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Jenkins v. McIlvain

March 24, 2003

RALPH JENKINS AND CLIFTON GRAHAM, JR., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
DEBORAH M. MCILVAIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER CAPACITY AS CITY CLERK FOR THE CITY OF COUNTRY CLUB HILLS, AND DAVID ORR, IN HIS CAPACITY AS THE COOK COUNTY CLERK. DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES,



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Raymond L. Jagielski Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hoffman

The plaintiffs, Ralph Jenkins and Clifton Graham, Jr., brought the instant action seeking to obtain court orders requiring Deborah M. McIlvain, City Clerk for the City of Country Club Hills, to certify their names as candidates to be placed on the ballot for the city's April 1, 2003, consolidated election and enjoining David Orr, Cook County Clerk, from printing election ballots that did not contain their names. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of the defendants on three counts of the plaintiffs' five count complaint, and the plaintiffs now appeal.

The plaintiffs, Jenkins and Graham, timely filed nomination papers seeking to have their names placed on the ballot for the City of Country Club Hills' April 1, 2003, consolidated election as candidates for the offices of alderman of the city's Fifth Ward and mayor, respectively. The plaintiffs included with their nomination papers receipts from the Cook County Clerk verifying that each had filed a statement of economic interests on December 27, 2002. No objections were filed to the plaintiffs' nomination papers. On January 23, 2003, McIlvain wrote to each of the plaintiffs and informed them that they would not be certified as a candidates for the April 1, 2003, election because: 1) their statements of economic interests were not filed in the same calendar year as their nominating petitions and 2) their nominating petitions were not bound when filed as required by section 10-4 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/10-4 (West 2000)). On January 30, 2003, McIlvain certified to the Cook County Clerk the names to be listed on the ballot for the city's April 1, 2003, election. She did not include the plaintiffs' names.

On February 14, 2003, the plaintiffs filed a five count complaint against McIlvain, both personally and in her capacity as City Clerk, and Orr, in his capacity as Cook County Clerk. In count I of the complaint, the plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctions compelling McIlvain to file an amended certification of ballot certifying their names as candidates for the April 1, 2003, election and enjoining Orr from printing and distributing election ballots without their names. In count II, the plaintiffs sought a writ of mandamus compelling McIlvain to certify their names as candidates in the April 1, 2003, election. In count III, the plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that McIlvain had no discretion to refuse to certify their names to Orr. In counts IV and V of their complaint, the plaintiffs alleged causes of action under 42 U.S.C. §1983 (1996) against McIlvain.

On February 24, 2003, the plaintiffs filed a memorandum of law in support of their complaint, to which they attached their own affidavits. Each plaintiff averred that his nomination papers were bound at the time of filing.

On February 26, 2003, McIlvain answered the plaintiffs' complaint, denying allegations that her failure to certify the plaintiffs as candidates in the April 1, 2003, election was improper. That same day, McIlvain filed a memorandum of law in opposition to the plaintiffs' complaint, to which she attached two affidavits from Alison Brothen, the Finance Director for the City of Country Club Hills. Brothen averred that she accepted the plaintiffs' nominating petitions for filing and that the petitions were not bound in any manner.

On February 27, 2003, following a hearing, the circuit court entered an order stating its finding that McIlvain "acted within her duties as mandated within the Election Code in refusing to certify the plaintiffs' names" because they did not file their statements of economic interests in the same calendar year as their nomination papers and, in doing so, entered judgment in favor of the defendants on counts I through III of the plaintiffs' complaint. The court did not address the issues relating to the binding of the plaintiffs' nomination papers. The circuit court's written order included the requisite language to permit the plaintiffs to appeal its ruling pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 304(a) (155 Ill. 2d R. 304(a)).

On March 6, 2003, the plaintiffs filed their notice of appeal from the circuit court's February 27, 2003, order. Due to the imminence of the April 1, 2003, election, we set an expedited briefing schedule and took the matter under advisement without oral argument. For the reasons which follow, we affirm the circuit court's judgment.

The plaintiffs' entitlement to relief under counts I through III of their complaint depends upon the resolution of two issues: (1) whether McIlvain has the authority to refuse to certify for placement on the ballot the name of a candidate whose nomination papers are not in apparent conformity with the Election Code; and (2) whether section 10-5 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/10-5 (West 2000)) requires that a candidate file a statement of economic interests during the same calendar year that he files his nomination papers. As the answer to each of these questions is a matter of statutory interpretation, our review is de novo. Sylvester v. Industrial Comm'n. 197 Ill. 2d 225, 232, 756 N.E.2d 822 (2001).

The plaintiffs first argue that, pursuant to the Election Code, a local election authority does not have the authority to refuse to certify a person as a candidate to be listed on the election ballot, regardless of any deficiencies with his nomination papers, unless that person's nominating petitions have been invalidated by the electoral board. In support of this argument, the plaintiffs rely on section 10-15 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/10-15 (West 2000)). In relevant part, section 10-15 of the Election Code requires that, not less than 61 days before the date of a consolidated election, each local election official with whom nomination papers have been filed must certify to the appropriate election authority:

"the names of all candidates entitled to be printed on the ballot for offices of that political subdivision to be voted upon at such election and direct the election authority to place upon the official ballot for such election the names of such candidates in the same manner and in the same order as shown upon the certification." 10 ILCS 5/10-15 (West 2000).

Section 10-15 further provides:

"The local election officials shall certify such candidates for each office in the order in which such candidates' certificates of nomination or nominating petitions were filed in his office. However, subject to appeal, the names of candidates whose petitions have been held invalid by the appropriate electoral board provided in Section 10-9 of this Act shall not be so certified." 10 ILCS 5/10-15 (West 2000).

This court has already rejected the plaintiffs' proposed interpretation of section 10-15 in North v. Hinkle, 295 Ill. App. 3d 84, 85, 87-89, 692 N.E.2d 352 (1998), where we held that a local election official has a responsibility to examine nominating papers to determine whether, upon their face, they are in apparent conformity with the Election Code and the authority to refuse to certify the name of any candidate whose papers are not. Compare Welch v. Educational Officers Electoral Board for Proviso High School District 209, 322 Ill. App. 3d 568, 750 N.E.2d 222 (2001)(court held that election official did not have the authority to refuse to certify candidates' names for placement on ballot on basis that their nomination papers were untimely filed where untimeliness was not apparent on face of papers and determination as to timeliness would require investigation of facts surrounding filing). Each of the alleged deficiencies which McIlvain cited for refusing to certify the plaintiffs' names for placement on the ballot was apparent ...


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