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Walter P. Maksym and Thomas L. Mcmahon v. Rahm Emanuel

January 24, 2011



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hoffman

JUSTICE HOFFMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Presiding Justice Hall concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Lampkin dissented, with opinion.


The petitioners, Walter P. Maksym, Jr., and Thomas L. McMahon, filed written objections to the candidacy of the respondent, Rahm Emanuel (the candidate), who seeks to be a candidate for Mayor of the City of Chicago in the Municipal General Election to be held on February 22, 2011. After an evidentiary hearing, the Board of Election Commissioners of the City of Chicago (the Board) dismissed the objections and ruled that the candidate was entitled to have his name included on the ballot as a mayoral candidate. The petitioners sought judicial review in the circuit court of Cook County, which confirmed the decision of the Board. The petitioners now appeal. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the circuit court's judgment, set aside the Board's decision, and order that the candidate's name be excluded (or, if necessary, removed) from the ballot for Chicago's February 22, 2011, mayoral election.

Although the parties engaged in an extensive evidentiary hearing prior to the Board's decision, the pertinent facts are largely undisputed on appeal. It suffices for our purposes to summarize and adopt the hearing officer's factual findings, which the Board adopted and which we hereinafter refer to as the Board's findings. In so doing, we conclude that those findings were not against the manifest weight of the evidence. See Cinkus v. Village of Stickney Municipal Officers Electoral Board, 228 Ill. 2d 200, 210, 886 N.E.2d 1011 (2008).

The candidate was born in Chicago and, in December 1998, purchased a Chicago home (the Hermitage house), which he still owns. The candidate lived with his family in that home from 1998 through January 2009. On January 2, 2009, the candidate, who had up to then served as a member of the United States House of Representatives elected from the district that included the Hermitage house, resigned his office in order to serve in Washington, D.C., as Chief of Staff to the President of the United States. After traveling to Washington, D.C., he and his spouse purchased additional land adjoining their Chicago property.

From January through May 2009, the candidate lived in an "inlaw apartment" in Washington, D.C., while his family remained in the Hermitage house. From June 2009 until October 1, 2010, the candidate, and his family, lived in a Washington, D.C., house (the Woodley House) that was leased for the term spanning June 1, 2009, through June 30, 2011. The family received their mail at the Woodley house and moved most of their clothes and personal belongings to Washington, D.C. They did, however, leave behind at the Hermitage house several larger household items, including televisions, a piano, and a bed, as well as several personal possessions such as family heirlooms and books. The candidate's Hermitage house was leased to another family for the term of September 1, 2009, through June 30, 2011.

At all relevant times, including the time he was in Washington, D.C., the candidate continued to pay property taxes for the Hermitage house, continued to hold an Illinois driver's license listing the Hermitage house as his address, continued to list the Hermitage house address on his personal checks, and continued to vote with the Hermitage house as his registered voting address. He did, however, pay income tax in 2009 and 2010 to both Washington, D.C., and Illinois.

On October 1, 2010, the candidate resigned his position of Chief of Staff to the President of the United States and entered into a lease to live in an apartment located on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago from October 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011. He has lived in that apartment since October 1, 2010. In his testimony, the candidate explained that he had always expected to serve as Chief of Staff to the President for approximately 18 to 24 months before returning to live in the Hermitage house.

From these facts, the Election Board concluded that the candidate met the qualification for candidacy, contained in subsection 3.1-10-5(a) of the Illinois Municipal Code (Municipal Code) (65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5(a) (West 2008)), mandating that he have "resided in" Chicago for the one year preceding the February 22, 2011 mayoral election. The Board based this conclusion on the evidence that the candidate maintained significant contacts with Chicago, intended to return to Chicago and to the Hermitage house, and had lived in Washington, D.C., solely for the purpose of working for the President. The petitioners filed a petition for judicial review in the circuit court, and, following the circuit court's confirmation of the Board's decision, they now appeal.

