for prohibition.

We will determine, as a threshold matter, whether this court is an employer of the official court reporters. Although constitutional concerns could still be present even in the absence of a direct employment relationship between this court and the court reporters, the existence of that relationship provides one means of gauging the potential impact of the Act on this court's administrative and supervisory authority over the judicial branch of State government. Even if this court were not an employer of the court reporters, constitutional problems could still arise, given the nature of the work of the court reporters and this court's authority over the judicial system.

The Illinois Public Labor Relations Act defines "employer" by listing the various public entities to which the Act is and is not applicable. (5 ILCS 315/3 (o) (West 1992).) Although the statutory definition of that term evinces the broad scope of the legislation, it provides little assistance in deciding who, among several public entities asserting an employment relationship with the members of a proposed bargaining unit, is correctly recognized as their employer.

The State Board has applied a functional analysis in resolving this question. According to the Board's test, "'Who is the employer' is a question of who has the authority to hire, promote, evaluate, discipline, discharge and set work rules for the employees in question, as well as the authority to obtain funding and to set fringe benefits." (Du Page County Board, 1 Pub. Employee Rep. (Ill.) par. 2003, Nos. S-RC-9, S-RC-17, at VIII-13 (ISLRB April 26, 1995) (hereinafter 1 Pub. Employee Rep. (Ill.) par. 2003).) Under that standard, a party will be regarded as an employer if the party's presence at the bargaining table is necessary to the establishment of an effective bargaining relationship. (Du Page County Board, 1 Pub. Employee Rep. (Ill.) par. 2003, at VIII-14.) The appellate court has previously relied on the State Board's functional test (see City of Rockford v. Illinois State Labor Relations Board (1987), 158 Ill. App. 3d 166, 171, 111 Ill. Dec. 196, 512 N.E.2d 100), and there can be no objection to applying it in a case like this one, in which the extent of the Board's authority over another branch of State government is at issue.

Before addressing this issue, however, we must dispose of two threshold questions raised by the State Board. First, unlike the Board, we do not believe that further administrative hearings are necessary before we are able to determine which public entity is properly regarded as the employer of the court reporters. The relevant legislation affords a sufficient basis on which we may determine this question as a matter of law, and the presentation of further testimony and argument to the agency would not materially advance this inquiry. Similarly, we do not agree with the State Board that the doctrine of primary jurisdiction requires that this court defer to the administrative agency so that the agency may initially decide who employs the court reporters. Under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction, a court, though having jurisdiction over a case, will refer the matter to an administrative agency with expertise in the subject. ( Kellerman v. MCI Telecommunications Corp. (1986), 112 Ill. 2d 428, 444, 98 Ill. Dec. 24, 493 N.E.2d 1045.) The doctrine is designed to promote uniformity in regulation and to gain the benefit of the agency's special expertise. ( United States v. Western Pacific R.R. Co. (1956), 352 U.S. 59, 63-64, 1 L. Ed. 2d 126, 132, 77 S. Ct. 161, 165.) Referral to the customary agency is not warranted, however, when regularity consistency is not a concern and the matter does not require "the judgment of a technically expert body" for its resolution. ( Nader v. Allegheny Airlines, Inc. (1976), 426 U.S. 290, 304-06, 48 L. Ed. 2d 643, 655-56, 96 S. Ct. 1978, 1987-88; Kellerman, 112 Ill. 2d at 445.) The case before us involves unique questions of statutory and constitutional interpretation that fall within the range of our special competence rather than the State Board's. Accordingly, we do not believe that the doctrine of primary jurisdiction requires that we defer to the pending agency proceeding.

Considering now the employer question, we agree with the plaintiffs that this court must be regarded as an employer of the court reporters. The relevant statutes reflect the substantial authority that this court exercises over different aspects of the terms and conditions of the court reporters' employment. To be sure, many of these powers are divided by statute between this court and the chief judge of each circuit, and this court and the chief judges could therefore be regarded as joint employers (see Orenic v. Illinois State Labor Relations Board (1989), 127 Ill. 2d 453, 474, 130 Ill. Dec. 455, 537 N.E.2d 784), though we do not determine the chief judges' status here. Under the Court Reporters Act (705 ILCS 70/1 through 9 (West 1992)), this court determines the number of court reporters in each circuit (705 ILCS 70/3 (West 1992)), while the chief judge of the circuit decides whom to hire and discharge (705 ILCS 70/4 (West 1992)). Acting within statutory guidelines, this court sets the salaries for the court reporters. (705 ILCS 70/8(a) (West 1992).) A chief judge has the authority to assign a court reporter anywhere within his or her circuit, while this court may transfer a reporter to a different circuit. (705 ILCS 70/6 (West 1992).) Using criteria set by this court, chief judges schedule holidays, vacations, and sick time for individual court reporters. This court establishes statewide standards for the conduct of court reporters. This court is also responsible for preparing and administering proficiency tests for court reporters. 705 ILCS 70/7 (West 1992).

