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Bruce v. White

December 05, 2003

HELEN K. BRUCE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JESSE WHITE, SECRETARY OF STATE, STATE OF ILLINOIS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 02MR340 Honorable Leslie Graves, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Turner

PUBLISHED

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White (Secretary) appeals a Sangamon County circuit court order, reversing his June 13, 2002, order that denied the petition for the rescission of an order of suspension filed by plaintiff, Helen K. Bruce. We reverse the circuit court's judgment and reinstate the Secretary's denial of plaintiff's petition.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born in July 1967 and got her first driver's license at age 16 under the name Helen K. Chamberlin. On June 4, 1989, plaintiff received a suspension for failing to appear, which was cleared on August 12, 1998. In August 1990, plaintiff got married and changed her name to Helen K. Bruce. In 1995, she obtained a driver's license in her married name.

Pursuant to section 6-206(a)(9) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Vehicle Code) (625 ILCS 5/6-206(a)(9) (West Supp. 1997)), the Secretary entered an order of suspension, effective June 10, 1998, based on plaintiff's "having made a false statement or knowingly concealed a material fact or having used false information or identification in an application for a license, identification card[,] or permit." The suspension had a termination date of June 10, 1999. The Secretary also entered an order, effective June 15, 1998, canceling plaintiff's driver's license because section 6-103(3) of the Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/6-103(3) (West Supp. 1997)) prohibited her from obtaining a license during a period of suspension.

In April 2002, pursuant to section 2-118 of the Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/2-118 (West 2002)), plaintiff filed a request for a formal hearing, seeking to clear her record of the 1998 suspension. On May 3, 2003, the hearing officer held a hearing. Plaintiff first testified she got a driver's license in her married name at the time of her August 1990 marriage. She later testified- 1 -she got a driver's license in her married name in 1995. She explained that she did not drive after she got married because she lived in Chicago, and her husband did all of the driving.

When she got her driver's license in her married name, plaintiff recalled an employee filling out the application and asking her several questions, including whether her license had ever been suspended, to which she replied no. When presented with the application, plaintiff stated it was her signature on the application. Plaintiff denied knowing at that time that her license was suspended.

In 1998, a police officer pulled plaintiff over and informed her that her license was suspended. She called the Secretary's office and learned she had failed to pay a ticket. According to the certification of traffic violation disposition, on July 21, 1998, plaintiff paid the fine for a case disposed of on March 22, 1989. She did not remember getting the 1989 ticket. Plaintiff testified she never got notice the Secretary suspended her license and did not know of the suspension when she obtained her driver's license in her married name. She also denied knowingly making a false statement to the Secretary's office. Plaintiff admitted she had moved a lot and had not notified the Secretary's office of her address changes. However, she did have her mail forwarded. Plaintiff also testified she did not recall moving for a period of time when she did not have a driver's license.

After the hearing, the hearing officer entered an order, finding, inter alia, the following: (1) plaintiff admitted she applied for a driver's license on February 21, 1995, in the name of Helen K. Bruce; (2) plaintiff answered no to the application's question of whether her driver's license had "' ever been suspended, revoked, cancelled[,] or refused in any state under this or any other name'"; (3) plaintiff also admitted she previously held a license in the name Helen K. Chamberlain; (4) that license was suspended on June 4, 1989, pursuant to section 6-306.3 of the Vehicle Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-306.3), when plaintiff failed to appear in court on a traffic citation where she had posted her driver's license in lieu of bail; (5) plaintiff did not deny the suspension was entered but did deny she was aware of the suspension when she applied for a license in February 1995; (6) plaintiff's demeanor was indignant; and (7) plaintiff's testimony was not credible.

The hearing officer concluded plaintiff failed to meet her burden of proof, noting that, if plaintiff did not receive the notice of the 1989 suspension, it was because she failed to fulfill her obligation of informing the Secretary of her change in address. He also noted plaintiff did not have a license in her possession for nearly six years.

On June 13, 2002, the Secretary adopted the hearing officer's findings of fact and conclusions of law and thus denied plaintiff's petition.

On June 26, 2002, plaintiff filed a complaint in the circuit court pursuant to the Administrative Review Law (735 ILCS 5/3-101 through 3-113 (West 2002)), seeking review of the Secretary's decision. After a January 2003 hearing, the circuit court reversed the Secretary's June 13, 2002, decision; reversed the June 1998 order suspending plaintiff's driver's license; ...


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