Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lee County. No. 03-MR-8. Honorable David T. Fritts, Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice O'malley
Plaintiff, Mike Hynes, a former inmate at the Stateville Correctional Center, filed a complaint for mandamus in the circuit court of Lee County. At the time Hynes filed his complaint, Donald Snyder, Jr., was the director of the Department of Corrections (DOC), and in his complaint Hynes sought, among other things, to compel Snyder, in his official capacity, to provide information. Specifically, Hynes wanted to know the factual basis for the refusal of his request for restoration of "good conduct" credits. The circuit court dismissed Hynes' claim pursuant to section 2--615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2--615 (West 2002)), and he appeals. He argues that the applicable statute entitles him to the information he seeks. We agree. Thus, we reverse and remand.
Illinois law entitles prison inmates to statutory good conduct credits (credits). See 730 ILCS 5/3--6--3 (West 2002). These credits reduce the sentence of the recipient inmate and their accumulation may entitle the inmate to early release. 730 ILCS 5/3--6--3 (West 2002). However, if after receipt of these credits an inmate engages in misconduct, his credits may be revoked and his sentence thereby increased from what it would have been had he retained those credits. See 20 Ill. Adm. Code §107.150 (2003). Of course, before an inmate's credits may be revoked, the inmate is entitled to certain procedural safeguards. 20 Ill. Adm. Code §107.150 (2003). Also, if those credits are revoked, the inmate is entitled to a written statement of the factual basis for that revocation. See 730 ILCS 5/3-- 5--1(b) (West 2002). An inmate whose credits are revoked may, at regular specified intervals, petition for their restoration. See 20 Ill. Adm. Code §107.160 (2003).
During his time at Stateville, Hynes traveled the above procedural path. His journey began in 1987, when, following a prison disciplinary hearing, he was found guilty of misconduct and his credits were revoked. Following the loss of his credits, Hynes filed several complaints regarding the procedures by which those credits had been revoked. Eventually, he also began at regular intervals to apply for restoration of those credits. In the fall of 2001, one month of Hynes' credits was restored. In March 2002, another month of Hynes' credits was restored, and another month of credits was restored in April 2002. But on October 4, 2002, Snyder refused Hynes' request for restoration of additional credits. He did not provide Hynes with a factual basis for his decision.
Less than four months later, on January 23, 2003, Hynes filed in the circuit court a pro se complaint for mandamus. In his complaint, Hynes argued that the refusal to restore his credits was improper. Nearly four months later, in May 2003, Snyder filed a motion to dismiss Hynes' complaint. In that motion, he argued that Hynes had failed to establish a clear right to mandamus. The circuit court agreed and dismissed Hynes' complaint, giving him leave to amend. On June 23, 2003, Hynes filed his amended complaint and included a request for mandamus to compel Snyder to provide a factual basis for the refusal to restore Hynes' credits. In considering Hynes' amended complaint, the circuit court did not address Hynes' request for information. Instead, the circuit court concluded (1) that Snyder had discretion over whether to restore Hynes' credits and so mandamus would not issue to compel him to do so; and (2) that Hynes' claim was untimely. The circuit court dismissed Hynes' amended complaint. Thereafter, Hynes filed this timely appeal.*fn1
At some point after Hynes filed his appeal--the record does not reveal when--Roger E. Walker, Jr., replaced Snyder as director of the DOC. Pursuant to section 2--1008(d) of the Code, Walker is substituted as the defendant in this action. 735 ILCS 5/2-- 1008(d) (West 2002) ("If any trustee or any public officer ceases to hold the trust or office and that fact is suggested of record, the action shall proceed in favor of or against his or her successor"). The need to point this out will become clear in part II(C) of the discussion below. For now, it is sufficient to inform the reader that throughout the remainder of this discussion we will refer to Snyder (the former director and original defendant in this action) as the former director, and we will refer to Walker (the current director and current defendant) as the Director. We now turn to the analysis of this case.
We begin by setting out the standard of review. A motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2--615 challenges the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Bajwa v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., 208 Ill. 2d 414, 421 (2004). Dismissal is appropriate only if, viewing the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, it is clear that no set of facts can be proved that would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Bajwa, 208 Ill. 2d at 421. We review de novo a circuit court's decision to dismiss a complaint pursuant to section 2--615. Bajwa, 208 Ill. 2d at 421.
The circuit court read Hynes' complaint as seeking only restoration of his credits. The circuit court did not consider Hynes' claim that he was entitled to information regarding the refusal to restore his credits. However, Hynes did raise that claim on the face of his amended complaint, and he focuses on that claim on appeal. Thus, our decision, too, will focus on this issue. Resolving it will require us to consider what section 3--5--1(b) of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/3--5--1(b) (West 2002)) requires of prison officials.
Before we reach that issue, however, we must address three preliminary arguments made by the Director. First, we must consider whether, as the circuit court found, Hynes' claim is time-barred. Second, we must determine whether Hynes' claim is moot. Third, we must determine whether, if the law requires that Hynes be provided with the information he seeks, the Director should be required to provide that information.
A. Hynes' Claim is not Time-Barred
The Director first argues that Hynes' claim is time-barred. Specifically, the Director argues that the equitable doctrine of laches bars Hynes' claim. However, the circuit court did not find Hynes' claim time-barred based on laches. Instead, the circuit court found that "the statute of limitations ha[d] run" on Hynes' claim. In his brief to this court, the Director argues that the circuit court meant to say that Hynes' claim was barred by laches. We disagree. Rather, the circuit court relied on the former director's assertion to it that a statute of limitations barred Hynes' claim. In his motion to dismiss, the former director stated, "[Hynes'] claim is barred by the [s]tatute of [l]imitations applicable in these matters[,] which is a 6 month [s]tatute of [l]imitations." The former director did not cite a statute from which this limitation period derived. Nor did he mention laches. Later, at a hearing on the motion, the Attorney General, as counsel for the defense, insisted that a statute of limitations barred Hynes' claim. And, as noted, when the circuit court ruled, it stated that a statute of limitations applied. Based on all of this, we think that, contrary to the Director's assertion, the circuit court believed that a statute of limitations barred Hynes' claim. The problem with that conclusion is that there is no statute to support it; yet a statute is clearly a necessary part of a statute of limitations. This being the case, the circuit court's conclusion that a statute of limitations barred Hynes' claim cannot stand.
That said, the Director may argue laches in this appeal. See People v. Pinkonsly, 207 Ill. 2d 555, 562-63 (2003) (noting that appellees may raise for the first time on appeal arguments in support of the circuit court's judgment, even though those arguments were not raised or considered ...