The standards for our review of an electoral board decision mirror those applicable to review of an administrative agency decision. Cinkus, 228 Ill. 2d at 209-10. Thus, for any given issue, our standard of review, which embodies the level of deference we afford the agency on that issue, depends on whether the issue is one of law, one of fact, or a mixed question of law and fact. AFM Messenger Service, Inc. v. Department of Employment Security, 198 Ill. 2d 380, 390, 763 N.E.2d 272 (2001). An electoral board's decisions on questions of law are not binding on a reviewing court, which will review such questions under the nondeferential de novo standard. Cinkus, 228 Ill. 2d at 210-11. An electoral board's findings of fact, however, are deemed prima facie true and correct and will not be overturned on appeal unless they are against the manifest weight of the evidence. Cinkus, 228 Ill. 2d at 210; 735 ILCS 5/3-110 (West 2008). An electoral board's rulings on mixed questions of law and fact--questions on which the historical facts are admitted, the rule of law is undisputed, and the only remaining issue is whether the facts satisfy a statutory standard with which the Board has expertise--will not be disturbed on review unless clearly erroneous. Cinkus, 228 Ill. 2d at 211.

The issues in this appeal distill essentially to two: whether the candidate meets the Municipal Code's requirement that he have "resided in the municipality at least one year next preceding the election" (65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5(a) (West 2008)), and, if not, whether he is exempt from that requirement under the Election Code provision stating that "no elector *** shall be deemed to have lost his or her residence *** by reason of his or her absence on business of the United States" (10 ILCS 5/3-2 (West 2008)). Each of these issues presents, first, a legal question requiring construction of the relevant statutory provisions, and, second, assuming the Board applied the correct standard (see Du Page County Airport Authority v. Department of Revenue, 358 Ill. App. 3d 476, 498 n.4, 831 N.E.2d 30 (2005)), a mixed question of law and fact regarding the Board's application of that standard. We review the legal questions de novo and any mixed questions under the clearly erroneous standard.

We begin by analyzing the statutory requirements to be a candidate for municipal office, which are located in subsection 3.1-10-5(a) of the Municipal Code: "A person is not eligible for an elective municipal office unless that person is a qualified elector of the municipality and has resided in the municipality at least one year next preceding the election or appointment ***." 65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5(a) (West 2008).

In its decision, to determine whether the candidate met the Municipal Code's requirement that he have "resided in" the municipality for one year, the Board applied the test for residency that has been used for voter qualification under the Election Code. This approach is supported by several appellate court decisions that, without discussion, equate residency requirements imposed on voters with requirements that a candidate "resided in" his or her political unit. See e.g., People ex rel. Madigan v. Baumgartner, 355 Ill. App. 3d 842, 847-48, 823 N.E.2d 1144 (2005) (stating only that it would treat the terms as synonymous "because eligibility to run for office is closely linked to the ability to vote within a particular jurisdiction"); Walsh v. County Officers Electoral Board of Cook County, 267 Ill. App. 3d 972, 976, 642 N.E.2d 843 (1994) (assuming implicitly that the terms were synonymous); Delk v. Board of Election Commissioners of the City of Chicago, 112 Ill. App. 3d 735, 738, 445 N.E.2d 1232 (1983).

Neither the Board nor the parties have, however, referred us to any supreme court opinion ratifying, adopting, or directly addressing this approach. The only cited supreme court case to approach the issue is Smith v. People ex rel. Frisbie, 44 Ill. 16 (1867), a quo warrantor action decided under the presumption that the candidate had a right to the office to which he had been appointed and in which the court required the objectors to establish the candidate's disqualification by "clear and satisfactory" proof. See Smith, 44 Ill. at 24-25. We know of no similar presumption applicable to this case, and the objectors here bore the less stringent burden to prove the candidate's disqualification by a preponderance of the evidence. See Board of Election Commissioners of the City of Chicago, Rules of Procedure 10 ("[T]he objector must bear the burden of proving by operation of law and by a preponderance of the *** evidence *** that the objections are true.").

In addition, although the supreme court's discussion in Smith was based nominally on principles of "residence," it appears from its analysis that it actually applied concepts of domicile. Despite the facts that the officeholder had left Illinois with his family and had rented out his Illinois home, the supreme court concluded, based solely on the officeholder's intent to return, that he retained his "residence" in Illinois. See Smith, 44 Ill. at 24-25. This intent-based analysis is the defining characteristic of the principle of domicile, a legal status that, once acquired, can be "retained, animo solo, by the mere intention not to change it and adopt another." Hayes v. Hayes, 74 Ill. 2d 312, 314 (1874). Since Smith was decided, however, our supreme court has explained unequivocally that "it is elemental that domicile and residence are not synonymous." Pope v. Board of Election Commissioners, 370 Ill. 196, 202, 18 N.E.2d 214 (1938). As the supreme court further explained in Pope, the legal concept of "residence" requires a permanent abode. Pope, 370 Ill. at 200. Accordingly, to the extent that Smith might establish that a voter or candidate could meet a residency requirement through intent alone, without any permanent abode, the supreme court has since abandoned Smith's approach. For this reason, along with the above-discussed reasons, we do not view Smith as controlling this case.

