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Wilson v. Quinn

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

November 7, 2013

GEORGE WILSON, Sheriff of Franklin County, Illinois, and MICHAEL HUFF, Sheriff of Rock Island County, Illinois, on Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
PATRICK QUINN, Governor of the State of Illinois, Defendant-Appellee

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Franklin County. No. 10-MR-55 Honorable Thomas J. Dinn III, Judge, presiding.

Attorneys for Appellants Thomas F. McGuire, Jolanta A. Zinevich, Thomas McGuire and Associates, Ltd.,

Attorneys for Appellee Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, Michael A. Scodro, Solicitor General, John P. Schmidt, Assistant Attorney General

OPINION

Honorable Judy L. Cates, J.

¶ 1 The plaintiffs, George Wilson, sheriff of Franklin County, Illinois, and Michael Huff, sheriff of Rock Island, Illinois, filed an action in the circuit court of Franklin County against the defendant, Patrick Quinn, Governor of the State of Illinois, seeking a judgment declaring that the failure of the Governor to authorize full payment of a statutorily mandated annual stipend in 2010 was contrary to the law and the constitution of Illinois. The trial court dismissed the action, finding that it was barred under the State Lawsuit Immunity Act (745 ILCS 5/1 (West 2010)). On appeal, the plaintiffs assert that the trial court erred in finding that the action was barred by sovereign immunity because their claim was brought against the Governor, not the State of Illinois, and because the suit was brought to obtain declaratory relief, and not to enforce a present claim to remedy a past wrong committed by the State. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

¶ 2 Plaintiff George Wilson served as the sheriff of Franklin County for a four-year term that ran from December 1, 2006, through November 30, 2010. Plaintiff Michael Huff served as the sheriff of Rock Island County during the same period. The plaintiffs' annual compensation package included a statutorily mandated "stipend." At that time, section 4-6003(d) of the Counties Code (55 ILCS 5/4-6003(d) (West 2010)) provided that "each sheriff, for his or her additional duties imposed by other statutes or laws, shall receive an annual stipend to be paid by the State in the amount of $6, 500." In 2010, each plaintiff received a stipend of $4, 196, rather than $6, 500, as set forth in the statute.

¶ 3 On November 30, 2010, the final day of each plaintiff's four-year term of office, the plaintiffs filed a declaratory judgment action against the Governor in the circuit court of Franklin County. The plaintiffs alleged that pursuant to section 4-6003(d) of the Counties Code, they were entitled to receive an annual stipend in the amount of $6, 500 from the State of Illinois in 2010; that article VII, section 9(b), of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VII, § 9(b)) prohibited a decrease or an increase in the salary of an elected officer during a term of office to which the officer was elected; that the General Assembly appropriated funds to pay the $6, 500 stipend; that the Governor failed to authorize payment of the full amount of the stipend; and that they were paid a stipend of $4, 196, rather than the statutorily mandated amount of $6, 500. The plaintiffs sought a judgment declaring that the failure of the Governor to authorize full payment of the statutorily mandated $6, 500 stipend in 2010 was contrary to section 4-6003(d) of the Counties Code and article VII, section 9, of the Illinois Constitution, and that they were entitled to the full amount of the 2010 stipend. The plaintiffs also sought their costs and "such other and further relief as may be fair and equitable."

¶ 4 On March 17, 2011, the plaintiffs filed a motion for leave to amend their complaint to add an additional count and to name Russell Adams as an additional plaintiff. Therein, the plaintiffs alleged that Russell Adams had served as sheriff of Lawrence County for a four-year term from December 1, 2006, through November 30, 2010, and that Adams was reelected to a four-year term from December 1, 2010, through November 30, 2014. The plaintiffs further alleged that despite the legislative appropriation of funds to pay the full $6, 500 stipend for 2010, the Governor failed to authorize payment of the full stipend for 2010, and that based upon the Governor's public comments, he would not authorize full payment of the stipend for 2011. The plaintiffs sought declarations that the Governor's failure to authorize full payment of the stipend was contrary to section 4-6003(d) of the Counties Code and article VII, section 9, of the Illinois Constitution, and that Adams was entitled to the full amount of the stipend for 2010 and 2011. The plaintiffs did not provide a copy of their proposed amended complaint with the motion to amend.

¶ 5 In the motion to amend, the plaintiffs noted that the Governor had yet to appear or file a responsive pleading. The plaintiffs further noted that the original summons had been misplaced by the Sangamon County sheriff's office, that an alias summons was issued on February 7, 2011, and that the Governor was served with the alias summons on March 1, 2011.

¶ 6 On March 28, 2011, the Governor filed a motion for an extension of time to file a responsive pleading. The motion was granted without an objection. On April 15, 2011, the Governor filed a combined motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to section 2-619.1 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619.1 (West 2010)). The Governor moved for dismissal, pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2010)), on the ground that the action was barred under the State Lawsuit Immunity Act (745 ILCS 5/1 (West 2010)). The Governor argued that the plaintiffs were seeking a determination of liability for the State's past conduct, rather than prospective relief to prevent future illegal action, and that the Court of Claims had exclusive jurisdiction over such claims. The Governor moved for dismissal, pursuant to section 2-615 (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2010)), on the ground that the plaintiffs failed to state a proper claim for declaratory relief in that they sought to determine the State's liability for past conduct, rather than to settle a present controversy before it ripened into litigation.

¶ 7 On June 8, 2011, the plaintiffs filed a memorandum in opposition to the Governor's motion to dismiss. They also filed a motion for class certification and a motion to amend the complaint. The plaintiffs included their proposed amended class action complaint with the motion to amend. The proposed class was defined as all persons who were elected to the office of sheriff in any Illinois county, other than Cook County, for the four-year term commencing December 1, 2006, and ending November 30, 2010, and all persons who were elected to the office of sheriff in any Illinois county, other than Cook County, for the four-year term commencing December 1, 2010, and ending November 30, 2014.

¶ 8 On July 8, 2011, the Governor filed a motion asking the court to rule on his motion to dismiss the original complaint before considering the plaintiffs' pending motions. The Governor also filed memoranda in opposition to class certification and to the plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint.

¶ 9 On July 11, 2011, the trial court heard arguments on the Governor's motion to dismiss. The court then granted the parties an opportunity to submit supplemental briefs on that matter. On April 20, 2012, the trial court entered an order granting the Governor's section 2-619 motion to dismiss. The court found that the action was barred in the circuit court under the doctrine of sovereign immunity and that the Court of Claims was the appropriate jurisdiction for the action. The court then entered orders denying each of the plaintiffs' pending motions, including the motion to amend the complaint, the motion for class certification, and the motion to substitute a party. Subsequently, the plaintiffs filed a motion to reconsider. It too was denied. This appeal followed.

ΒΆ 10 On appeal, the plaintiffs claim that the trial court erred in granting the Governor's section 2-619 motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs contend that jurisdiction is proper in the circuit court under the "officer suit" exception to the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The Governor claims that the plaintiffs' action was properly dismissed because the suit was brought to enforce a present ...


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