Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 07 M1149659 Honorable Anita Rifkin-Carothers, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hall
JUSTICE HALL delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Presiding Justice Lampkin and Justice Reyes concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 The plaintiff and counterdefendant, the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters (the CRCC), filed a complaint to reduce to judgment fines imposed against defendant and counterplaintiff, Earl Jursich. Mr. Jursich filed a counterclaim for defamation against the CRCC and the third-party defendants, Daniel McLaughlin and Larry Carroll (collectively the defendants). The defendants moved to dismiss the counterclaim pursuant to the Illinois Citizen Participation Act (735 ILCS 110/1 et seq. (West 2008)) (the Act). The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss. This court granted the defendants' petition for leave to appeal. See Ill. S. Ct. R. 306(a)(9) (eff. Feb. 16, 2011).
¶ 2 On appeal, the defendants contend that they were entitled to immunity under the Act and, therefore, the circuit court erred when it denied their motion to dismiss. We affirm the judgment of the circuit court.
¶ 4 Mr. McLaughlin, a member of the CRCC, brought charges against a fellow member, Mr. Jursich, accusing him of violating the constitution and rules of the CRCC by operating a nonunion construction company and by not paying the area's wages and benefits amounts to his employees. On October 26, 2005, the CRCC held a disciplinary hearing on the charges. Mr. Jursich was not present at the hearing.
¶ 5 At the hearing, Mr. McLaughlin stated that Mr. Jursich was an alderman in the City of Genoa and was using his political influence to establish his nonunion company, E. Joseph Construction. He also stated that Mr. Jursich "uses his political position as 4th ward alderman to strong arm clients ***. [Mr. Jursich] doesn't have ethics, doesn't live up to his obligation as a union carpenter." Pointing out that Mr. Jursich's wife had worked in the mayor of Genoa's office, Mr. McLaughlin stated that Mr. Jursich had done residential and commercial work in Genoa, and thus, "he's just a rotten SOB as far as I'm concerned." Finally, Mr. McLaughlin accused Mr. Jursich of defrauding the CRCC and of using it to advance his political position.
¶ 6 In support of Mr. McLaughlin's charges, Larry Carroll, another CRCC member, stated that a contractor had his business shut down because he refused to hire Mr. Jursich to do subcontracting work for him. Mr. Carroll stated:
"I don't like to roll over on my brother carpenters. We're kind of like cops and in essence that it might be wrong, but - - you know, but for him to do this to another person, tactics that he used to squash a guy, use his power as alderman and as far as I know, the union had also put money into this guy's campaign to become an alderman and then on the side he's building houses, buying lots.
That's - - I would love to have - - after this go to the city and say this is the type of person that you have working for you using their weight."
The CRCC imposed fines totaling $45,300 on Mr. Jursich for the violations.
¶ 7 When Mr. Jursich failed to pay the fines, the CRCC filed suit to reduce the fines to judgment. During the discovery process, Mr. Jursich learned of the statements made by Messrs. McLaughlin and Carroll during the disciplinary hearing and filed his counterclaim against the defendants. Subsequently, the ...