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People ex rel. Ryan v. Village of Hanover Park

December 30, 1999

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS EX REL. GEORGE H. RYAN, SECRETARY OF STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES, AND METRO COUNTIES OF ILLINOIS, A NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORP., PLAINTIFFS-INTERVENOR,
v.
VILLAGE OF HANOVER PARK, A MUNICIPAL CORP., VILLAGE OF NORTHFIELD, A MUNICIPAL CORP., VILLAGE OF SCHAUMBURG, A MUNICIPAL CORP., VILLAGE OF KENILWORTH, A MUNICIPAL CORP., AND VILLAGE OF MCCOOK, A MUNICIPAL CORP., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rakowski

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Thomas P. Durkin, Judge Presiding.

The Illinois Vehicle Code (Code) (625 ILCS 5/1-100 et seq. (West 1998)), and certain Supreme Court Rules provide a comprehensive scheme for uniformly enforcing Illinois traffic laws under chapter 11 of the Code. This scheme provides that, upon an arresting officer issuing a uniform citation, the traffic offense is then adjudicated in circuit court. Where adjudication of a traffic offense results in a conviction, the clerk of the court reports the conviction to the Secretary of State so that he may monitor and maintain accurate records of repeat offenders and provide a basis for suspending or revoking driver's licenses.

Defendants Village of Hanover Park, Village of Northfield, Village of Schaumburg, Village of Kenilworth, and Village of McCook enacted alternative traffic programs that allow the traffic offender to pay a settlement fee in lieu of court adjudication. This process eliminates the possibility of the offender receiving a conviction for the offense and having the conviction reported to the Secretary of State. The question ra ised in this quo warrantor action is whether the alternative traffic programs are inconsistent with the state scheme to the extent that defendants were without authority to enact such programs. Because we find these programs disrupt the uniform enforcement of the Code's traffic provisions in chapter 11, we conclude that defendants lack the authority to implement such programs. We therefore affirm the trial court's judgment on the pleadings in favor of the People of Illinois (People).

I. Background

The Attorney General initiated this quo warrantor action on behalf of the People on the relation of George H. Ryan (then Secretary of State) against defendants. Metro Counties of Illinois, a non-profit Illinois corporation consisting of 12 of the most populous counties in Illinois, intervened as an intervenor-plaintiff. *fn1 Granting the People's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to section 2-615 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 1998)), the circuit court found the ordinances implementing alternative traffic programs inconsistent with the laws of Illinois and therefore invalid. The court enjoined defendants from further administering the ordinances at issue. We have jurisdiction under Supreme Court Rule 301. 155 Ill. 2d R. 301.

A. The Code Enforcement Scheme

Section 16-102 of the Code directs the police to patrol the public highways and make arrests for violations of the Code. (625 ILCS 5/16-102 (West 1998); see 625 ILCS 5/16-101 (West 1998) (providing that section 16-102, among others, shall be applicable to the enforcement of the entire Code); see also 65 ILCS 5/11-80-1 (West 1998) (municipalities' ability to regulate the use of its streets under section 11-80-2 of the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/11-80-2 (West 1998)) is subject to the provisions of the Code). Upon arrest of a traffic offender, the officer issues a citation on a standard from called a uniform citation and complaint ("uniform citation") pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 552 (134 Ill. 2d R. 552) and section 111-3 of the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure (725 ILCS 5/111-3 (West 1998)). *fn2 Supreme Court Rule 552 directs the arresting officer to complete the uniform citation and, within 48 hours of the arrest, transmit it to the clerk of the circuit court of the county in which the violation occurred. At that point, the uniform citation serves as the complaint against the offender and is assigned a case number. 134 Ill. 2d R. 552; 725 ILCS 5/111-3 (West 1998). The court adjudicates the case, and where adjudication leads to a conviction, the clerk of the court reports the conviction to the Secretary of State in accord with Supreme Court Rule 552 and section 6-204 of the Code. See 134 Ill. 2d R. 552; 625 ILCS 5/6-204 (West 1998). The Secretary of State is charged with, inter alia, the duty of maintaining records of Code convictions (625 ILCS 5/6-117(c) (West 1998)) and revoking, canceling, or suspending licenses of those individuals whose traffic violations evidence an unfitness to safely operate motor vehicles (625 ILCS 5/6-204(a) (West 1998)).

