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Grimm v. Calica

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

October 16, 2015

CHRISTINE GRIMM, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RICHARD CALICA, as Director of the Department of Children and Family Services, Defendant-Appellant

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 13-MR-1646. Honorable Christopher C. Starck, Judge, Presiding.

         Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Chicago (Carolyn E. Shapiro, Solicitor General, and Ann C. Maskaleris, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel), for appellant.

         Eric F. Rinehart, of Malia & Rinehart, of Waukegan, for appellee.

         Hutchinson and Birkett, Justices concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

         BURKE, JUSTICE.

Page 1125

          [¶1] Defendant, Richard Calica, as Director of the Department of Children and Family Services (Department), appeals after the court granted the relief sought by plaintiff, Christine Grimm, in her complaint for administrative review, reversing the Department's decision declining to expunge an " indicated" child-abuse finding. The sole question on appeal is whether the court had jurisdiction; defendant does not challenge the court's ruling on its merits. The court's jurisdiction depends on whether, as a matter of due process, the complaint must be deemed timely filed despite plaintiff's having filed it a day beyond the statutory deadline. The complaint's timeliness, in turn, depends on whether the Department's notice to plaintiff of its final decision was clear enough to satisfy due-process requirements. We hold that the notice was sufficiently confusing as to the service date that it did not satisfy due-process requirements, so that the complaint must be deemed timely, thus giving the court jurisdiction. We therefore affirm the court's order reversing the Department's final ruling.

         [¶2] I. BACKGROUND

          [¶3] This case stems from a determination by the Department that evidence supported an " indicated" child-abuse finding as to plaintiff. Plaintiff sought expungement of that finding; the Department addressed that request at an administrative hearing that took place on June 20, 2013. On July 21, 2013, the administrative law judge who presided over the hearing made a written recommendation that the Department decide against expunging the finding. This recommendation contained

Page 1126

the administrative law judge's findings in detail. The Department issued a decision in accord with the recommendation.

          [¶4] The Department's decision is in the form of a business letter on Department letterhead. This decision (the letter decision) accepted the administrative law judge's findings, but did not restate them in detail. The letter decision's addressee was the attorney who had represented plaintiff at the hearing, and it had a heading in the following form:

" CERTIFIED MAIL

July 30, 2013


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