Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County. No. 12MR846. Honorable John Schmidt, Judge Presiding.
Although plaintiff was properly serving as an arbitrator with the Workers' Compensation Commission prior to June 29, 2012, the effective date of Public Act 97-719, which changed section 14 of the Workers' Compensation Act to provide that the Governor shall make all appointments of arbitrators with the advice and consent of the Senate, plaintiff had no right to continue in his position as an arbitrator based on the Commission's vote on May 23, 2012, to reappoint him to a three-year renewal term beginning July 1, 2012, since Public Act 97-719 became effective on July 1, 2012, the Commission no longer had authority to appoint any arbitrators, including plaintiff, and the Governor's exclusive authority to appoint arbitrators as of July 1, 2012, applied to all terms starting on July 1, 2012.
Carl R. Draper, of Feldman, Wasser, Draper & Cox, of Springfield, for Appellant.
Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Chicago (Carolyn E. Shapiro, Solicitor General, and Richard S. Huszagh, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel), for Appellees.
JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Pope and Steigmann concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] Plaintiff, Peter Akemann, filed a claim for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging he had a right to serve a three-year renewal term as an arbitrator with the Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) because he was appointed by the Commission about six weeks before the term was to begin. Plaintiff named as defendants the Governor, Patrick J. Quinn, and the Commission's members in their official capacity (collectively, defendants). Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing Public Act 97-719 (eff. June 29, 2012) (requiring all appointments of Commission arbitrators to be made by the Governor) applied to the renewal term plaintiff claims a right to serve; and as plaintiff was not appointed by the Governor, he had no right to serve as an arbitrator. Defendants also argued plaintiff's request for injunctive relief was barred by sovereign immunity and declaratory relief was unavailable to plaintiff. The trial court granted defendants' motion to dismiss, holding " Public Act 97-719 is applicable to plaintiff," sovereign immunity barred relief, and plaintiff was not entitled to declaratory relief.
[¶2] On appeal, plaintiff argues his claim is not barred by sovereign immunity and the trial court erred by dismissing his claim because he was properly appointed by the Commission's May 2012 vote and Public Act 97-719 did not alter his right to serve as a Commission arbitrator. Defendants again argue plaintiff had no right to serve as an arbitrator due to Public Act 97-719, plaintiff's claims are barred by sovereign immunity, and declaratory relief is unavailable to plaintiff. We affirm.
[¶3] I. BACKGROUND
[¶4] The facts of this case are matters of public record and are not in dispute.
[¶5] A. Relevant Statutory History
[¶6] Before 2011, section 14 of the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/14
(West 2010)) provided individuals currently serving as a Commission arbitrator were reappointed by the Commission for six-year terms. An arbitrator's term was automatically renewed unless the Chairman recommended nonrenewal of a specific arbitrator's term and 8 out of the 10 Commissioners voted not to reappoint the arbitrator. Id.
[¶7] In 2011, the General Assembly enacted Public Act 97-18, § 15 (eff. June 28, 2011), which terminated the terms of all Commission arbitrators on July 1, 2011. To begin staggering the terms, the initial terms of 12 arbitrators were set to end on July 1, 2012; 12 were set to end on July 1, 2013; and the rest were set to end on July 1, 2014. Id. Public Act 97-18 also required the Governor make all initial appointments with the advice and consent of the Senate and allowed the Commission to reappoint arbitrators. Id. In relevant part the statute provided:
" On and after the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 97th General Assembly, arbitrators shall be appointed to [three]-year terms by the full Commission, except that initial appointments made on and after the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 97th General Assembly shall be made as follows:
(1) All appointments shall be made by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.
(2) 12 arbitrators shall be appointed to terms expiring July 1, 2012; 12 arbitrators shall be appointed to terms expiring July 1, 2013; and all additional arbitrators shall ...