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Caruth v. Quinley

August 14, 2002

JAMES C. CARUTH, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TAMELA QUINLEY AND JERRY D. GILMORE, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Livingston County No. 00MR51 Honorable Harold J. Frobish, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

In May 2000, plaintiff, James C. Caruth, an inmate at Tamms Correctional Center (Tamms), filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, in which he (1) alleged that disciplinary proceedings at Pontiac Correctional Center (Pontiac) were held in violation of the applicable Department of Corrections (DOC) administrative guidelines, and (2) requested that the trial court compel defendants, Tamela Quinley, chairman of the DOC adjustment committee, and Jerry D. Gilmore, chief administrative officer at Pontiac, to expunge his disciplinary record and restore to him certain benefits and credits that had been revoked as a result of those proceedings.

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's petition, and in September 2000, the trial court granted that motion following a hearing conducted by telephone conference call with plaintiff's counsel and defendants' attorney. The court later dismissed plaintiff's motion for reconsideration.

Plaintiff appeals, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by dismissing his mandamus petition. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

The record shows that following adjustment committee hearings under Title 20, section 504.80, of the Illinois Administrative Code (Administrative Code) (20 Ill. Adm. Code §504.80 (Conway Greene CD-ROM June 2002)), plaintiff was found guilty of disciplinary infractions as follows: one in 1996, seven in 1997, and one in 1998. In May 2000, plaintiff filed his amended mandamus petition, alleging that the disciplinary proceedings at Pontiac had not been held in conformity with applicable DOC administrative guidelines. Specifically, he alleged that he had been denied his right to due process (1) when the adjustment committee did not call his witnesses or accept his "exonerative evidence," and (2) in that the adjustment committee's summary reports of his disciplinary proceedings provided insufficient statements of the bases for finding him guilty. As relief, plaintiff requested that defendants be compelled to do the following: (1) expunge his disciplinary records; (2) award him segregation credit totaling 19 months and 15 days; (3) award him 31 months of C-grade credits served; and (4) reinstate three months of good-time credit.

Later that month, the trial court sua sponte appointed the Livingston County public defender to represent plaintiff. In July 2000, defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's petition, pursuant to section 2-619(a)(9) of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/ 2-619(a)(9) (West 2000)). A docket entry shows that in September 2000, the court conducted a hearing by telephone conference call with plaintiff's counsel and defendants' attorney, after which the court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss and vacated the public defender's appointment. Neither a transcript nor a bystander's report of that hearing is included in the record.

The trial court's September 1, 2000, docket entry states, in pertinent part, as follows:

"[T]he court finds that the [plaintiff] has not exhausted his administrative remedies prior to filing his mandamus action; the court further finds that the record does not support the contention of the plaintiff that there was a failure to call witnesses as argued; the court further finds that the [plaintiff] failed to request witnesses as required of him; the court finds that the [plaintiff] has not established a clear right to the relief that he seeks and that, therefore, mandamus does not lie."

In October 2000, plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration, which the trial court denied. This appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

Plaintiff argues that the trial court abused its discretion by dismissing his mandamus petition. Specifically, he contends that (1) the trial court erroneously found that he (a) had not exhausted his administrative remedies and (b) had not properly requested witnesses; and (2) his due process rights were violated by the adjustment committee's failure to call his witnesses and state the bases for its findings of guilt. Defendants reply that the trial court properly dismissed plaintiff's petition because (1) plaintiff failed to show a clear right to the relief requested, (2) his petition was untimely, and (3) he failed to exhaust administrative remedies. We agree with defen-dants.

We review de novo the granting of a section 2-619 motion to dismiss. Nowak v. St. Rita High School, 197 Ill. 2d 381, 389, 757 N.E.2d 471, 477 (2001). The dissent contends that the State's motion to dismiss should have been brought under section 2-615 of the Code, not section 2-619(a)(9), because a section 2-615 motion challenges a complaint for failing to state a cause of action, while a 2-619(a)(9) motion admits the legal sufficiency of a complaint but asserts that it is barred by some affirmative matter. 735 ILCS 5/2-615, 2-619(a)(9) (West 2000). Because defendants' motion to dismiss here asserted that the complaint failed to state a cause of action, the dissent is correct that the defendants' motion came under the wrong section. "Nevertheless, a dismissal pursuant to section 2-619 may be affirmed on any grounds which are called for by the record regardless of whether the circuit court relied on those grounds or whether the circuit court's reasoning was correct." Wright v. City of Danville, 174 Ill. 2d 391, 399, 675 N.E.2d 110, 115 (1996).

"Mandamus relief is an extraordinary remedy to enforce, as a matter of right, the performance of official duties by a public official where the official is not exercising discretion. A court will not grant a writ of mandamus unless the petitioner can demonstrate a clear, affirmative right to relief, a clear duty of the official to act, and clear authority in the official to comply with the writ. The writ will not lie when its effect is to substitute the court's judgment or discretion for the official's judgment or discretion. Mandamus relief, therefore, is not appropriate to regulate a course of ...


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