The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Garman
JUSTICE GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Plaintiff, Jack V. Rodriquez, filed a petition with the circuit court of Cook County seeking reimbursement of litigation expenses pursuant to section 10-55(c) of the Illinois Administrative Procedure Act (5 ILCS 100/10-55 (West 2008)). The petition followed a proceeding where Rodriquez successfully invalidated an administrative rule of the Department of Financial and Professional Regulations (Department). The circuit court granted the Department's motion for summary judgment, concluding that Rodriquez's claim for litigation expenses was barred by res judicata. The appellate court reversed the circuit court's finding relating to litigation expenses and remanded the cause to the circuit court for a calculation of reasonable litigation expenses. 2011 IL App (1st) 102775. We granted the Department's petition for leave to appeal (Ill. S. Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010)). We have allowed the Illinois State Medical Society to file a brief amicus curiae pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 345 (Ill. S. Ct. R. 345 (eff. Sept. 20, 2010)). For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court and reinstate the circuit court's original judgment.
¶ 3 In June 2000, the Department initiated an investigation into Rodriquez's use of electroconvulsive shock treatment on a patient. Three years later, on June 3, 2003, the Department filed a complaint against Rodriquez alleging that Rodriquez violated section 22 of the Medical Practice Act of 1987 (225 ILCS 60/22 (West 2002)). On a joint motion, the administrative trial was stayed while Rodriquez pursued two related circuit court actions. Accordingly, in 2004, Rodriquez filed his first complaint with the circuit court seeking an order compelling the issuance of deposition subpoenas related to the administrative trial. The circuit court denied the order and the appellate court affirmed. Rodriquez v. Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, 374 Ill. App. 3d 270 (2007).
¶ 4 Rodriquez filed a second complaint in 2005, arguing that Rule 1110.220 (68 Ill. Adm. Code 1110.220 (2004)) of the Department's administrative rules was invalid. Rule 1110.220 contains the evidentiary hearsay rules applicable at the Department's administrative hearings. The circuit court granted Rodriquez's motion for summary judgment on October 17, 2005, invalidating Rule 1110.220. Thirty-one days after the entry of the judgment, the Department filed a motion for relief from judgment pursuant to section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2004)). The circuit court granted the Department's motion and vacated its prior judgment invalidating the rule. On June 22, 2007, the appellate court reversed, finding that the Department's motion for reconsideration had been untimely filed, and reinstated the original order declaring the rule invalid. Rodriquez v. Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, No. 1-06-0236 (2007) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).
¶ 5 Following the invalidation of the rule, on April 18, 2008, the Department sent Rodriquez a letter informing him that the Medical Disciplinary Board had determined that Rodriquez had not violated any rules and had ordered the case closed without prejudice. In response, Rodriquez filed a motion to dismiss the complaint with the Department's hearing officer. The Department refused to dismiss the complaint, citing the Medical Disciplinary Board's policy to close cases without prejudice, rather than dismiss the complaint.
¶ 6 Finally, on July 16, 2008, Rodriquez filed a petition for litigation expenses pursuant to section 10-55(c), which is the subject of this appeal. Under section 10-55(c), a litigant is entitled to litigation expenses when he has an administrative rule invalidated. The circuit court found that Rodriquez's claim for litigation expenses was barred by res judicata, as it could have been brought with the prior litigation seeking to invalidate the rule, and granted the Department's motion for summary judgment. The appellate court reversed, concluding that section 10-55(c) "allows for a plaintiff to bring an independent action to recover litigation expenses incurred while invalidating an administrative rule" and that res judicata did not apply because the operative facts giving rise to the claim for litigation expenses did not arise until the rule was invalidated. 2011 IL App (1st) 102775, ¶ 13. This court allowed the Department's petition for leave to appeal pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 315 (Ill. S. Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010)).
¶ 8 The Department argues that section 10-55(c) does not create an independent cause of action for the recovery of fees, and therefore a petition for fees must be brought while the court maintains jurisdiction over the original action. Additionally, the Department argues that the doctrine of res judicata bars Rodriquez's petition for fees. The Department requests that we reverse the appellate court's decision and reinstate the circuit court's judgment.
¶ 9 Rodriquez, however, maintains that section 10-55(c) creates a separate cause of action and the court retains indefinite jurisdiction to hear the petition for fees. Rodriquez further contends that res judicata does not apply because the claim for fees was unavailable to him until the rule was invalidated. Additionally, Rodriquez argues that the declaratory judgment provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-701 (West 2008)) provide an applicable exception to the res judicata doctrine.
¶ 10 The circuit court granted summary judgment based on statutory construction and res judicata principles, and we review de novo. Advincula v. United Blood Services, 176 Ill. 2d 1 (1996); Morris B. Chapman & ...