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Ramos v. City of Peru

August 8, 2003

ADAN RAMOS AND MARY RAMOS, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
THE CITY OF PERU, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE
(ILLINOIS VALLEY CRIME STOPPERS, RESPONDENT IN DISCOVERY).



Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 13th Judicial Circuit, LaSalle County, Illinois No. 00L61 Honorable Eugene P. Daugherity Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Breslin

In 1989, the Illinois legislature enacted the Illinois Uniform Conviction Information Act (Act) (20 ILCS 2635/1 et seq. (West 2000)). It declared that conviction information maintained by the Illinois Department of State Police (the Department) would be made available to the public. 20 ILCS 2635/2(A) (West 2000). The purpose of the Act is to establish a uniform policy for access and dissemination of conviction information, set guidelines that would support effective law enforcement, ensure the accuracy of conviction information, and provide individuals with a form of redress for grievances if inaccurate or incomplete information was disseminated about them. 20 ILCS 2635/2(B) (West 2000).

Plaintiffs Adan and Mary Ramos filed an action against the City of Peru pursuant to the Act. In May of 1996, Adan had been arrested by the Peru police department on domestic battery charges. While he was being processed for that arrest, a photograph was taken of him. On July 20, 1999, a Crime Stoppers' advertisement appeared in the LaSalle News-Tribune. The advertisement named Ricardo N. Ramos as a person wanted for the offense of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Directly above the name of Ricardo N. Ramos was the photograph of Adan Ramos.

The Ramoses filed a complaint against the city, asserting a violation of the Act (20 ILCS 2635/1 et seq. (West 2000)), defamation, and false light invasion of privacy. A separate personal injury claim for Mary was included in the complaint.

The trial court dismissed the Uniform Conviction Information Act claim pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2000)). It found that the purpose of the Act was to create liability for information that is disseminated from the Department of State Police's central repository only and not for information released from the files of local police departments. Because the Ramoses failed to allege that the photograph of Adan was disseminated from the files of the Department, the court dismissed the claim.

The defamation, false light, and personal injury claims were dismissed pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2000)). The court determined that section 2-107 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Tort Immunity Act) (745 ILCS 10/2-107 (West 2000)) barred all three claims and that there was no legal basis for Mary's personal injury claim because the publication was not directed at her.

In this appeal we are asked to determine whether the trial court properly dismissed the Ramoses' claims. This court applies a de novo standard when reviewing a lower court's dismissal of claims pursuant to sections 2-615 and 2-619 of the Code. Provenzale v. Forister, 318 Ill. App. 3d 869, 743 N.E.2d 676 (2001).

A. Conviction Information Act

The Ramoses contend that the trial court erred when it determined that the Uniform Conviction Information Act did not apply to information released from the files of local police departments. The city disputes this contention and responds that section 23(C) of the Act (20 ILCS 2635/23(C) (West 2000)) specifically exempts the Ramoses' claim. In the alternative, the city argues that if this court determines that the Act applies to the files of local police departments, the trial court's decision should be affirmed because (1) the Ramoses failed to properly allege a violation of the Act and (2) the photograph of Adan did not constitute "conviction information" as defined by the Act.

When interpreting a statute, the court's primary objective is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature. When determining legislative intent, the court must construe the language of the statute according to its plain and ordinary meaning. In re C.M., 282 Ill. App. 3d 990, 669 N.E.2d 707 (1996). If the statutory language is clear and unambiguous, the statute's plain meaning will be given effect. People v. Whitney, 188 Ill. 2d 91, 720 N.E.2d 225 (1999).

Section 14 of the Act is entitled "Judicial Remedies" and states in relevant part:

"(B) An individual aggrieved by a violation of this Act by a State Agency or unit of local government shall have the right to pursue a civil action for damages or other appropriate legal or equitable remedy ***.

(C) Any civil action for damages alleging the negligent dissemination of inaccurate or incomplete conviction information by a State agency or by a unit of local government in violation of this Act may only be brought against the State agency or unit of local government and shall not be brought against any employee or official thereof." (Emphasis added.) 20 ILCS 2635/14 (West 2000).

In our view, this language is unambiguous. The Act clearly contemplates that aggrieved individuals may pursue judicial remedies against state agencies and units of local governments such as the City of Peru. It applies to conviction information *fn1 that is reported to or collected, maintained, or disseminated by the Department. *fn2 20 ILCS 2635/4 (West 2000)). Thus, conviction information that is reported to the Department by units of local government is included. See 20 ILCS 2635/5 (West 2000). The photograph in this case falls under the definition of conviction information; therefore, it is included under the Act. Any other interpretation of the language of section 14 would not conform with the Act's purpose to ensure the accuracy and ...


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