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Blumhorst v. Illinois Department of Employment Security

December 12, 2002

MICHAEL R. BLUMHORST, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, BOARD OF REVIEW, AND EACH OF ITS MEMBERS IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES; ROLLAND W. LEWIS, CHAIRMAN; STANLEY L. DRASSLER, MEMBER; MICHAEL H. BRESLAN, MEMBER; JON R. WALKER, MEMBER; WILLIAM J. NOLAN, MEMBER; AND DIRECTOR GERTRUDE W. JORDAN, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County No. 01MR62 Honorable Katherine M. McCarthy, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Appleton

Plaintiff, Michael R. Blumhorst, filed a claim for unemployment benefits. The Illinois Department of Employment Security (Department) denied his claim, whereupon he filed an administrative appeal, which the Department's board of review (board) denied. He then filed this action for administrative review, naming as defendants the Department, its Director, the board, and each member of the board. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2000)) on the ground that plaintiff had failed to obtain the issuance of summonses within 35 days after the board's decision, as section 3-103 of the Administrative Review Law (735 ILCS 5/3-103 (West 2000)) required. The circuit court denied the motion and reversed the board's decision. Defendants appeal, arguing (1) the circuit court erred in denying their motion to dismiss and (2) the - 1 -board's decision was not clearly erroneous. Because we agree with the first contention, we need not consider the second. We reverse the circuit court's judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

On May 23, 2000, plaintiff lost his job at EPL Bio-Analytical Services in Harristown, Illinois, because of a change of ownership. He filed a claim for unemployment benefits for the period of June 15 through July 8, 2000. The Department denied his claim, and plaintiff filed an administrative appeal. On January 29, 2001, the board issued a final decision denying the appeal.

The decision stated that it was "[d]ated and [m]ailed on [January] 29, 2001." Immediately under that mailing date was a section entitled "Notice Of Rights For Further Review By The Courts," which stated: "If you are aggrieved and want to appeal, you must file a complaint for administrative review and have summons issued in circuit court within 35 days from the above mailing date." (Emphasis in original.)

On March 2, 2001, defendant filed a complaint for administrative review. On March 14, 2001, the clerk of the circuit court issued summonses to defendants, and plaintiff served the summonses by certified mail. In their motion to dismiss, defendants argued that plaintiff's failure to have summonses issued and served on the board or its members during the 35-day period after the board's final decision barred the action for administrative review. A docket entry for July 9, 2001, indicates that the parties appeared in a hearing on the motion. After "[a]rguments [were] heard," the circuit court took the motion under advisement. The docket entry for July 10, 2001, says:

"The [c]court has considered the pleadings on file, oral arguments of the parties, as well as the applicable statutory and case authority. *** There is no dispute that the [p]laintiff filed the [c]omplaint for [a]dministrative [r]review within the requisite 35-day period; however, summonses were not issued by the [c]circuit [c]lerk's [o]ffice within the requisite 35-day period as required by [section 3-103 of the Administrative Review Law (735 ILCS 5/3-103 (West 2000))] ***.

***

The [c]court notes that the [p]laintiff is proceeding pro se, and that he did in fact have summonses signed by the [c]circuit [c]lerk's [o]ffice ***.

*** The [c]court finds that the [p]laintiff has shown a good[-]faith effort to have summonses issued within the 35-day statutory period so as to warrant relaxation of the filing period ***. [Defendants'] [m]otion to [d]ismiss is [denied]. The [c]court finds that the summonses were timely issued[] and that the [d]efendants have clearly received timely notice of the filing of this [c]omplaint."

On December 13, 2001, the circuit court set aside the board's decision. This appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

We review de novo the trial court's ruling on defendants' motion to dismiss. Towne Realty, Inc. v. Shaffer, 331 Ill. App. 3d 531, 535, 773 N.E.2d 47, 51 (2002).

Section 1100 of the Unemployment Insurance Act (820 ILCS 405/1100 (West 2000)) provides: "Any decision of the [b]oard of [r]review *** shall be reviewable only under and in accordance with the provisions of the Administrative ...


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