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Stykel v. City of Freeport

January 22, 2001

SCOTT STYKEL, CURT LAMM, JOHN HEILMAN, AND TAVE KRAFT,
PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
V.
THE CITY OF FREEPORT, THE BOARD OF FIRE AND POLICE COMMISSIONERS, REGINALD D. MCGEE, BRIAN BORGER, DENITA MORRIS, DAVID SHOCKEY, AND MARK WAGNER,
DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Stephenson County. No. 91--MR--50 Honorable Barry R. Anderson, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Geiger

This case arose after the plaintiffs, Scott Stykel, Curt Lamm, John Heilman, and Tave Kraft, took an examination for employment as a firefighter with the City of Freeport (City) that was administered by the Illinois Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (Board). The plaintiffs received a score of zero on the examination, rendering them ineligible for employment. Along with their causes of action under the Administrative Review Law (Review Law) (735 ILCS 5/3--101 et seq. (West 1998)), the plaintiffs filed counts against the defendants, the City of Freeport, the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, Reginald D. McGee, Brian Borger, Denita Morris, David Schockey, and Mark Wagner, for declaratory judgment, breach of implied oral contract, and for violations of their civil rights pursuant to section 1983 of the federal Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. §1983 (1994)). Relying on Dorner v. Illinois Civil Service Comm'n, 85 Ill. App. 3d 957 (1980), the trial court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the counts that alleged causes for declaratory judgment, breach of implied oral contract, and civil rights violations. On appeal, the parties initially briefed the issue of whether the trial court erred in ruling that these causes of action could not be joined with an action under the Review Law. We then requested that the parties brief the additional issue of whether a cause of action under the Review Law preempts causes for declaratory judgment, breach of contract, and civil rights violations when the Review Law applies to the actions of an administrative agency. For the reasons that follow, we hold that the Review Law preempts causes of action for breach of contract and declaratory judgment, but not for civil rights violations.

The plaintiffs were applicants for firefighter positions with the City. They had received a score of zero on the written examination, which effectively rendered them ineligible for employment. The plaintiffs forwarded a request to the Board for a hearing, which was denied.

On December 20, 1991, the plaintiffs filed their complaint for administrative review, claiming that they were wrongfully denied certification as eligible for employment and a hearing. Following motions to dismiss and an attempt to remove to federal court, the plaintiffs ultimately filed their second amended complaint on March 1, 1999. Their second amended complaint contains 16 counts. Counts I through IV consist of causes for administrative review on behalf of each of the four plaintiffs against each defendant (735 ILCS 5/3--101 et seq. (West 1998)); counts V through VIII, requests for declaratory judgments; counts IX through XII, causes under section 1983 (42 U.S.C. §1983 (1994)); and counts XIII through XVI, causes for breach of implied oral contract.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss all counts of the complaint pursuant to sections 2--619(a)(1) (735 ILCS 5/2--619(a)(1) (West 1998)) and 2--615 (735 ILCS 5/2--615 (West 1998)) of the Code of Civil Procedure (the Code). Regarding the counts for administrative review, the defendants argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because the causes of action predicated on the failure to hire were not subject to the Review Law. Regarding counts V through XVI, consisting of all counts not predicated upon the Review Law, the defendants argued that those counts could not be joined with complaints under the Review Law. They also argued that those counts were not timely filed and that the plaintiffs failed to state a cause of action pursuant to section 1983.

The plaintiffs argued in their response that the Review Law applies to decisions not to hire and, therefore, the trial court had jurisdiction to consider the counts predicated upon the Review Law. Regarding the counts not predicated upon the Review Law, the plaintiffs argued that joinder with the administrative review counts was permissible under the liberal pleading rules. The plaintiffs further argued that they adequately stated a cause of action under section 1983 and that they were not barred by any statute of limitations.

On October 28, 1999, the trial court entered a written order on the motion to dismiss. The trial court found that the plaintiffs had properly pleaded a cause of action for administrative review against all defendants. However, citing Dorner, the trial court found that the remaining causes of action could not be joined with a cause for administrative review. Therefore, the trial court denied the motion to dismiss as to counts I through IV of the second amended complaint and granted the motion as to counts V through XVI. Thereafter, the trial court granted the plaintiffs' motion for a special finding under Supreme Court Rule 304(a) (155 Ill. 2d R. 304(a)), and the plaintiffs filed a timely notice of appeal.

We note that the defendants raised in their brief arguments pertaining to counts I through IV of the complaint. The defendants argue that the Review Law does not apply because applicants for employment are not entitled to a hearing and because no administrative record is required by statute. Despite the fact that the defendants failed to file a notice of appeal from the trial court's October 28, 1999, order, they request that we dismiss the second amended complaint "in its entirety." These arguments are improper, as we lack jurisdiction to review the portion of the trial court's order denying the motion to dismiss as to counts I through IV.

I. JOINDER

The plaintiffs' first argument on appeal is that the trial court erred, as a matter of law, in dismissing counts V through XVI of their second amended complaint. Specifically, the plaintiffs argue that joinder of additional causes of action with a complaint for administrative review is permissible. The defendants respond that, under Dorner, joinder of additional causes with an administrative review complaint is inappropriate and that the plaintiffs have not timely filed any additional causes of action.

Absent any issue of fact, the appellate court reviews de novo the trial court's decision to grant an involuntary dismissal. Vrombaut v. Norcross Safety Products, L.L.C., 298 Ill. App. 3d 560, 561-62 (1998). Because there are no facts at issue, we review the trial court's ruling de novo.

The scope of the Review Law is limited to judicial review of "a final decision of any administrative agency." 735 ILCS 5/3--102 (West 1998). Moreover, the Review Law is the sole and exclusive method to obtain judicial review of a final administrative decision. Midland Hotel Corp. v. Director of Employment Security, 282 Ill. App. 3d 312, 316 (1996).

As with other statutory schemes, the Review Law does not contain any provisions that directly address the propriety of joinder of additional causes of action. Joinder of causes of action is generally governed by section 2--614(a) of the Code, which provides that plaintiffs may join any causes of action against any defendant. 735 ILCS 5/2--614(a) (West 1998). Section 2--614 is to be liberally construed. See Hagen v. Stone, 277 Ill. App. 3d 388, 392 (1995). The objective of joinder is to promote the economy of actions and trial convenience. Boyd v. Travelers Insurance Co., 166 Ill. 2d 188, 199 (1995).

Just as there is no statute on point, there is no case law addressing, in general, the propriety of joinder with administrative review actions. However, the court in Dorner discussed the viability of pleading for relief not enumerated in the Review Law when asserting a complaint for administrative review.

In Dorner, the plaintiff, a correctional academy trainer, filed suit for review of the decision of the Civil Service Commission not to offer him a voluntary reduction in his employment status after he was laid off from his position in the highest level classification of trainers. The trial court reversed the decision of the Civil Service Commission and ordered the Department of Corrections to offer the plaintiff the next available trainer position. The trial court, however, denied ...


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