MICHAEL M. McFATRIDGE et al., Appellees,
LISA M. MADIGAN, Appellant.
JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 At issue in this appeal is whether section 2(b) of the State Employee Indemnification Act (the Act) (5 ILCS 350/2(b) (West 2010)) requires the state to pay the litigation expenses of an elected state official who has been sued in the course of his official duties. Plaintiffs, Michael McFatridge and the County of Edgar, filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus (see 735 ILCS 5/14-101 et seq. (West 2010)) in the circuit court of Sangamon County to compel defendant, Lisa M. Madigan, Attorney General of the State of Illinois (Attorney General), to approve payment by the state of all litigation expenses incurred by McFatridge in the defense of civil litigation. The circuit court dismissed the complaint, finding plaintiffs failed to establish a clear and undoubted right to relief. The appellate court reversed. 2011 IL App (4th) 100936. We now reverse the appellate court and affirm the circuit court's dismissal of the complaint.
¶ 2 Background
¶ 3 McFatridge served as State's Attorney of Edgar County during the years 1980 to 1991. In 1987, McFatridge prosecuted Gordon "Randy" Steidl and Herbert Whitlock for the 1986 murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads in Paris, Illinois. Steidl was convicted by a jury of both murders and received a death sentence, which was later reduced to a sentence of life imprisonment. Whitlock was convicted by a jury of the murder of Karen Rhoads and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
¶ 4 Both Steidl and Whitlock succeeded in having their convictions overturned. In Steidl's case, on June 17, 2003, the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois granted his habeas corpus petition, vacated his conviction, and ordered that he be retried within 120 days or released from prison. Steidl v. Walls, 267 F.Supp.2d 919 (C.D. Ill. 2003). In Whitlock's case, on September 6, 2007, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed his conviction and remanded for a new trial. People v. Whitlock, 374 Ill.App.3d 1144 (2007) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). Both Steidl and Whitlock have since been released from custody and have not been retried.
¶ 5 In May 2005, Steidl filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois against several individuals and entities involved in his prosecution, including McFatridge and Edgar County. He alleged civil rights violations under the federal and state constitutions, as well as various state law causes of action, including malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Among other allegations, Steidl alleged that McFatridge, individually, jointly, and in conspiracy with his codefendants, fabricated false evidence, coerced and manipulated witness testimony, and suppressed favorable evidence, resulting in Steidl's convictions and imprisonment. In April 2009, Whitlock filed an amended complaint in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois containing substantially similar allegations against McFatridge, Edgar County, and others. Both complaints sought to hold Edgar County financially responsible as McFatridge's employer for any judgment entered against him.
¶ 6 In June 2005, McFatridge requested representation from the Attorney General in the Steidl lawsuit, pursuant to section 2 of the Act (5 ILCS 350/2 (West 2010)). Section 2 provides, in part:
"§ 2. Representation and indemnification of State employees.
(a) In the event that any civil proceeding is commenced against any State employee arising out of any act or omission occurring within the scope of the employee's State employment, the Attorney General shall, upon timely and appropriate notice to him by such employee, appear on behalf of such employee and defend the action. *** In any such proceeding, the State shall pay the court costs and litigation expenses of defending such action, to the extent approved by the Attorney General as reasonable, as they are incurred.
(b) In the event that the Attorney General determines that so appearing and defending an employee either (1) involves an actual or potential conflict of interest, or (2) that the act or omission which gave rise to the claim was not within the scope of the employee's State employment or was intentional, wilful or wanton misconduct, the Attorney General shall decline in writing to appear or defend or shall promptly take appropriate action to withdraw as attorney for such employee. Upon receipt of such declination or upon such withdrawal by the Attorney General on the basis of an actual or potential conflict of interest, the State employee may employ his own attorney to appear and defend, in which event the State shall pay the employee's court costs, litigation expenses and attorneys' fees to the extent approved by the Attorney General as reasonable, as they are incurred. In the event that the Attorney General declines to appear or withdraws on the grounds that the act or omission was not within the scope of employment, or was intentional, wilful or wanton misconduct, and a court or jury finds that the act or omission of the State employee was within the scope of employment and was not intentional, wilful or wanton misconduct, the State shall indemnify the State employee for any damages awarded and court costs and attorneys' fees assessed as part of any final and unreversed judgment. In such event the State shall also pay the employee's court costs, litigation expenses and attorneys' fees to the extent approved by the Attorney General as reasonable.
In the event that the defendant in the proceeding is an elected State official, including members of the General Assembly, the elected State official may retain his or her attorney, provided that said attorney shall be reasonably acceptable to the Attorney General. In such case the State shall pay the elected State official's court costs, litigation expenses, and attorneys' fees, to the extent approved by the Attorney General as reasonable, as they are incurred." (Emphases added.) 5 ILCS 350/2 (West 2010).
¶ 7 In a letter dated July 6, 2005, the Attorney General declined McFatridge's request for representation on the grounds that "the acts or omissions which give rise to plaintiff's claim involve allegations of intentional, wilful or wanton misconduct on your part." The letter advised McFatridge that: "[i]f the court or jury find that the acts complained of were not intentional, wilful or wanton misconduct you will be indemnified for any judgment and reasonable attorneys' fees will be reimbursed as provided by law."
¶ 8 In March and April 2009, then Edgar County State's Attorney Matthew Sullivan requested that the Attorney General provide a defense to McFatridge in the Steidl and Whitlock matters. Sullivan also requested that the Attorney General pay at least two-thirds of Edgar County's legal expenses. On May 6, 2009, the Attorney General denied both requests, noting that the claims of both Steidl and Whitlock involved allegations of intentional, willful, or wanton misconduct on the part of McFatridge, and that no court or jury had found that McFatridge did not engage in intentional, willful, or wanton misconduct. The request for ...