B. Defendants' Alternative Traffic Programs

For purposes of discussion, the following is a generalization of all of the defendants' programs, although it must be noted there are varying distinctions between each individual program. Generally, defendants' ordinances allow municipal police officers to issue a "P-ticket" for certain traffic offenses rather than a uniform citation. Compare Village of Hanover Park Municipal Code §17.17.107 (June 16, 1994); Village of Schaumberg Municipal Code §37.07 (April 24, 1984); Village of McCook Municipal Code §10-17-2 (May 2, 1990); Village of Northfield Municipal Code §13-71 (June 27, 1989); Village of Kenilworth Municipal Code §22-35 (May 9, 1994), with 725 ILCS 5/111-3 (West 1998); 134 Ill. 2d R. 552. The offender has an opportunity to settle or compromise the P-ticket within a specified period by paying a fee to the village. If the offender settles, he is relieved of liability without triggering circuit court involvement. If the offender fails to accept the municipality's offer, however, the municipal authorities then file a complaint in circuit court alleging the traffic offense.

I. Standard of Review

The trial court granted the People's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to section 2-615(e) of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure. 735 ILCS 5/2-615(e) (West 1998). We review that determination de novo. In re Chicago Flood Litigation, 176 Ill. 2d 179, 189 (1997). We must interpret all well-pled allegations and supporting documents in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. In re Chicago Flood Litigation, 176 Ill. 2d at 189. Furthermore, in our review, no conclusions of law or factual conclusions unsupported by allegations of specific facts are admitted. Small v. Sussman, 306 Ill. App. 3d 639, 642 (1999).

II. Allegations Satisfy the Quo Warrantor Act

Defendants contend that the Attorney General failed to allege sufficient facts for a quo warrantor action. We disagree.

Section 18-101 of the Quo Warrantor Act (Act) (735 ILCS 5/18-101 (West 1998)) provides the grounds upon which a quo warrantor action may be brought. Subpart (5) of that section states that a quo warrantor action may be brought where "[a]ny corporation does or omits to do any act which amounts to a surrender or forfeiture of its rights and privileges as a corporation, or exercises powers not conferred by law." (Emphasis added.) 735 ILCS 5/18-101(5) (West 1998). Reference to corporation in the Act has been deemed to include municipal corporations. People ex rel. Ryan v. City of West Chicago, 216 Ill. App. 3d 683, 690 (1991).

The pleading requirements under the Act are extremely liberal. "It is well established that a plaintiff in a quo warrantor action is not required to allege any facts in the complaint showing the challenged acts are unlawful; it is enough to, in general terms, allege the defendant exercised the claimed rights without authority." People ex rel. Daley v. Datacom Systems Corp., 146 Ill. 2d 1, 35-36 (1991); accord City of West Chicago, 216 Ill. App. 3d at 687. Because the pleading requirements are so liberal, and because defendants bear the burden of proof, courts must exercise great care when dismissing quo warrantor actions at the pleading stage. Datacom Systems Corp., 146 Ill. 2d at 36.

The complaint in this case alleges sufficient facts to establish a quo warrantor action. Each of the five counts in the complaint allege substantially the same facts. Count I against Village of Hanover Park is demonstrative of the other counts. It provides:

"7. Pursuant to Section 11-208 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-208), Village of Hanover Park, is authorized to regulate the vehicular use of its streets and highways.

8. Pursuant to Rule 552 of the Supreme Court of Illinois, defendant, Village of Hanover Park, is required to issue a Uniform Citation and Complaint for cases which involve a traffic offense. ***

9. Defendant, Village of Hanover Park, has established by municipal ordinance an alternative traffic enforcement program for certain traffic offenses. ***

10. Defendant's alternative traffic enforcement program allows the issuance of an administrative ticket for certain traffic offenses rather than ...


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