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People v. Wilcoxen

April 22, 2005

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
BRUCE WILCOXEN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, INTERVENOR-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 9th Judicial Circuit Fulton County, Illinois No. 81-CF-128 Honorable Eugene Taylor Judge, Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Holdridge

Modified upon Denial of Rehearing July 27, 2005

The Fulton County circuit court ordered the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) to pay attorney's fees for appointed counsel who represented an inmate during discharge proceedings under the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act (the Act) (725 ILCS 205/0.01 et seq. (West 2002)). The IDOC argues that the circuit court lacked authority to enter this order. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

In 1982 Bruce Wilcoxen was found to be a sexually dangerous person and committed to the IDOC under the Act. In 2001, pursuant to his rights under the Act, Wilcoxen filed for discharge on the grounds that he had recovered and was no longer sexually dangerous. The circuit court appointed an attorney to represent him. The matter proceeded to a trial where a jury found that Wilcoxen had not recovered. Accordingly, he was returned to the custody of the IDOC.

Wilcoxen's appointed attorney filed a petition for fees, which the court granted in an order requiring the IDOC to pay the bill ($7,570.30). The IDOC intervened and argued, inter alia, that the order was prohibited by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The court disagreed and found that it had authority to assess the attorney's fees against the IDOC "as a cost of providing services to inmates." Accordingly, the court entered an order stating that the fees "shall be paid by the State of Illinois through the Illinois Department of Corrections." The IDOC responded with this appeal.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The parties agree that our standard of review is de novo. See People v. Johnson, 206 Ill. App. 3d 348 (2002) (noting that questions of law are subject to de novo review).

DISCUSSION The Illinois Constitution states: "Except as the General Assembly may provide by law, sovereign immunity in this State is abolished." Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIII, *4. Pursuant to its authority to reinstate sovereign immunity, the General Assembly has declared that "the State of Illinois shall not be made a defendant or party in any court" except as provided in the Court of Claims Act and the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act. 745 ILCS 5/1 (West 2002).

The instant matter does not involve the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act. Regarding the Court of Claims Act, both parties cite subsection 8(a), which reads:

"The [Court of Claims] shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine *** [a]ll claims against the State founded upon any law of the State of Illinois or upon any regulation adopted thereunder by an executive or administrative officer or agency; provided, however, the court shall not have jurisdiction (i) to hear or determine claims *** for expenses in civil litigation ***." 705 ILCS 505/8(a) (West 2002).

The pivotal question is whether in light of art. XIII, *4, of the Illinois Constitution, and these statutory provisions, the doctrine of sovereign immunity prevents the State from having any liability for a defendant's attorney's fees in recovery proceedings under the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act.

ANALYSIS

When engaging in statutory construction, our role is to determine and effectuate the General Assembly's intent. People v. Ceja, 351 Ill. App. 3d 299 (2004). In doing so, we look to the plain statutory language used by the General Assembly; and if that language is clear, we must apply it without ...


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