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Arangold Corp. v. Zehnder

March 20, 2003

ARANGOLD CORPORATION, D/B/A ARANGO CIGAR COMPANY, APPELLANT,
v.
KENNETH E. ZEHNDER, DIRECTOR OF REVENUE, ET AL., APPELLEES.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Garman

Agenda 16-November 2002.

This case concerns the constitutionality of the Tobacco Products Tax Act of 1995 (Act) (35 ILCS 143/10-10 et seq. (West 2000)). The trial and appellate courts upheld the Act against challenges based upon the Illinois due process clause (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §2) and the uniformity clause (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IX, §2). We granted leave to appeal (177 Ill. 2d R. 315) and we now affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Arangold Corporation, is an Illinois corporation doing business as a wholesale tobacco distributor of noncigarette tobacco products, such as cigars and chewing tobacco. Arangold is subject to the Act, which imposes a tax on such products. Proceeds from the tax are deposited into the Long-Term Care Provider Fund of the State Treasury (Fund). 35 ILCS 143/10-10 (West 2000). Disbursements from the Fund are made to skilled and intermediate nursing facilities under Title XIX of the Social Security Act, known as the Medicaid program, and pursuant to article V of the Illinois Public Aid Code (305 ILCS 5/5B-8(b)(1) (West 2000)). These programs provide medical care for people whose income and resources are inadequate to meet their medical needs.

In November 1995, Arangold brought an action in the circuit court of Cook County challenging the constitutionality of the tax imposed by the Act. It alleged that the Act contravened the federal due process and equal protection clauses (U.S. Const., amend. XIV), the Illinois due process and equal protection clauses (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §2), the uniformity clause of the Illinois constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IX, §2), and the Illinois constitution's prohibition on special legislation (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, §13). The trial court denied Arangold's motion for summary judgment on all counts of its complaint. Arangold subsequently amended its complaint to challenge Public Act 89-21, the legislative enactment that included the Act, on the basis that it violated the single subject rule of the Illinois constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, §8(d)). In April 1998, the trial court granted summary judgment to Arangold on its single subject claim. A direct appeal was taken to this court due to the finding of unconstitutionality. In July 1999, this court reversed, finding no single subject violation, and remanded the cause to the trial court for further proceedings. Arangold Corp. v. Zehnder, 187 Ill. 2d 341 (1999).

In March 2000, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment as to all of Arangold's constitutional claims. Following oral argument, the trial court granted the motion. Arangold appealed to the appellate court, which affirmed the trial court's decision. 329 Ill. App. 3d 781.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper where "the pleadings, depositions, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." 735 ILCS 5/2-1005(c) (West 2000). A trial court's grant of summary judgment is reviewed de novo. Morris v. Margulis, 197 Ill. 2d 28, 35 (2001).

The constitutionality of a statute is also reviewed de novo. Miller v. Rosenberg, 196 Ill. 2d 50, 57 (2001). Statutes carry a strong presumption of constitutionality. People ex rel. Ryan v. World Church of the Creator, 198 Ill. 2d 115, 120 (2001). The party challenging a statute carries the burden of rebutting that presumption and "clearly establishing" its unconstitutionality. Russell v. Department of Natural Resources, 183 Ill. 2d 434, 441 (1998). This court has a duty to uphold the constitutionality of a statute whenever reasonably possible. City of Chicago v. Morales, 177 Ill. 2d 440, 448 (1997).

B. Due Process

In this court, Arangold has abandoned its federal constitutional claims, as well as its Illinois equal protection and special legislation claims, choosing to pursue only its Illinois due process and uniformity claims. We first address Arangold's due process arguments.

The Act neither involves a suspect classification nor impinges on a fundamental right. Accordingly, to comport with due process, it must bear a rational relationship to the public interest sought to be served and the means adopted to accomplish this goal must be reasonable. Messenger v. Edgar, 157 Ill. 2d 162, 176 (1993); Russell, 183 Ill. 2d at 447. In applying the rational basis test, a court must identify the public interest that the statute is intended to protect, examine whether the statute bears a reasonable relationship to that interest, and determine whether the method used to protect or further that interest is reasonable. People v. Lindner, 127 Ill. 2d 174, 180 (1989). Rational basis review is limited (Miller, 196 Ill. 2d at 59) and "highly deferential" (Committee for Educational Rights v. Edgar, 174 Ill. 2d 1, 33 (1996)). As long as there is any reasonably conceivable state of facts showing that the legislation is rational, it must be upheld. People v. Hamm, 149 Ill. 2d 201, 216 (1992). Whether a statute is wise or whether it is the best means to achieve the desired result are matters left to the legislature, not the courts. People v. Shephard, 152 Ill. 2d 489, 503 (1992). The judgments made by the legislature in crafting a statute are not subject to courtroom fact finding and may be based on rational speculation unsupported by evidence or empirical data. Cutinello v. Whitley, 161 Ill. 2d 409, 421-22 (1994).

Defendants argue that the government interest at stake-funding medical care for the poor in long-term care facilities-is legitimate and that the General Assembly could reasonably have found that ...


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