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Bettis v. Marsaglia

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

November 13, 2013

CAROLYN BETTIS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CHARLES M. MARSAGLIA and MELISSA O'NEAL, Objectors; STEPHEN FURMAN, Electoral Board Chairperson; ROBYN HAYS, Electoral Board Secretary; and FARLEY COLE, Electoral Board Member, Defendants-Appellees

Appeal from Circuit Court of Macoupin County No. 13MR14 Honorable Patrick J. Londrigan, Judge Presiding.

Justices Appleton and Pope concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

JUSTICE HARRIS

¶ 1 Plaintiff, Carolyn Bettis, filed a petition for judicial review of a decision of the Education Officers Electoral Board (Electoral Board) for North Mac Community Unit School District No. 34, Macoupin, Montgomery and Sangamon Counties, Illinois (School District), pursuant to section 10-10.1(a) of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/10-10.1(a) (West 2012)). On the motion of defendants Charles M. Marsaglia and Melissa O'Neal, the circuit court dismissed plaintiff's petition pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Civil Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2012)). Plaintiff appeals, arguing the court erred by granting defendants' motion to dismiss. We affirm.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 On January 28, 2013, plaintiff filed her petition for judicial review of the Electoral Board's decision in the circuit court. She alleged the Electoral Board erroneously sustained objections to petitions she submitted to the School District, which sought to submit a proposition to voters on the April 9, 2013, ballot regarding the School District's issuance of $2 million in working cash bonds. Plaintiff asserted the objections were filed by defendants Marsaglia and O'Neal on the basis that her petitions were unnumbered and not appropriately bound. She asked that the court reverse the Electoral Board's decision as being against the manifest weight of the evidence.

¶ 4 In the caption of her petition, plaintiff expressly named only Marsaglia and O'Neal as opposing parties. However, she filed a certificate of service with her petition and the record reflects copies of the petition were sent by certified mail to eight individuals, including Marsaglia; O'Neal; and the three members of the Electoral Board, Stephen Furman, Robyn Hays, and Farley Cole.

¶ 5 On February 5, 2013, defendants filed their motion to dismiss plaintiff's petition, arguing the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because plaintiff failed to name and join the Electoral Board and its members as parties to the proceedings as required by section 10-10.1(a) of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/10-10.1(a) (West 2012)). On February 7, 2013, the court conducted a hearing in the matter and granted defendants' motion to dismiss.

¶ 6 This appeal followed.

¶ 7 II. ANALYSIS

¶ 8 Initially on appeal, we address defendants' claim that plaintiff's appeal should be dismissed as moot. They contend no actual controversy exists where plaintiff's petition to submit a proposition to voters specified the April 9, 2013, election and that election has passed.

¶ 9 Generally, a reviewing court will not decide moot questions and a case that is moot will be dismissed on appeal. Rivera v. City of Chicago Electoral Board, 2011 IL App (1st) 110283, ¶ 15, 956 N.E.2d 20. "A case is moot when it presents no actual controversy or when the legal issue involved has ceased to exist." Rivera, 2011 IL App (1st) 110283, ¶ 15, 956 N.E.2d 20. The conclusion of an election cycle normally renders an election contest moot. Jackson v. Board of Election Commissioners, 2012 IL 111928, ¶ 43, 975 N.E.2d 583; see also Rivera, 2011 IL App (1st) 110283, ¶ 16, 956 N.E.2d 20. However, a reviewing court may address an otherwise moot issue pursuant the public-interest exception to the mootness doctrine. Rivera, 2011 IL App (1st) 110283, ¶ 17, 956 N.E.2d 20. "The public interest exception *** allows a court to reach the merits of a case which would otherwise be moot if the question presented is of a public nature, an authoritative resolution of the question is desirable for the purpose of guiding public officers, and the question is likely to recur." Jackson, 2012 IL 111928, ¶ 44, 975 N.E.2d 583.

¶ 10 Here, we agree that plaintiff's appeal is moot. Her petition to submit a proposition to voters regarding the School District's issuance of $2 million in working cash bonds specified the April 9, 2013, election and that election has passed. However, we also find this case meets the requirements of the public-interest exception and choose to address the merits of plaintiff's appeal. We note a question of election law is inherently a matter of public concern. Jackson, 2012 IL 111928, ¶ 44, 975 N.E.2d 583. Additionally, this case presents questions for which an authoritative resolution is desirable because, not only have the issues involved not been previously addressed by this appellate district, but there is disagreement as to the resolution of the issues among the other appellate districts.

¶ 11 Finally, we find the questions presented by plaintiff's appeal are likely to recur. Defendants argue this case is incapable of repetition because the Election Code has been amended so that the County Officers Electoral Board, rather than the Educational Officers Electoral Board, would address the issues raised by plaintiff's underlying action. See Pub. Act 98-115, ยง 5 (eff. July 29, 2013) (amending 10 ILCS 5/10-9 (West 2012)). However, section 10-10.1(a) of the Election Code continues to govern petitions for judicial review of any electoral board decision and was unchanged by ...


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