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Michael Lenehan v. Township Officers Electoral Board of Schaumburg Township

April 3, 2013

MICHAEL LENEHAN,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OFFICERS ELECTORAL BOARD OF SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP, ITS MEMBERS MARY WROBLESKI, CHAIRPERSON, TIMOTHY HENEGHAN AND ELLEN RAYMOND;
TIMOTHY HENEGHAN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP CLERK;
DAVID ORR, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS COOK COUNTY CLERK; AND
CHANDRAKANT H. PANDYA,
DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.
ZUHAIR NUBANI,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OFFICERS ELECTORAL BOARD OF SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP, ITS MEMBERS MARY WROBLESKI, CHAIRPERSON, TIMOTHY HENEGHAN AND ELLEN RAYMOND;
TIMOTHY HENEGHAN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP CLERK; DAVID ORR, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS COOK COUNTY CLERK; AND
CHANDRAKANT H. PANDYA,
DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.
CAROLYN A. QUINN,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OFFICERS ELECTORAL BOARD OF SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP, ITS MEMBERS MARY WROBLESKI, CHAIRPERSON, TIMOTHY HENEGHAN AND ELLEN RAYMOND;
TIMOTHY HENEGHAN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP CLERK;
DAVID ORR, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS COOK COUNTY CLERK;
AND
CHANDRAKANT H. PANDYA, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.
MIKE MURRAY,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OFFICERS ELECTORAL BOARD OF SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP, ITS MEMBERS MARY WROBLESKI, CHAIRPERSON, TIMOTHY HENEGHAN AND ELLEN RAYMOND;
TIMOTHY HENEGHAN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP CLERK;
DAVID ORR, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS COOK COUNTY CLERK;
AND
CHANDRAKANT H. PANDYA, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 13 COEL 28 Honorable Paul Karkula, Judge Presiding. Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 13 COEL 29 Honorable Paul Karkula, Judge Presiding. Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 13 COEL 30 Honorable Paul Karkula, Judge Presiding. Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 13 COEL 31 Honorable Paul Karkula, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Delort

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

Justices Rochford and Cunningham concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 We determine here whether to restore candidates who were disqualified by a local suburban electoral board to the April 9, 2013 consolidated election ballot. Because the electoral board's removal of the candidates was in error, we issued a brief order on March 25, 2013 reversing the board and restoring the candidates to the ballot. This opinion explains our reasoning.

¶ 2 A local voter, Chandrakant H. Pandya (objector), filed an objection with the Schaumburg Township clerk challenging certain candidates' nominating papers for the April consolidated election pursuant to section 10-8 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/10-8 (West 2010)). The objection alleged that the candidates' nominating papers were invalid because the papers were not signed by the chairperson of the Schaumburg Township Democratic Central Committee. The Schaumburg Township Electoral Board (electoral board), consisting of incumbent local officials from a different political party than the candidates, and one public member appointed by the chief judge of the circuit court of Cook County, sustained the objection and removed the candidates' names from the ballot. The two local members voted to disqualify the candidates; the public member dissented.

¶ 3 The petitioners, Michael Lenehan, Zuhair Nubani, Carolyn A. Quinn, and Mike Murray (collectively the candidates), appealed that decision to the circuit court of Cook County by filing four petitions for judicial review (petitions) pursuant to section 10-10.1 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/10-10.1 (West 2010)). The trial court consolidated the four petitions and affirmed the electoral board's rulings, thus leaving the four candidates off the ballot. In this appeal of the four consolidated cases, the candidates contend that the electoral board and trial court erred by finding that Michael Cudzik lacked authority to sign the certification of nomination of the candidates. We reverse.

¶ 4 BACKGROUND

¶ 5 The pertinent facts are undisputed. On October 30, 2012, the Schaumburg Township clerk, following the requirements of section 45-10 of the Township Code (60 ILCS 1/45-10 (West 2010)), notified Schaumburg Township Democratic Committeeman Rocco Terranova that "each political party's Township Central Committee" must report the time and location of the party's township caucus to the Town Clerk." On November 5, 2012, Terranova duly notified the clerk, in writing, that the caucus would be held on December 4, 2012, at 7 p.m. at the Schaumburg Community Recreation Center, 505 N. Springinsguth Road, Schaumburg.

¶ 6 Two days later, on November 7, 2012, however, Terranova resigned as Schaumburg Township Democratic committeeman through a letter he sent to the chairman of the Cook County Democratic party. In this letter, Terranova purported to turn over his duties and responsibilities as committeeman to Michael Cudzik. The letter also states that the executive board of the Schaumburg Township Democratic Organization unanimously elected Cudzik to complete Terranova's term as committeeman. On December 3, 2012, the "Schaumburg Area Democrats" voted to designate Michael Cudzik as chairman of the caucus to be held the following day, December 4, 2012*fn1 .

