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Stroger v. Regional Transportation Authority

September 19, 2002

JOHN H. STROGER, JR., ET AL., APPELLEES,
v.
THE REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY ET AL., APPELLANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Garman

Docket No. 92473-Agenda 12-May 2002.

In February 2000, plaintiffs, John H. Stroger, Jr., and Bernard Scavella, filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County for declaratory and injunctive relief against defendants, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), the commuter rail division of the RTA (METRA), and the suburban bus division of the RTA (PACE). The complaint alleged that the statutory procedures contained in the Regional Transportation Authority Act (Act) (70 ILCS 3615/1.01 et seq. (West 1998)) for appointment of the board of directors of RTA, METRA, and PACE violate the Illinois Constitution of 1970. Plaintiffs also filed a motion for preliminary injunction prohibiting defendants from making any further appointments to the boards of directors under the provisions of the Act. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 1998)), alleging failure to state a claim as a matter of law. The Attorney General was granted leave by the circuit court to intervene for the purpose of defending the constitutionality of the Act. The Attorney General filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to section 2-619.1 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619.1 (West 1998)), incorporating the allegations of defendants' section 2-615 motion and, in addition, alleging that plaintiffs' complaint was barred by laches because the Act had never been challenged on the grounds raised in the complaint. After briefing and argument on the motions, the circuit court denied plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction and dismissed their complaint on the basis that they had failed to state a cause of action upon which relief could be granted. The appellate court reversed the dismissal of the complaint and remanded for further proceedings. 324 Ill. App. 3d 970. We granted defendants' petition for leave to appeal. 177 Ill. 2d R. 315.

BACKGROUND

In 1973, the General Assembly enacted the Act, creating the RTA for the counties of Cook, Du Page, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will. The Act's purpose was to "provide for, aid and assist public transportation in the northeastern area of the State *** by providing for the creation of a single authority responsive to the people and elected officials of the area and with the power and competence to provide and facilitate public transportation ***." Ill. Rev. Stat., 1973 Supp., ch. 111 2/3 , par. 701.02(b). The Act provided for a board of directors for the RTA (RTA board), comprised of nine directors. Four directors were to be appointed by the mayor of Chicago, two directors were to be appointed by members of the Cook County board elected from that part of Cook County outside of Chicago, and two directors were to be appointed by the chairmen of the county boards of the counties in the metropolitan region outside Cook County. The chairman of the RTA board was to be chosen by the other eight directors. Ill. Rev. Stat., 1973 Supp., ch. 111 2/3 , pars. 703.01(a) through (d). The Act required that the voters in the metropolitan region to be served by the RTA approve its establishment in a special referendum election. Ill. Rev. Stat., 1973 Supp., ch. 111 2/3 , par. 701.05. In Hoogasian v. Regional Transportation Authority, 58 Ill. 2d 117 (1974), this court upheld the validity of the referendum that was conducted in March 1974 and upheld the constitutionality of the Act against certain challenges.

In 1983, the General Assembly amended the Act in response to "[s]ubstantial, recurring deficits in the operations of public transportation services subject to the jurisdiction of the Regional Transportation Authority and periodic cash shortages" that had occurred and which could bring about a loss of public transportation services throughout the metropolitan region. 70 ILCS 3615/1.02(b)(i) (West 1998).

The amendment provided for additional state financial assistance and created METRA (70 ILCS 3615/3B.01 (West 1998)) and PACE (70 ILCS 3615/3A.01 (West 1998)) and established boards of directors for these new entities. The amendment also changed the composition of and selection process for the RTA board. Currently, there are 13 directors of the RTA board, chosen as follows:

"(a) Four Directors appointed by the Mayor of the City of Chicago, with the advice and consent of the City Council of the City of Chicago, and a fifth director who shall be the Chairman of the Chicago Transit Authority. Each such Director shall reside in the City of Chicago except the Chairman of the Chicago Transit Authority may live outside the City of Chicago.

