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Veazey v. Baker

May 16, 2001

DARRYL VEAZEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LINDA RENEE BAKER, THE DIRECTOR OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF SECURITY, THE STATE OF ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, TELE-COMMUNICATIONS, INC., JAMES E. FRICK, INC., AND LASALLE TELECOMMUNICATIONS, INC., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 99 CH 50420 Honorable Joanne L. Lanigan, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cerda

Not Released For Publication

DARRYL VEAZEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LINDA RENEE BAKER, THE DIRECTOR OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF SECURITY, THE STATE OF ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, TELE-COMMUNICATIONS, INC., JAMES E. FRICK, INC., AND LASALLE TELECOMMUNICATIONS, INC., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 99 CH 50420 Honorable Joanne L. Lanigan, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cerda

In this administrative review action, plaintiff, Darryl Veazey, appeals the order of the circuit court dismissing his complaint which challenged the decision of defendants, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (the Department) and the Department's Director, Linda Renee Baker, finding him ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits following his discharge from defendant, Tele-Communications, Inc. In his complaint, plaintiff named, among others not relevant to this appeal, the Department and its director. The complaint, however, did not name the Department's Board of Review (the Board), which issued the formal decision denying plaintiff's benefit request. Upon the motion of the Department and its director, the circuit court dismissed plaintiff's complaint for want of subject matter jurisdiction due to plaintiff's failure to name the Board as a defendant. The court thereafter denied plaintiff's request for leave to amend the complaint to add the Board as an adverse party. On appeal, plaintiff asserts error in both the court's decisions dismissing his complaint and precluding him the opportunity to file an amended pleading. For the following reasons, we affirm.

 Generally, in unemployment compensation cases, the function of this court is limited to determining whether the Board's decision denying the claimant benefits is supported by the manifest weight of the evidence. Fedorev v. Doherty, 305 Ill. App. 3d 355, 358-59, 711 N.E.2d 1223, 1225 (1999). However, in this case, we are principally concerned with whether the dismissal of plaintiff's complaint for administrative review was warranted. Since this issue presents solely a question of law, we will apply a de novo standard of review. Fedorev, 305 Ill. App. 3d at 359, 711 N.E.2d at 1225.

Section 3-102 of the Administrative Review Act (the Act) explicitly conditions review of an administrative decision upon compliance within its provisions:

"Unless review is sought of an administrative decision within the time and in the manner herein provided, the parties to the proceeding before the administrative agency shall be barred from obtaining judicial review of such administrative decision." 735 ILCS 5/3-102 (West 1998).

Indeed, as our supreme court has noted, the Act is a departure from the common law and, as such, its provisions must be strictly adhered to by the parties. ESG Watts, Inc. v. Pollution Control Board, 191 Ill. 2d 26, 30, 727 N.E.2d 1022, 1025 (2000); Fredman Brothers Furniture Co. v. Department of Revenue, 109 Ill. 2d 202, 210-11, 486 N.E.2d 893 (1985); see also Biscan v. Village of Melrose Park Bd. Of Fire & Police Commissioners, 277 Ill. App. 3d 844, 847, 661 N.E.2d 424, 427 (1996). Because administrative review actions involve the exercise of special statutory jurisdiction, the court's power to hear such cases is limited to the language of the Act and, if the prescribed statutory procedure is not strictly followed, no jurisdiction can be invoked. ESG Watts, 191 Ill. 2d at 30, 727 N.E.2d at 1025; Allord v. Municipal Officers Electoral Board for the Village of South Chicago Heights, 288 Ill. App. 3d 897, 682 N.E.2d 125, 128 (1997).