Schaumburg Area Democrats is technically a political committee established under article 9 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/9-1 et seq. (West 2010)). Notice to the public of the caucus was later duly published in a newspaper.

¶ 7 At the December 4 caucus, the four petitioners were all nominated as Democratic candidates for Schaumburg Township offices to be filled at the April 9, 2013 consolidated election.

Michael Cudzik signed a certificate of nomination by caucus naming Michael Lenehan, Moe Patel, Mike Murray, Carolyn A. Quinn, and Zuhair Nubani as the Democratic candidates for various township offices nominated at the caucus pursuant to section 45-20 of the Township Code (60 ILCS 1/45-20) (West 2010)). Lenehan was nominated for highway commissioner; the other candidates were nominated for four township trustee positions. Michael Cudzik signed the certificate of nomination in his capacity as "presiding officer" of the caucus.

¶ 8 On January 3, 2013, Chandrakant H. Pandya filed objections to the nomination papers generated by the caucus. The objections stated that the candidates' nominating papers were invalid only because the certificate of nomination was not signed by the chairman of the township central committee as required by section 45-20(b) of the Township Code (60 ILCS 1/45-20(b) (West 2010))*fn2 . The candidates moved to strike and dismiss the objections, but the electoral board denied the motion. After hearing evidence, the electoral board found that Michael Cudzik was neither the Schaumburg Township Democratic committeeman nor properly appointed chairman of the caucus. The electoral board then voted to invalidate the nomination papers by a 2 to 1 vote. On January 25, 2013, the electoral board approved written decisions explaining its rationale.

¶ 9 On January 29, 2013, the candidates filed petitions for judicial review in the circuit court of Cook County. The petitions named the electoral board, all three of its members, the Cook County clerk, and the objector as respondents. On February 4, 2013, the trial court consolidated the petitions and assigned a judge to hear them on an expedited basis. The circuit court ordered the electoral board to file the administrative record by February 7, 2013 and set a briefing schedule for the parties to present their arguments on the merits of the petitions. On February 14, 2013, after hearing arguments by the parties, the circuit court entered an order finding: (i) that Michael Cudzik was not the Schaumburg Township Democratic committeeman, chairman of the township central committee, or chairman of the caucus; (ii) that Cudzik lacked authority to sign the certification of nomination of the candidates; and (iii) denying the petitions for judicial review.

¶ 10 Even though balloting for the April election was scheduled to begin on February 25, 2013*fn3 , the candidates waited until two days later, February 27, 2013, to even file a notice of appeal. The candidates filed the notice of appeal a full 13 days after they lost in the circuit court. Over two weeks later, on March 14, the candidates finally filed the record on appeal in this court, and they then asked -- a full month after the circuit court had ruled -- that this court hear the matter on an expedited basis. On March 15, 2013, this court allowed the motion and ordered a briefing schedule, under which the last brief would not be due until early April.

¶ 11 On March 18, 2013, the objector filed a motion to vacate the expedited briefing schedule and to dismiss the appeal. On March 19, 2013, we entered an order granting that motion in part, by vacating the March 15, 2013 briefing schedule but expediting it even further. We ordered the parties to file simultaneous memoranda in support of their respective positions on or before 10 a.m. on March 25, 2013. See Ill. S. Ct. R. 311(b) (eff. Feb. 26, 2010). We ordered that the objector's motion to dismiss be taken with the case, and noted that the case would be taken under advisement for ruling without oral argument.

¶ 12 On March 25, 2013, the parties submitted simultaneous memoranda in lieu of formal briefs. The same day, we entered an order denying the motion to dismiss the appeal, reversing the decision of the electoral board, and reversing the corresponding judgments of the circuit court denying the petitions for judicial review. We now issue this opinion explaining the basis for that ruling.

¶ 13 ANALYSIS

¶ 14 I. Objector's Motion to Vacate and Dismiss

ΒΆ 15 On March 18, 2013, the objector filed an emergency motion to vacate the court's March 15, 2013 briefing schedule order, and to dismiss the appeal. The objector argued that he had insufficient time to respond to the candidates' motion for an expedited briefing schedule, that he had meritorious objections to that motion, and that the court should dismiss the candidates' appeal under the doctrine of laches. Had the court not acted on the motion for an expedited schedule so quickly, the objector indicated that he would have objected to any expedition of the schedule because of: (a) the delays between the date of the circuit court's final order, the filing of the notice of appeal, and the motion to expedite; (b) the candidates' failure to name all ...


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