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09/19/96 HOMER E. HANRAHAN v. JAMES K. WILLIAMS ET

September 19, 1996

HOMER E. HANRAHAN, APPELLEE,
v.
JAMES K. WILLIAMS ET AL., APPELLANTS.



The Honorable Justice Miller delivered the opinion of the court:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Miller

JUSTICE MILLER delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff, Homer E. Hanrahan, filed a second-amended complaint in the circuit court of Lee County against defendants, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board and its individual members (collectively, the Board), challenging the denial of his parole. In count III, Hanrahan sought the issuance of a common law writ of certiorari to obtain review of the Board's June 1993 decision to deny him parole. The circuit court dismissed count III as "insufficient in law," and found no just reason for delaying appeal of the order (155 Ill. 2d R. 304(a)). The appellate court reversed the dismissal. 267 Ill. App. 3d 735, 643 N.E.2d 262, 205 Ill. Dec. 311. We granted the Board's petition for leave to appeal (155 Ill. 2d R. 315), and allowed amici curiae to join in filing a brief (155 Ill. 2d R. 345).

BACKGROUND

In 1976, a jury found Hanrahan guilty of murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated battery, and conspiracy. He was sentenced to serve concurrent indeterminate prison terms of 50 to 100 years for murder, 20 to 40 years for aggravated kidnapping, and 3 to 10 years for aggravated battery. His convictions and sentences were affirmed on direct review. People v. Hanrahan, 64 Ill. App. 3d 207, 20 Ill. Dec. 866, 380 N.E.2d 1075 (1978). Hanrahan is currently incarcerated at the Dixon Correctional Center, having served approximately 20 years of his sentences. He has been eligible for parole since 1983.

In June 1993, the Board conducted parole hearings, and ultimately denied Hanrahan parole. Thereafter, Hanrahan filed a second amended complaint consisting of three counts. In count III, Hanrahan requested that the circuit court issue a common law writ of certiorari to review the Board's June 1993 decision to deny him parole. Hanrahan alleged in part that the decision to deny him parole was "arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, contrary to law and against the manifest weight of the evidence." In his prayer for relief, Hanrahan requested that the circuit court reverse the Board's decision.

After granting Hanrahan leave to file his second-amended complaint, the circuit court granted the Board's oral motion to dismiss count III of the complaint. The circuit court ruled that count III was "insufficient in law," and found no just reason for delaying appeal of the order. 155 Ill. 2d R. 304(a). Hanrahan appealed the dismissal.

The appellate court reversed. 267 Ill. App. 3d 735, 643 N.E.2d 262, 205 Ill. Dec. 311. The appellate court first stated that the Administrative Review Law is not applicable to review of the Board's parole-release decisions. The appellate court next noted that a writ of mandamus would not afford Hanrahan the type of relief he sought. The appellate court further found unpersuasive the Board's argument that, because of its discretionary nature and the minimal record resulting from the action, the parole-release decision is not reviewable by issuance of a common law writ of certiorari. To illustrate the feasibility of judicial review of parole-release decisions, the appellate court pointed to federal habeas corpus proceedings in which federal courts have reviewed the merits of parole-release decisions. See Zannino v. Arnold, 531 F.2d 687 (3d Cir. 1976) (federal prisoner challenged federal parole board's decision to deny parole and sought relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241); United States ex rel. O'Connor v. MacDonald, 449 F. Supp. 291 (N.D. Ill. 1978) (state prisoner challenged Illinois parole board's decision to deny parole and sought relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254). Noting that the extent of review conducted by a federal court in habeas corpus proceedings is similar to that under a common law writ of certiorari, the appellate court found that common law writs of certiorari may issue to review parole-release decisions in Illinois.

We granted the Board's petition for leave to appeal (155 Ill. 2d R. 315), and have allowed the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, Chicago Conference of Black Lawyers, Illinois Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Illinois Public Defender Association, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Northwestern University Legal Clinic, and the office of the State Appellate Defender to file a brief, collectively, as friends of the court (155 Ill. 2d R. 345).

ARGUMENT(S)

Illinois inmates who are denied parole may seek several remedies, including a writ of mandamus in state court and a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. In the parole context, a writ of mandamus may be used to compel the Board to exercise its discretion, but may not be used to compel the Board to exercise its discretion in a certain manner. See, e.g., People ex rel. Abner v. Kinney, 30 Ill. 2d 201, 195 N.E.2d 651 (1964) (mandamus used to compel Board to provide parole-eligible inmate with a parole hearing). In addition, federal courts will grant a writ of habeas corpus if a petitioner demonstrates that his custody is in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States. Lilly v. Gilmore, 988 F.2d 783, 789 (7th Cir. 1993); Escobar v. O'Leary, 943 F.2d 711, 720 (7th Cir. 1991); see also United States ex rel. Arnold v. Illinois Prisoner Review Board, 803 F. Supp. 222 (N.D. Ill. 1992) (Illinois inmate petitioned for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 because of claimed equal protection violation). Hanrahan did not request either mandamus or habeas corpus relief in count III of his second-amended complaint. Instead, Hanrahan sought the issuance of a common law writ of certiorari.

A common law writ of certiorari is a general method for obtaining circuit court review of administrative actions when the act conferring power on the agency does not expressly adopt the Administrative Review Law and provides for no other form of review. Smith v. Department of Public Aid, 67 Ill. 2d 529, 541, 10 Ill. Dec. 520, 367 N.E.2d 1286 (1977). The standards of review under a common law writ of certiorari are essentially the same as those under the Administrative Review Law. Smith, 67 Ill. 2d at 541-42. Under the Administrative Review Law, courts generally do not interfere with an agency's discretionary authority unless the exercise of that discretion is arbitrary and capricious ( Dorfman v. Gerber, 29 Ill. 2d 191, 196, 193 N.E.2d 770 (1963)) or the agency action is against the manifest weight of the evidence ( Murdy v. Edgar, 103 Ill. 2d 384, 391, 83 Ill. Dec. 151, 469 N.E.2d 1085 (1984)). In the instant case, the parole-release statutory scheme fails to adopt the Administrative Review Law or provide for another form of review. Hanrahan thus contends that circuit courts may issue common law writs of certiorari to review the merits of the Board's parole-release decisions.

Whether, and to what extent, action by an administrative agency is reviewable is a question of statutory interpretation. Greer v. Illinois Housing Development Authority, 122 Ill. 2d 462, 497, 120 Ill. Dec. 531, 524 N.E.2d 561 (1988) (whether IHDA action is reviewable is a question of statutory interpretation). In this case, we must determine whether the legislature intended for the merits of the Board's parole-release decision to be reviewable by courts, an issue of first impression in Illinois.

While most agency actions are presumed reviewable, no presumption arises if there is a statutory bar to review or if statutory language commits the agency decision to unreviewable agency discretion. Greer, 122 Ill. 2d at 497. Factors to consider in determining whether statutory language precludes judicial review include the statute's "express language, the structure of the statutory scheme, its objectives, its legislative history, and the nature of the administrative action involved." Greer, 122 Ill. 2d at 497-98. "Of particular importance is whether the statute contains standards, goals, or criteria by which a court may evaluate agency action." Greer, 122 Ill. 2d at 498, citing Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 410, 28 L. Ed. 2d 136, 150, 91 S. Ct. 814, 820 (1971). Accordingly, judicial review is precluded if "the ...


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