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Slepicka v. Illinois Department of Public Health

Supreme Court of Illinois

September 18, 2014

MARY SLEPICKA, Appellant,
v.
THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH et al., Appellees

Page 369

Affirmed in part and vacated in part. Cause remanded with directions.

SYLLABUS

Where a nursing home resident who was determined by the Department of Public Health to be subject to involuntary transfer or discharge sought administrative review in a circuit court of the wrong venue, jurisdiction was, nevertheless, not lacking, and the appellate court, when the cause reached it, should not have ordered a transfer for the circuit court of the proper venue to consider the matter again, but should address the merits.

Duane D. Young, of LaBarre, Young & Behnke, of Springfield, for Appellant.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Springfield (Carolyn E. Shapiro, Solicitor General, John P. Schmidt, Assistant Attorney General, of Chicago, of counsel), for Appellee Illinois Department of Public Health.

Nicholas J. Lynn, Amy E. McCracken, of Duane Morris LLP, of Chicago, for Appellee Holy Family Villa.

JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Thomas, Kilbride, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Page 370

FREEMAN, JUSTICE

[¶1] The Illinois Department of Public Health (Department) determined that Mary Slepicka was subject to involuntary transfer or discharge from Holy Family Villa, the nursing home in which she resided. Slepicka sought administrative review of the Department's decision in the circuit court of Sangamon County. Holy Family Villa moved to dismiss or transfer the action because it had not been filed in the proper venue, as set forth in section 3-104 of the Administrative Review Law (735 ILCS 5/3-104 (West 2012)). The circuit court denied Holy Family Villa's motion and confirmed the Department's decision.

Page 371

[¶2] Slepicka appealed, and Holy Family Villa argued, in part, that the appeal should be dismissed because Slepicka's failure to file the administrative review action in a proper forum deprived the circuit court and the appellate court of jurisdiction to review the Department's decision. Finding that the circuit court had jurisdiction but that venue was improper, the appellate court vacated the circuit court's judgment and remanded the cause with the direction that it be transferred to the circuit court of Cook County for review of the Department's decision. 2013 IL App. (4th) 121103, 995 N.E.2d 1037, 374 Ill.Dec. 540. This court allowed Slepicka's petition for leave to appeal (Ill. S.Ct. R. 315(a) (eff. July 1, 2013)), and Holy Family Villa and the Department seek cross-relief (Ill. S.Ct. R. 318(a) (eff. Feb. 1, 1994)). For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand the cause to the appellate court for review of the Department's decision.

[¶3] BACKGROUND

[¶4] Mary Slepicka is a resident of Holy Family Villa, a skilled nursing facility in Palos Park, Illinois, which is in Cook County. On January 24, 2012, Holy Family Villa sent Slepicka a notice of involuntary transfer or discharge based on her alleged failure to pay for her stay at the facility. The notice advised Slepicka of her right to request a hearing before the Department within 10 days of receiving the notice, and a timely request for hearing was made on Slepicka's behalf.

[¶5] On May 24, 2012, an administrative law judge (ALJ) for the Department presided over a hearing, which was conducted at Holy Family Villa. After the hearing, the Department's Assistant Director issued a final order approving the involuntary transfer or discharge of Slepicka unless the sums owed by her were paid in full.[1] The final order was mailed to the parties and their representatives from a post office in Springfield, which is in Sangamon County.

[¶6] Slepicka timely filed a complaint for administrative review of the Department's decision in the circuit court of Sangamon County. Holy Family Villa filed a motion to dismiss or transfer the action, contending that Cook County was the only proper venue under section 3-104 of the Administrative Review Law (735 ILCS 5/3-104 (West 2012)). Slepicka opposed Holy Family Villa's motion, asserting that Sangamon County was a proper venue because the Department issued its final order from Springfield. The circuit court ruled that Sangamon County was a proper venue and denied Holy Family Villa's motion, but upheld the Department's final order allowing the involuntary discharge.

[¶7] Slepicka appealed. Holy Family Villa argued that the appeal should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because the administrative review action had been filed in an improper venue. The appellate court held that Sangamon County was not a proper venue under section 3-104 of the Administrative Review Law, but rejected Holy Family Villa's argument that filing the action in an improper venue constituted a jurisdictional defect. 2013 IL App. (4th) 121103, ¶ ¶ 23-26, 29-31.[2] The appellate

Page 372

court did not decide the merits of the appeal, but vacated the circuit court's judgment and remanded with directions to transfer the cause to the circuit court of Cook County for review of the Department's decision. Id. ¶ 42. This appeal followed.

[¶8] ANALYSIS

[¶9] Before this court, Slepicka challenges the appellate court's judgment that Sangamon County was not a proper venue in which to file her administrative review action. Holy Family Villa seeks cross-relief, contending that the appellate court erred in holding that the circuit court of Sangamon County had jurisdiction to review the Department's decision, despite the fact that venue was improper. The Department also seeks cross-relief, arguing that the appellate court ruled correctly on the issues of venue and jurisdiction, but erred in vacating the circuit court's judgment and remanding with directions that it be transferred to the circuit court of Cook County for review of the Department's decision.

[¶10] Generally, we consider issues relating to jurisdiction first. In this case, the question of whether the circuit court had jurisdiction is predicated on the assertion that venue was improper. Accordingly, we initially consider whether ...


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