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Illinois Labor Relations Board v. Chicago Transit Authority

June 30, 2003

ILLINOIS LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT (AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION LOCAL 241, INTERVENOR-APPELLEE).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable John K. Madden, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Quinn

UNPUBLISHED

In May 2001, intervenor Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241 (Union) filed an unfair labor practice charge against respondent Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) with petitioner Illinois Labor Relations Board (ILRB). After the ILRB issued an administrative subpoena requesting potentially privileged documents relating to the CTA's collective bargaining strategies, the CTA moved to revoke the subpoena. An administrative law judge (ALJ) with the ILRB ruled that the CTA must produce the requested documents and that an ALJ other than himself would conduct an in camera inspection to determine the extent of the privilege. The CTA refused to comply with the ALJ's ruling and the ILRB filed a petition with the circuit court seeking enforcement of its subpoena. The circuit court affirmed the ruling of the ALJ. On appeal, the CTA contends that the trial court, rather than an ALJ, must make the determination as to whether the requested documents are privileged. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

BACKGROUND

In its charge filed with the ILRB, the Union alleged that the CTA had violated various provisions of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (5 ILCS 315/1 et seq. (West 2000)) (Labor Relations Act). The basis of the charge was the CTA's alleged refusal to sign a collective bargaining agreement that had been negotiated with the Union. According to the Union, the CTA had attempted to add new terms and conditions that had either been rejected during negotiations or never proposed. After conducting an investigation into the Union's charges, the ILRB issued a complaint for hearing and the case was assigned to an ALJ. The ILRB subsequently issued a subpoena ordering the CTA to produce documents in existence since January 1, 2001, including "[a]ny and all bargaining notes taken by" various CTA representatives and "[a]ny and all notes or memoranda concerning collective bargaining with Local 241 for a successor agreement, except those privileged as attorney-client communications or attorney work product."

In response to the subpoena, the CTA filed a motion with the ILRB to revoke the subpoena, arguing that many of the requested materials related to its bargaining strategies and were therefore privileged. In support of this assertion, the CTA relied upon the supreme court's decision in Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board v. Homer Community Consolidated School District No. 208, 132 Ill. 2d 29 (1989). The CTA further argued that in accordance with the Homer decision, only the circuit court was permitted to determine whether the requested notes contained privileged materials.

When ruling on the motion to revoke, the ALJ noted that absent a respondent's refusal to comply with an order to produce, the Labor Relations Act did not provide a procedure allowing the circuit court to make rulings with respect to allegedly privileged materials. Addressing the concern in Homer that the person or entity called upon to decide the substantive merits of a case should not also decide issues relating to the bargaining strategy privilege, the ALJ ordered the CTA to produce the requested bargaining notes to another ALJ with the ILRB for an in camera inspection to determine the extent of the privilege.

After the CTA refused to comply with the ILRB's order to turn the requested materials over to a different ALJ, the ILRB filed a petition in the circuit court to enforce its administrative subpoena pursuant to section 11(b) of the Labor Relations Act (5 ILCS 315/11(b) (West 2000)). The CTA moved to dismiss the ILRB's petition pursuant to 2-615 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2000)) (Civil Code), arguing that the petition was substantially insufficient in law because the circuit court, rather than the ILRB, should perform the in camera inspection. The Union, which was allowed to intervene in the action, and the ILRB filed responses to the CTA's motion to dismiss, wherein they argued the Homer case was inapplicable and that requiring an independent ALJ to conduct the in camera inspection prevented unnecessary delay and was appropriate under various provisions of the Labor Relations Act.

After hearing argument of counsel, the trial court denied the CTA's motion to dismiss and ordered the CTA to comply with the subpoena by turning over the requested documents to an ALJ not assigned to the case for an in camera inspection to allow the ALJ to rule on matters relating to privilege. The trial court later stayed enforcement of its order pending this appeal filed by the CTA.

ANALYSIS

On appeal, the CTA contends that the trial court erred in denying its motion to dismiss the ILRB's petition for enforcement of administrative subpoena. It first argues that because this case is controlled by Homer, only the circuit court can review the potentially privileged documents requested by the ILRB. The CTA further argues that the ALJ's ruling that an ALJ with the ILRB other than himself should review the documents in camera and make a determination as to the extent of privilege amounts to improper administrative rule making. See Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Co. v. Environmental Protection Agency, 314 Ill. App. 3d 296, 303 (2000) ("Administrative agencies are required to apply their rules as written, without making ad hoc exceptions in adjudications of particular cases").

This case is before us based upon the trial court's ruling on the CTA's motion filed pursuant to section 2-615 of the Civil Code, wherein it was argued that the ILRB's petition for enforcement was substantially insufficient in law. See 735 ILCS 5/2-615(b) (West 2000). A motion to dismiss for defects in the pleadings when the complaint is substantially insufficient in law attacks the legal sufficiency of the complaint and is solely based on defects appearing on the face of the complaint. Aboufariss v. City of De Kalb, 305 Ill. App. 3d 1054, 1066 (1999). Our review of the denial of a section 2-615 motion to dismiss is de novo. Stratman v. Brent, 291 Ill. App. 3d 123, 134 (1997), citing Kedzie & 103rd Currency Exchange, Inc. v. Hodge, 156 Ill. 2d 112, 116 (1993).

This case is before us based upon the circuit court's powers to enforce administrative subpoenas under section 11(b) of the Labor Relations Act, which provides:

"The Board shall have the power to issue subpoenas and administer oaths. If any party wilfully fails or neglects to appear or testify or to produce books, papers and records pursuant to the issuance of a subpoena by the Board, the Board may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to request that such party be ordered to appear before ...


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