Aside from Smith, the candidate urges that the test to be applied in determining whether he has resided within Chicago for one year prior to the February 22 mayoral election is the same as the test for determining residency under the Election Code. He bases this argument, in part, upon the assertion that the Election Code and the Municipal Code should be interpreted in pari materia. See Cinkus, 228 Ill. 2d at 218-19. The doctrine of in pari materia, however, does not dictate that terms in separate statutes be given identical meanings; it dictates only that separate statutes bearing on the same subject matter be given harmonious interpretation. E.g., Gerard v. White, 356 Ill. App. 3d 11, 17, 826 N.E.2d 517 (2005). We, therefore, do not view the doctrine of in pari materia as a bar to distinguishing the Election Code's residency requirement from the Municipal Code's one-year "reside in" requirement for candidates. In fact, as we discuss below, we view the doctrine, which is actually an outgrowth of the more general rule that courts should consider statutory provisions in light of the entire relevant statutory scheme (Gerard, 356 Ill. App. 3d at 17), as support for our conclusion that the requirements of the Election Code and the Municipal Code, although distinguishable, may nevertheless be read in harmony.

The supreme court has not directly addressed the notion that the legislature intended the Municipal Code's one-year "reside in" requirement for candidates to coextend with the residency requirement for voters, but the court has at least once noted the distinction between candidate and voter residency requirements. In People ex rel. Moran v. Teolis, 20 Ill. 2d 95, 169 N.E.2d 232 (1960), a party argued that a voter residency requirement should be extended based on the policy embodied by a precursor to the Municipal Code section now at issue, which provided, as it provides now, that a candidate for municipal office be a qualified elector and have resided in the area at least one year preceding the election. Moran, 20 Ill. 2d at 104 (discussing Ill. Rev. Stat. 1957, ch. 24, par. 9-87). The supreme court answered that the statute "differentiate[d] between 'electors' and those persons who may qualify for municipal office." Moran, 20 Ill. 2d at 104.

With the exception of Smith, which we have already distinguished, the supreme court has limited its analysis of residency requirements to voter qualification cases. See Clark v. Quick, 377 Ill. 424, 426-27, 36 N.E.2d 563 (1941) ("residence for voting purposes means an actual place of abode" (emphasis added); " 'a real and not imaginary abode, occupied as his home or dwelling, is essential to satisfy the legal requirements as to the residence of a voter' " (emphasis added)); Coffey v. Board of Election Commissioners of East St. Louis, 375 Ill. 385, 387, 31 N.E.2d 588 (1940) ("[a] residence, for voting purposes, is not lost by temporary removal with the intention to return" (emphasis added)); Park v. Hood, 374 Ill. 36, 43, 27 N.E.2d 838 (1940) ("[a] real and not an imaginary abode, occupied as his home or dwelling, is essential to satisfy the legal requirements as to the residence of a voter" (emphasis added)); Pope, 370 Ill. at 198-99 ("The determination of this question requires a review of the qualifications for registration and voting" (emphasis added)); Anderson v. Pifer, 315 Ill. 164, 146 N.E. 171 (1924) ("Whether a college student is entitled to vote" based on residence is a question of fact (emphasis added)). Consequently, we have neither a current supreme court directive, nor persuasive appellate court reasoning, compelling us to treat candidate residency requirements in the same manner as voter residency requirements, and we have some indications from the supreme court that the requirements might diverge. We must, therefore, ourselves interpret the Municipal Code's use of the phrase "resided in" to determine if it should be construed as being synonymous with, or different from, the Election Code's residency requirements for voters.

We begin this task by resort to familiar principles of statutory interpretation. For a court interpreting a statute, the primary goal is to ascertain and give effect to the intention of the legislature, and the best indicator of that intent is the statute's language, given its plain and ordinary meaning. Cinkus, 228 Ill.2d at 216.