In addition to requiring a complaint for review to be filed within 35 days from the date a copy of the decision sought to be reviewed was served on the appealing party (735 ILCS 5/3-103 (West 1998)), section 3- 107(a) of the Act specifies that the complaint must name "the administrative agency and all persons, other than the plaintiff, who were parties of record to the proceedings before the administrative agency *** [as] defendants." 735 ILCS 5/3-107(a) (West 1998). As stated by our supreme court, "[t]his requirement is mandatory and specific, and admits of no modification." Lockett v. Chicago Police Board, 133 Ill. 2d 349, 354, 549 N.E.2d 1266, 1268 (1990). Service of summons is the required on all party-defendants within the same 35-day period in which the complaint for review is to be filed. 735 ILCS 5/3- 103 (West 1998).

The law is undisputed that the Board is a necessary party to any administrative review action in which the denial of a claim for unemployment insurance benefits is challenged. While the Board may be a division or arm of the Department that operates under the superintendence of a director, it is the body that is deemed to issue the administrative decision that is subject to the review process and is, therefore, the "administrative agency" as that term is defined by the Act. 735 ILCS 5/3-102 (West 1998); Cuny v. Annunzio, 411 Ill. 613, 617, 104 N.E.2d 780, 782 (1952); Fedorev, 305 Ill. App. 3d at 359, 711 N.E.2d at 1226; New York Carpet World, Inc. v. Department of Employment Security, 283 Ill. App. 3d 497, 500, 669 N.E.2d 1321, 1323 (1996); Shaw v. Department of Employment Security, 243 Ill. App. 3d 844, 846-47, 612 N.E.2d 919, 920 (1993); Stanley v. Department of Employment Security, 235 Ill. App. 3d 992, 995, 602 N.E.2d 73, 75 (1992). Hence, when relief is sought from an adverse decision involving a claim for unemployment compensation benefits, the Board is the "administrative agency" from which the plaintiff must seek review. Fedorev, 305 Ill. App. 3d at 360, 711 N.E.2d at 1226; New York Carpet World, 283 Ill. App. 3d at 500, 669 N.E.2d at 1323; Stanley, 235 Ill. App. 3d at 995-96, 602 N.E.2d at 75.

Plaintiff does not contest that the Board was a necessary party to his review action. Rather, plaintiff contends his failure to join the Board is not jurisdictional and, accordingly, the circuit court's determination that it lacked the authority to consider the complaint was erroneous.

While some decisions have deemed the failure to name a necessary party under section 3-107(a) a jurisdictional defect that will preclude a court from considering a complaint for administrative review (see Biscan, 227 Ill. App. 3d at 847, 661 N.E.2d at 427 ("[i]t is the proper filing of [the] complaint against all necessary parties that vests the court with jurisdiction to review the agency decision"); Central States Trucking Co. v. Department of Employment Security, 248 Ill. App. 3d 86, 88, 618 N.E.2d 430, 432 (1993) (noting strict compliance with the Act's provisions, including section 3-107, is necessary before the circuit court has power to consider complaint for review); Associated General Contractors v. Chun, 245 Ill. App. 3d 750, 754, 615 N.E.2d 386, 389 (1993) ("[a] plaintiff must name the necessary parties as defendants in its complaint for administrative review within the 35-day time limit or the court is deprived of subject-matter jurisdiction"); Strang v. Department of Transportation, 206 Ill. App. 3d 368, 370-71, 564 N.E.2d 261, 263 (1990) (holding that the plaintiff's failure to name the necessary parties in a timely manner deprived the circuit court of subject matter jurisdiction). Our supreme court has avoided such a characterization, instead holding that the effect of noncompliance with the joinder requirements of section 3-107(a), regardless of its label, requires dismissal of the review proceeding. McGaughy v. Illinois Human Rights Commission, 165 Ill. 2d 1, 11, 649 N.E.2d 404, 409-10 (1995) (finding that Department of Human Rights was a necessary party to review action and that plaintiffs' failure to name the department in their complaint required dismissal); Lockett, 133 Ill. 2d at 354, 549 N.E.2d at 1268 (holding the plaintiff's failure to include the superintendent of police, who was a necessary party, as a defendant in the complaint, mandated ...


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