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03/20/96 CRAIG STRAUB v. NIKKI ZOLLAR

March 20, 1996

CRAIG STRAUB, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
NIKKI ZOLLAR, DIRECTOR, ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF PROFESSIONAL REGULATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Edwin M. Berman, Judge Presiding.

Presiding Justice Rizzi delivered the opinion of the court: Tully, J., and Cerda, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rizzi

PRESIDING JUSTICE RIZZI delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff appeals from the dismissal of his complaint for administrative review from a decision by the Department of Professional Regulation (Department) suspending his license to practice dentistry. Plaintiff maintains that the circuit court erred in: (1) determining that his failure to name the Department in his complaint for administrative review was a fatal defect; (2) failing to retroactively apply the amendment to the relevant statute which would have permitted him additional time to name the necessary parties; (3) failing to default the named Department director who had not filed her appearance within the specified time; and (4) denying his motion for a stay of the license suspension pending the court's consideration of the merits of this case. Plaintiff also ascribes error to the hearing officer and the director in their handling of the substantive matter pertinent to his case. We affirm.

The record shows that on June 10, 1987, plaintiff, a dentist licensed to practice in Illinois, entered a consent order with the Department concerning allegations that he had furnished services of a grossly inferior quality to public aid recipients, and had failed to record his diagnoses of their conditions and medical history or the treatment he had rendered or prescribed. Pursuant to the consent order, plaintiff was placed on probationary status and required to complete 100 hours of continuing education courses in the area of record keeping and practice management subject to the special conditions set forth in the order.

On February 14, 1991, the Department filed a complaint against plaintiff alleging that he had not successfully complied with the consent order during the probationary period and sought the revocation or suspension of his license. Plaintiff disputed the allegations and a hearing was held before the Board of Dentistry (Board) of the Department on December 23, 1991. In that proceeding, plaintiff testified to the courses and seminars he had taken to fulfill the conditions of the consent order including the attainment of a master of business administration degree from DePaul University. He also documented his attempts to obtain approval for some of the courses in that curriculum and those in other venues to be applied to the requirements of the consent order.

The Board considered the evidence and arguments presented, then determined that plaintiff's failure to comply with the conditions of the consent order constituted improper, unprofessional and dishonorable conduct in violation of the Dental Practice Act. On September 22, 1992, the Board recommended to the director of the Department that plaintiff's license be suspended until he had successfully completed the requirements specified in the consent order. This recommendation was signed by the chairman and the members of the Board.

Plaintiff challenged this recommendation in a motion for rehearing filed on December 1, 1992. Then, after several exchanges with the Department, the director denied plaintiff's request. On June 3, 1993, the director entered an order adopting the findings of fact, conclusions of law and the recommendation of the Board and suspended plaintiff's license pending the completion of the education requirements set forth in the consent order.

On July 8, 1993, plaintiff filed a complaint for administrative review of this decision naming as the sole defendant the director, who was served with summons. When the director failed to file an answer or appearance within 35 days after the issuance of this summons, plaintiff filed a motion for default. The court denied that motion on September 13, 1993, and allowed the director to file an appearance in the case. On the following day the director filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint based on his failure to comply with section 3-107 of the Administrative Review Law (Review Law) (735 ILCS 5/3-107 (West 1992)), which required him to name and serve all parties of record within 35 days of the entry of the order. The director maintained that the Department was a party of record, and since plaintiff had not named or served it, his complaint should be dismissed with prejudice.

Plaintiff responded with a motion to stay the suspension pending a final decision by the circuit court. He subsequently filed a motion for a ruling on his request, but the court denied it on May 9, 1994, and suggested that he bring up the matter on the hearing date.

In the interim, plaintiff filed an amended complaint alleging that the section of the Dental Practice Act which formed the basis of his suspension was unconstitutionally vague and unenforceable. He also maintained in an amended supplemental response to the director's motion to dismiss that the director was the only necessary party of record. In another amended supplemental response filed on May 10, 1994, plaintiff noted that the applicable statute had been amended to allow plaintiff an additional 21 days to serve unnamed parties of record.

The director replied that this amendment was inapplicable to the case at bar. A hearing was held on June 6, 1994, and two weeks later the court granted the director's motion to dismiss with prejudice. In announcing its decision, the court noted that the Department had been named twice in the suspension order and that plaintiff's failure to name and serve the Department required that his complaint for administrative review be dismissed.

Where expressly adopted, the Review Law is the exclusive method of reviewing the decision of an administrative agency. Siciliano v. Illinois Racing Board (1994), 264 Ill. App. 3d 1085, 1087, 637 N.E.2d 612, 614, 202 Ill. Dec. 73. In this case, the Dental Practice Act expressly provides that all final administrative decisions of the Department are subject to judicial review pursuant to the provisions of the Review Law. 225 ILCS 25/32 (West 1992). Thus, the suspension of plaintiff's license to practice dentistry was reviewable only through the Review Law. Siciliano, 264 Ill. App. 3d at 1088, 637 N.E.2d at 614.

The relevant sections of the Review Law in effect at the time plaintiff filed his complaint for administrative review were sections 3-102, 3-103, and 3-107. Gilty v. Oak Park Board of Fire & Police Commissioners (1991), 218 Ill. App. 3d 1078, 1083, 578 N.E.2d 1294, 1298, 161 Ill. Dec. 648. The scope ...


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