Applying the State Board's own test for determining the identity of an employer, we conclude that this court would clearly be a necessary party to any bargaining relationship involving the court reporters. Although this court does not directly control every aspect of employment enumerated in the Board's standard (see Du Page County Board, 1 Pub. Employee Rep. (Ill.) par. 2003, at VIII-13 (an employer "has the authority to hire, promote, evaluate, discipline, discharge and set work rules for the employees in question, as well as the authority to obtain funding and to set fringe benefits")), we believe that this court exercises a sufficient number of these powers that it must realistically be regarded as an employer, if not the employer, of the court reporters. This court sets performance standards, administers proficiency examinations, determines the number of court reporters who may be hired in a circuit, and establishes a salary schedule. This court also formulates holiday, sick leave, and vacation policies for the court reporters. Given our extensive control over significant aspects of the terms and conditions of court reporters' employment, we must conclude that this court is an employer of the court reporters.

Having made that determination, we must next decide whether the State Board may exercise jurisdiction over this court in a proceeding brought under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act. The plaintiffs argue that the State Board's exercise of jurisdiction in these circumstances would trench on this court's constitutional authority and would violate the separation of powers doctrine. In response, the defendants initially contend that two prior decisions of this court have already answered the major question here in their favor. Citing County of Kane v. Carlson (1987), 116 Ill. 2d 186, 107 Ill. Dec. 569, 507 N.E.2d 482, and Orenic v. Illinois State Labor Relations Board (1989), 127 Ill. 2d 453, 130 Ill. Dec. 455, 537 N.E.2d 784, the defendants maintain that those cases established that the Public Labor Relations Act is, on its face, applicable to all levels of the judicial branch. The defendants thus contend that we must reject the plaintiffs' constitutional challenge in this case.

We do not agree with the defendants that either County of Kane or Orenic controls the outcome here. Unlike the present case, both County of Kane and Orenic involved only employees at the circuit court level, who were employed by the chief judge of the circuit or by the circuit clerk. ( Orenic, 127 Ill. 2d at 456-57 (consolidating four proceedings involving assistant public defenders, bailiffs, stenographers, and bailiffs and jury commissioners); County of Kane, 116 Ill. 2d at 194-96 (consolidating two proceedings involving deputy circuit clerks and probation officers).) Notably, those cases did not involve the application of the Public Labor Relations Act to employees of this court. We note, too, that neither Orenic nor Kane County precludes a finding that the Act is unconstitutional in a particular result or application.

In addition, County of Kane expressly recognized that the decision in that case was simply a preliminary foray into the field; the opinion did not purport to answer, for all time, the various questions that were bound to arise as the Act came to be applied in additional fact settings. As the court explained:

"We emphasize the posture of the proceedings before us. The cases consolidated here are preliminary attempts to gauge the scope of the Act, and they come well in advance of any determinations by the State Board of the myriad questions that may be presented under the statutory scheme. Particular problems, including some on a constitutional level, are sure to arise as the broad provisions of the Act are applied to the unique workings of the judicial branch, but those questions are not before us here." ( County of Kane, 116 Ill. 2d at 210.)

As County of Kane suggests, the opinion in that case was intended to provide only an introductory guide to the future development of this area of the law.

In contrast to County of Kane and Orenic, the present case involves the operations of this court and our constitutional duty to exercise supervisory authority over the judicial system of this State. For these reasons, we must reject the defendants' argument that our prior decisions have already resolved the separation of powers question in their favor. The plaintiffs, for their part, urge us to reconsider the holdings in County of Kane and Orenic. Although a fresh examination of those decisions might be necessary at some point, there is no need for us to undertake that task at this time, for the two cases can be distinguished on the grounds set ...


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