GLENN L. SONNTAG, Plaintiff-Appellee,
JAY STEWART, as Director of the Division of Professional Regulation of the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation; BRYAN A. SCHNEIDER, as the Department's Secretary; SADZI M. OLIVA, as an Administrative Law Judge for the Department; AMY B. QUINT, as Chair of the Illinois Certified Shorthand Reporters Board of the Department's Division of Professional Regulation; CAROL A. BARTKOWICZ, MELISSA CLAGG, TANA J. HESS, BERNICE E. RADAVICH, WILLIAM A. SUNDERMAN, and BARBARA A. WICHMANN, as Members of the Illinois Certified Shorthand Reporters Board; and THE DIVISION OF PROFESSIONAL REGULATION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FINANCIAL AND PROFESSIONAL REGULATION, Defendants-Appellants
from the Circuit Court of Kane County. Nos. 12-MR-331,
13-MR-886. Honorable David R. Akemann, Judge, Presiding.
and Birkett, Justices concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] The Director of the Division of
Professional Regulation of the Illinois Department of
Financial and Professional Regulation (Department) appeals
from the judgments of the circuit court of Kane County
reversing the Department's decisions to revoke and
subsequently, on remand, to indefinitely suspend the
certified shorthand reporter's license of the plaintiff,
Glenn Sonntag. On appeal, the Department contends that its
original determination, revoking the plaintiff's license,
was not an abuse of discretion. We reverse the trial
court's judgment and reinstate the Department's
[¶3] On September 25, 1978, the plaintiff
was licensed to practice shorthand reporting in Illinois. On
May 12, 2004, the Attorney General's office executed a
search warrant in the plaintiff's office in connection
with an investigation into allegations that the plaintiff was
in possession of child pornography. On February 7, 2005, the
plaintiff was charged with three counts of possession of
child pornography (720 ILCS 5/11-20.1(a)(6) (West 2004)). On
March 7, 2007, the plaintiff pled guilty to those three
counts. He was subsequently sentenced to 24 months'
probation and fined $1,185. He was also ordered to undergo
counseling and register as a sex offender. In March 2009, he
successfully completed his probation and his sentence was
discharged. The plaintiff continued to work as a shorthand
reporter following his arrest and conviction.
[¶4] In January 2010, the Department filed
an administrative complaint against the plaintiff for his
violation of the Illinois Certified Shorthand Reporters Act
of 1984 (Reporters Act) (225 ILCS 415/1 et seq.
(West 2010)). As subsequently amended, the Department's
complaint alleged that, as a result of his conviction and the
underlying misconduct, the plaintiff was no longer considered
to be of good moral character and thus he satisfied the
grounds for disciplinary action under the Reporters Act.
[¶5] In December 2011, an administrative law
judge (ALJ) conducted a hearing on the Department's
complaint. The Department presented: (1) the records of the
plaintiff's criminal proceedings and the police reports
pertaining to the evidence seized under the search warrant;
(2) the testimony of the Geneva police officer responsible
for executing the search warrant; and (3) the plaintiff's
testimony as an adverse witness. The Geneva police officer
testified that when the search warrant was executed the
plaintiff was very cooperative. The plaintiff immediately
admitted the alleged wrongdoing and acknowledged that he had
[¶6] In his defense, the plaintiff testified
and proposed to present the testimony of 16 character
witnesses, but the ALJ limited oral testimony to five
witnesses. The plaintiff chose five witnesses with whom he
had previously worked, including a judge, an attorney, and
fellow court reporters. The remaining witnesses were allowed
to testify by affidavit, except the plaintiff's
psychologist, whose letter was rejected because he would not
be subject to cross-examination.
[¶7] The plaintiff testified that he had
completed every duty required by his sentence and that he
considered himself completely rehabilitated. He said that he
began counseling as soon as possible after the execution of
the search warrant in May 2004 and that he had never viewed
child pornography again since that date. He understood that
child pornography was wrong and that it harmed children. He
realized that he had viewed it because he was depressed and
under stress about certain relationship issues. He was
certain that he would not engage in such conduct again,
because he was in a much better place in his life. He was no
longer depressed, and while he continued to see his
psychologist for coaching on other issues, it was not
necessary to discuss his former interest in child
pornography. Furthermore, he believed that it would be his
" death" to view child pornography again, because
he did not want to " spend 20 years in jail."
[¶8] The plaintiff's witnesses testified
that the plaintiff was a valued and needed member of his
profession. They considered his use of child pornography as a
temporary lapse or a " mistake" that he had
overcome. They all believed that at the time of their
testimony the plaintiff was of the appropriate moral
character to work as a court reporter.
[¶9] On January 18, 2012, the ALJ issued her
recommendation that the plaintiff's certified shorthand
reporter's license be revoked. The ALJ found that the
Department had proven its factual allegations by clear and
convincing evidence, and that " severe discipline"
was necessary to carry out the purposes of the Reporters Act.
The ALJ explained that the plaintiff " cannot escape the
consequences of his actions under the [Reporters] Act by
proposing that he has already served his criminal sentence,
that he is currently of good moral character, that his
conduct did not affect his practice or that not having a
license will cause a tremendous hardship on his income."
[¶10] On March 30, 2012, the Illinois
Certified Shorthand Reporters Board (Board), in its
recommendation to the Department, adopted the ALJ's
decision in its entirety. The plaintiff subsequently moved
for rehearing, which the Department denied. On May 25, 2012,
the Department revoked the plaintiff's reporter's
[¶11] On June 29, 2012, the plaintiff filed
a complaint for administrative review, and sought a stay of
enforcement of the Department's decision. The plaintiff
argued that, pursuant to Kafin v. Division of
Professional Regulation of the Department of Financial &
Professional Regulation, 2012 IL App. (1st) 111875, 972
N.E.2d 1191, 362 Ill.Dec. 158, his discipline was too harsh.
In that case, the reviewing court reversed the ...