As noted, the operative language at issue requires that a potential candidate have "resided in" the municipality for one year next preceding the election. In its verb form, "reside" generally means, among other things, "to dwell permanently or continuously," or to "have a settled abode for a time." Webster's Third New International Dictionary 1931 (1993). The word is considered to be synonymous with "live, dwell, sojourn, lodge, stay, put (up), [and] stop," but it "may be the preferred term for expressing the idea that a person keeps or returns to a particular dwelling place as his fixed, settled, or legal abode." Webster's Third New International Dictionary 1931 (1993).

These definitions are not interchangeable for our purposes: our selection of the synonym "live" as a fair definition of "resided in" would defeat the candidate's eligibility to run for office, because he most certainly "lived" outside Chicago for a large part of the statutory one-year period. On the other hand, our selection of a conception of "resided in" more akin to the idea of a permanent abode a person keeps or to which he plans to return--the definition the Board seems to have employed--would lend much greater support to the candidate's position. The question for us, then, becomes which of these definitions the legislature meant to invoke with its use of the phrase "reside in" in the Municipal Code.

In interpreting a statute, a court should consider, in addition to the statutory language, the reason for the law, the problems to be remedied, and the objects and purposes sought by the law. People v. Donoho, 204 Ill. 2d 159, 171-72, 788 N.E.2d 707 (2003). Our research into legislative purpose reveals that candidate "reside in" qualifications of the type now at issue date to our State's first constitution, which imposed upon candidates for the offices of state representative and senator the requirement that they have "resided" within the area for 12 months (or one year) prior to their election and imposed upon lieutenant governor candidates the requirement that they have "resided" within the State for two years preceding their election. See Ill. Const. 1818, art. II, §2, §6; Schedule §13. Similar "reside in" qualifications have appeared, both in Illinois' constitutions and in its statutes, since 1818. See e.g., Ill. Const. 1848, art. III, §3, §4; 1861 Ill. Laws 267; 1917 Ill. Laws 258.

Although it lacks precedential force (see Bryson v. News America Publications, Inc., 174 Ill.2d 77, 95, 672 N.E.2d 1207 (1996)), the decision in People v. Ballhorn, 100 Ill. App. 571, 573 (1901), provides what we view as a reasonable interpretation of the purpose underlying such candidate "reside in" requirements. Ballhorn explains that those requirements ensure "that those who represent the local units of government shall themselves be component parts of such units." People v. Ballhorn, 100 Ill. App. 571, 573 (1901). As Ballhorn further explains, requirements that candidates "reside in" the area they would represent "can only be truly served by requiring such representatives to be and remain actual residents of the units which they represent, in contradistinction from constructive residents. A mere constructive resident has no better opportunities for knowing the wants and rightful demands of his constituents, than a non-resident, and is as much beyond the wholesome influence of direct contact with them. *** In [the candidate residency statute] the language is not, shall be a resident, but it is, shall 'reside within' ***." Ballhorn, 100 Ill. App. at 573. Although nearly 200 years of technological advances since Illinois' first candidate "reside in" requirements may have obviated much of their necessity, the legislature has not seen fit to alter the relevant language. We believe, therefore, that the initial purpose of the "reside in" requirement for candidates, and the failure of the legislature to alter that language in the current Municipal Code, strongly indicates that the phrase "resided in" as used in the Municipal Code requires actual, not constructive, residence.

Another familiar principle of statutory interpretation teaches that a "statute should be evaluated as a whole, with each provision construed in connection with every other section." Cinkus, 228 Ill. 2d at 216-17. For our purposes, this maxim requires that we consider not only subsection 3.1-10-5(a) of the Municipal Code, but also any other relevant portions of the statute.

Subsection 3.1-10-5(a) of the Municipal Code sets forth two qualifications for candidates: it states that a candidate must be "a qualified elector of the municipality and [must have] resided in the municipality at least one year next preceding the election." 65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5(a) (West 2008). These two qualifications are stated separately and in the conjunctive.

The first part of the conjunctive--the "qualified voter" requirement--invokes the qualifications for electors stated in sections 3-1 and 3-2 of the Election Code. See 10 ILCS 5/3-1, 3-2 (West 2008). In pertinent part, those statutes provide as follows:

"ยง 3-1. Every person *** who has resided in this State and in the election district 30 days next preceding any election therein *** and who is a citizen of the United States, of the age of 18 or more years is entitled to vote at such election for ...

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