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Farrar v. City of Rolling Meadows

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division

December 20, 2013

MARK ALAN FARRAR, Plaintiff-Appellant,

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 12 M 33291 Honorable Sandra Tristano, Judge Presiding.

JUSTICE McBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Gordon and Justice Palmer concurred in the judgment and opinion.



¶ 1 Plaintiff Mark Alan Farrar appeals from a decision of the circuit court affirming the judgment of an administrative hearing officer in the city of Rolling Meadows code hearing unit, which found him liable for a red light violation in the city of Rolling Meadows. On appeal, plaintiff contends that: (1) the code hearing unit lacked subject matter jurisdiction over his case because the city of Rolling Meadows failed to file a valid, bona fide, verified complaint or information; and (2) the code hearing unit lacked personal jurisdiction over his person. We affirm.

¶ 2 In July 2012, an automated traffic law enforcement system video recorded a vehicle registered to plaintiff turning right against a red light without making a complete stop in the city of Rolling Meadows, Illinois (Rolling Meadows). The record contains a copy of a red light violation notice from Rolling Meadows, Illinois, addressed to plaintiff and dated July 16, 2012. According to the notice, at approximately 1:45 p.m. on July 7, 2012, plaintiff's vehicle disobeyed a traffic control signal at Euclid Avenue and Hicks Road in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, in violation of "Chapter 3 Article IV, 07-37." The notice includes two photographs of a vehicle making a right turn at the intersection while the light is red and one close-up photograph of the vehicle's license plate. The video recording, which was also included in the record on appeal, shows the same vehicle turning right against the red light without making a complete stop. The notice states: "You must either pay the applicable fine or contest this civil violation notice."

¶ 3 The record also contains a notice to appear at a civil hearing from Rolling Meadows, dated August 2, 2012, and addressed to plaintiff. The notice states: "Pursuant to your request, you are hereby notified to appear before the Administrative Hearing Officer at the hearing location, date, and time shown below to respond to the following administrative complaint."

¶ 4 On August 23, 2012, plaintiff appeared at the hearing. An audio recording of the hearing was included in the record on appeal. The administrative hearing officer, Stephanie Posey, began the hearing by asking whether plaintiff was pleading liable or not liable for the violation. Plaintiff said he wanted to ask a few questions before pleading and then asked to see "the information that was used." He questioned whether the citation was the document that was being used to prosecute the case. The city prosecutor, Peter Pacione, explained to plaintiff that the "charging document you are referring to is the notice of violation document you received pursuant to the statute, which contains all the information required by the statute." Plaintiff stated that the information used should have a "bonafide signature." The city prosecutor explained that the statute did not require a signature. Plaintiff disagreed, saying that any hearing must be "instituted upon filing of a written sworn pleading or complaint by any authorized official" and felt that had not been done in his case. Plaintiff then made an oral motion to dismiss his case arguing that the "hearing [unit] lack[ed] subject matter jurisdiction." Plaintiff's case was passed and recalled later at which time the city prosecutor told the administrative hearing officer that he had attempted to explain to plaintiff that his case was brought pursuant to a section of the Rolling Meadows code other than the one plaintiff was relying on. The administrative hearing officer agreed with Rolling Meadows and denied plaintiff's motion to dismiss. She found that the notice plaintiff received in the mail met the requirements of the applicable ordinance and Illinois law.

¶ 5 The administrative hearing officer proceeded with the hearing, and plaintiff again made an oral motion to dismiss. The administrative hearing officer explained that she had already denied his motion to dismiss. Plaintiff then refused to participate in the remainder of the hearing. The administrative hearing officer informed plaintiff he received sufficient notice of the hearing and had participated to that point and that she would proceed with the hearing. She invited and encouraged plaintiff to present a defense. The administrative hearing officer then played the video and noted on the audio recording that the video showed plaintiff's vehicle did not come to a complete stop before making a right turn during a red light. Plaintiff again refused to participate. The administrative hearing officer found the citation was valid on the basis of the video and entered a finding of liable.

¶ 6 Plaintiff also filed a written notice of motion to dismiss his case, alleging that "[p]ursuant to 725 ILCS 5/111-3(b) and Rolling Meadows Ordinance Code, Chapter 3, Article 2, Section 03-41" the hearing officer lacked subject matter jurisdiction over him.

¶ 7 On September 21, 2012, plaintiff filed a pro se complaint for administrative review in the circuit court. On November 8, 2012, plaintiff filed a notice of specification of errors, which noted that the hearing officer "was unable to show the Plaintiff a valid, bonafide, verified complaint or information" in his case.

¶ 8 On December 27, 2012, Rolling Meadows responded to plaintiff's specification of errors, arguing that there was "no requirement that the Notice of Violation for a violation of the Automated Traffic Law Enforcement System be a verified complaint or information."

¶ 9 On February 6, 2013, the circuit court affirmed the decision of the administrative hearing officer. Plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal on March 1, 2013.

¶ 10 On appeal, plaintiff first argues that the code hearing unit lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear his case because Rolling Meadows failed to present a "written, sworn pleading or complaint" or a "valid, bonafide, verified complaint or information."

¶ 11 None of the defendants has filed a brief within the time allowed by rule; however, we may consider the case based on plaintiff's brief alone. First Capitol Mortgage Corp. v. ...

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