(b) Four Directors appointed by the members of the Cook County Board elected from that part of Cook County outside of Chicago, or, in the event such Board of Commissioners becomes elected from single member districts, by those Commissioners elected from districts, a majority of the electors of which reside outside Chicago. In either case, such appointment shall be with the concurrence of four such Commissioners. Each such Director shall reside in that part of Cook County outside Chicago.

(c) Two Directors appointed by the Chairmen of the county boards of Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties, with the concurrence of not less than a majority of the Chairmen from such counties, from nominees by the Chairmen. Each such Chairman may nominate not more than 2 persons for each position. Each such Director shall reside in a county in the metropolitan region other than Cook or DuPage Counties.

(d) One Director shall be appointed by the Chairman of the Board of DuPage County with the advice and consent of the County Board of DuPage County and shall reside in DuPage County." 70 ILCS 3615/3.01(a) through (d) (West 1998).

Section 3.01(h) (70 ILCS 3615/3.01(h) (West 1998)) of the Act provides in relevant part:

"(h) The Board of Directors shall be so appointed as to represent the City of Chicago, that part of Cook County outside the City of Chicago, and that part of the metropolitan region outside Cook County on the one man one vote basis. After each Federal decennial census the General Assembly shall review the composition of the Board and, if a change is needed to comply with this requirement, shall provide for the necessary revision by July 1 of the third year after such census."

The METRA board has seven directors. The appointments are made by the mayor of Chicago (one appointment), suburban Cook County commissioners from suburban-majority districts (three appointments), Du Page County chairman (one appointment), and chairmen of the other collar county boards (two appointments). 70 ILCS 3615/3B.02 (West 1998). The PACE board has 12 directors. Appointment authority is allocated to the suburban Cook County commissioners from suburban-majority districts (six appointments) and to each of the chairmen of the collar county boards (five appointments). Each PACE board member must be a chief executive officer of a municipality within one of six regions specified by the statute. The chairman of the PACE board is chosen by a majority of the chairmen of the collar county boards and members of the Cook County board elected from suburban-majority districts. 70 ILCS 3615/3A.02 (West 1998).

Plaintiff Stroger is president of the Cook County board of commissioners and represents the fourth district of Cook County. Plaintiff Scavella is a registered voter residing in Calumet City in the fourth district. In count I of their complaint, plaintiffs alleged that, because the Act removes the power to appoint directors from the Cook County board's chief executive officer and places it in the legislative members of that board, the appointment provisions of the Act relating to Cook County violate the separation of powers doctrine contained in article II, section 1, of the constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. II, §1). In count II of the complaint, plaintiffs alleged that the transfer of appointment power from the Cook County board president to certain legislative members of that board constituted an unconstitutional change in the form of Cook County government without a referendum, in violation of article VII, section 6(f), of the constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VII, §6(f)). Count III of the complaint alleged that the appointment provisions of the Act violate the "one person, one vote" guarantee of the constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §2; art. III, §3), because commissioners elected from Cook County districts where the majority of residents reside inside Chicago (which is the case in the fourth district) are precluded from voting to appoint directors to the RTA board. Thus, according to plaintiffs, only Cook County board members from districts 5, 6, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 may vote for directors of the RTA board. Plaintiffs alleged that this effectively disenfranchised Scavella and approximately 226,000 other voters, giving them no voice in the appointment of directors to the RTA board.

The circuit court granted defendants' motion to dismiss. The appellate court did not address plaintiffs' constitutional arguments, instead finding that the circuit court's dismissal of the complaint was premature. The court noted that section 3.01(h) of the Act specifically requires that appointments be made on the one person, one vote basis and that plaintiffs had alleged in their complaint that the directors are not in fact so appointed. The court found it unclear whether plaintiffs had failed to state a cause of action. The court noted that, at oral argument, plaintiffs' counsel had argued that the appointment scheme had become "inequitable" since 1994 when Cook County board members began to be elected from single-member districts. The court noted that this issue was not addressed in the circuit court and "perhaps merits discussion." Therefore, the appellate court remanded the cause to the circuit court for a hearing on the allegations of plaintiffs' complaint. 324 Ill. App. 3d at 979.

ANALYSIS

I. Standard of ...


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