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Policemen's Benevolent Labor Committee v. the County of Kane

July 20, 2012


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 10-CH-2587 Honorable Thomas E. Mueller,Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Zenoff

JUSTICE ZENOFF delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McLaren and Birkett concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 Plaintiff, Policemen's Benevolent Labor Committee, is the labor organization selected to be the exclusive representative of a collective bargaining unit consisting of all court security officers (CSOs) in Kane County. After the parties reached an impasse while negotiating a successor collective bargaining agreement to replace one that had expired, and after the Illinois Labor Relations Board (the Board) declined to process plaintiff's request for interest arbitration,*fn1 plaintiff filed a declaratory judgment action against defendants, the County of Kane, Kane County Sheriff Patrick

B. Perez, and Kane County Board Chairman Karen S. McConnaughay, seeking a declaration that plaintiff was eligible to request interest arbitration under section 14(a) of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (the Act) (5 ILCS 315/14(a) (West 2010)). The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the trial court determined that, although the CSOs did not fall within the enumerated categories of employees to whom section 14(a) of the Act made available interest arbitration,*fn2 plaintiff had effectively bargained for interest arbitration by agreeing to a no-strike provision in its expired collective bargaining agreement, which remained in effect by agreement of the parties until a successor agreement was reached. Accordingly, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiff, and defendants appealed. For the following reasons, we reverse and enter summary judgment in favor of defendants.


¶ 3 The following background is taken from plaintiff's complaint for declaratory judgment and from the record. The CSOs' most recent collective bargaining agreement with defendants was effective from December 1, 2005, to November 30, 2008. In January 2009, after that agreement had expired, plaintiff made a demand on defendants to bargain toward a successor agreement. Defendants allegedly refused to do so, and plaintiff filed an unfair labor practice charge against defendants with the Board. The parties resolved the charge by entering into a memorandum of understanding, which provided that the expired collective bargaining agreement would remain in effect until a successor agreement was reached. After negotiations and a formal mediation failed to produce a new agreement, plaintiff sent a request for interest arbitration to the Board. The Board began to process the request, but stopped after defendants sent a letter to the Board opposing any further action. The Executive Director of the Board requested that the parties submit position statements on the issue of whether the CSOs were eligible to request interest arbitration under section 14(a) of the Act.

¶ 4 On May 19, 2010, the Executive Director sent a letter to the parties indicating that he had considered their respective positions, that he had found a "good faith dispute" concerning the applicability of section 14(a) of the Act, and that the Board would not process plaintiff's request for interest arbitration. He explained that the purpose of the decision was "to make the controversy ripe for review" and suggested that plaintiff either "file suit in a court of competent jurisdiction seeking an order for the Board to proceed with the request for arbitration" or file an unfair labor practice charge with the Board alleging that defendants' refusal to proceed to interest arbitration violated section 14(a) of the Act. Plaintiff chose the former option and, on June 4, 2010, filed this declaratory judgment action in the circuit court of Kane County.

¶ 5 The parties conducted no discovery and filed cross-motions for summary judgment supported by affidavits. Defendants maintained that the Act made interest arbitration available only to fire fighters, paramedics, peace officers, security employees, and, under certain circumstances, essential services employees, and that CSOs did not fall within any of these categories. Defendants noted that plaintiff did not contend that the CSOs were either fire fighters or paramedics. Citing section 3(k) of the Act, defendants further noted that CSOs were statutorily excluded from the definition of "peace officer" (5 ILCS 315/3(k) (West 2010) (defining "peace officer," in part, as excluding "court security officers as defined by Section 3-6012.1 of the Counties Code [(55 ILCS 5/3-6012.1 (West 2010))]")). Regarding the next possible category, defendants argued that, given their primary daily responsibilities, the CSOs should not qualify as "security employees," which the Act defines as employees who are "responsible for the supervision and control of inmates at correctional facilities" (5 ILCS 315/3(p) (West 2010)). Defendants attached the affidavit of Lloyd Fletcher, the director of court security for the Kane County sheriff, who stated that the CSOs were not responsible for transporting, supervising, dressing, or feeding detainees in the courthouse holding cells. Fletcher stated that sheriff's department corrections officers were responsible for transporting detainees from the county jail to the courthouse holding cells and for supervising the detainees in the cells.

¶ 6 In its motion for summary judgment, plaintiff argued that the CSOs performed the duties of both peace officers and security employees because they made arrests in the courthouse, provided for the secure custody of "individuals remitted by the court" and of "incarcerated individuals appearing in court," and generally ensured a safe and orderly environment in the courtroom. Plaintiff attached the affidavit of Michael Stuckert, who identified himself as a Kane County court security "[d]eputy." Stuckert stated, among other things, that CSOs often were required to take custody of or to arrest individuals and then to detain them for several hours before turning them over to sheriff's deputies for booking and processing. Stuckert also noted in his affidavit that CSOs were required to undergo 40 hours of firearms training with the Illinois Law Enforcement State Training Board, and that they had recently received training on how to deal with an active shooter in the courthouse. Plaintiff attached a letter from the Kane County sheriff to a court security officer informing the officer of disciplinary proceedings arising out of his purported failure to properly search, secure, and supervise a defendant in custody. Plaintiff also attached reports of statistics indicating that the CSOs collectively made an average of 107 arrests per year of individuals with outstanding warrants and that they investigated numerous assaults and other disturbances occurring in the courthouse.

¶ 7 On September 1, 2011, following a hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiff. In a written order, the court found that the CSOs did not fall within any of the categories of employees listed in section 14(a) of the Act. In particular, the court reasoned that the CSOs were not "security employees" as defined by the Act, because they did not work in correctional facilities. However, the court found that the CSOs served an "important role *** in providing essential security to the courts," and, in fact, "assume[d] the role of providing all security and control in the courtrooms." Citing section 2 of the Act, which provides that "[i]t is the public policy of the State of Illinois that where the right of employees to strike is prohibited by law, it is necessary to afford an alternate, expeditious, equitable and effective procedure for the resolution of labor disputes" (5 ILCS 315/2 (West 2010)), the court concluded:

"The Court, in recognizing the role played by court security officers on a day-to-day basis, appreciates the inclusion in the Labor Agreement of the 'No Strike Commitment' and, accordingly, finds that the officers must be able to avail themselves of another means to resolve any labor disputes with the defendant [sic]. It is therefore ordered that this Court directs the Illinois Labor Relations Board to process the request of the [p]laintiff for interest arbitration."

This timely appeal ...

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