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Hampton v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Supreme Court of Illinois

July 8, 2016

JENICE HAMPTON et al., Appellees,
v.
METROPOLITAN WATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT OF GREATER CHICAGO, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Neil Review H. Cohen, Judge, presiding.

          Ronald M. Hill, Lisa Luhrs Draper, James J. Zabel and Ellen M. Avery, of Chicago, for appellant.

          Glen J. Dunn, Jr., and Angel P. Bakov, of Glen J. Dunn & Associates, LTD., and Jeffrey Grant Brown, all of Chicago, for appellees.

          Eric G. Patt and Richard Lee Stavins, of Robbins, Salomon & Patt, LTD., of Glenview, for amicus curiae Village of Glenview.

          Roy M. Harsch and John A. Simon, of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, of Chicago, for amicus curiae Illinois Association of Wastewater Agencies.

          Jenifer L. Johnson, of Springfield, for amicus curiae Illinois Municipal League.

          CHIEF JUSTICE GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Thomas, Karmeier, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Burke specially concurred, with opinion, joined by Justices Freeman and Kilbride.

          OPINION

          GARMAN CHIEF JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Plaintiffs, a class of property owners, filed complaints against the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (the District), based on allegations of flooding on their properties following a rainstorm. The circuit court consolidated the complaints. Plaintiffs assert that the District caused the flooding by diverting stormwater into nearby creeks. Plaintiffs claim that the flooding constitutes a taking for which they are entitled to just compensation under the Illinois takings clause. The District moved to dismiss the consolidated complaint based on this court's decision in People ex rel. Pratt v. Rosenfield, 399 Ill. 247 (1948). The District contends that, based on Pratt, a temporary flooding can never constitute a taking under the Illinois Constitution. More recently, however, the United States Supreme Court concluded that temporary flooding can constitute a taking under the federal constitution. Arkansas Game & Fish Comm'n v. United States, 568 U.S.__, 133 S.Ct. 511 (2012). The Cook County circuit court denied the District's motion to dismiss the Illinois takings clause claim and certified the following question pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010): "Does Arkansas Game and Fish Commission v. U.S.[, ] 133 S.Ct. 511 (2012), overrule the Illinois Supreme Court's holding in People ex rel. Pratt v. Rosenfield, 399 Ill. 247 (1948)[, ] that temporary flooding is not a taking?"

         ¶ 2 The appellate court recognized that the Illinois takings clause provides broader protection than the federal takings clause but did not address whether a "taking" is defined in the same way under each clause. The appellate court interpreted Pratt as establishing a "blanket temporary-flooding exception" and held that Arkansas Game & Fish Comm'n overruled Pratt to the extent that Pratt held a temporary flooding could never be a compensable taking. We allowed defendant's petition for leave to appeal pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 315 (eff. Jan. 1, 2015).

         ¶ 3 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 Plaintiffs are property owners and residents of the villages of Bellwood, Hillside, and Westchester. These villages are located within Cook County and within the territory for which the District is responsible for stormwater management. On or about July 23-24, 2010, Cook County experienced a heavy rainfall. Plaintiffs allege that, in response to the rain, defendant: (1) closed the Lockport Lock and Dam floodgate to the Des Plaines River, which affected the water levels on Lower Salt Creek, Addison Creek, and the Lower Des Plaines River; (2) closed the locks to Lake Michigan at the Chicago Water Control Works, which affected the water level of the Lower Des Plaines River; (3) discharged excess stormwater runoff from the O'Hare South Detention Basin, the O'Hare North Retention Pond, and Touhy Avenue Flood Control Reservoir Cells 1 and 2 into the surrounding waterways, which caused an increase in flow and volume in waterways upstream and downstream of Hillside, Bellwood, and Westchester; (4) pumped stormwater into Addison Creek, which caused an increase in flow and volume in Addison Creek; and (5) pumped stormwater from the Mayfair Reservoir into Lower Salt Creek, which caused an increase in flow and volume in Lower Salt Creek. Plaintiffs also allege that on or before July 23 and 24, 2010, the District was engaged in maintenance activity within the Lower Salt Creek and Addison Creek channels. Plaintiffs claim that, as the result of these activities, Addison Creek and Lower Salt Creek overtopped their banks and caused flooding on properties owned and occupied by plaintiffs. Plaintiffs also allege these actions caused sewers to back up, which caused additional flooding.

         ¶ 5 In asserting their claim of a violation of the Takings Clause, plaintiffs allege that their homes, personal belongings, basements, and other private property were damaged or destroyed as a result of the flooding. Plaintiffs also allege that members of the class were deprived of the use of their homes because of the backup from the public sewers and overtopping of the creeks. Plaintiffs' complaint does not further explain how the flooding deprived members of the use of their homes, the extent of the damage, how long the properties remained flooded, or whether the damage caused by the flooding has been or could be repaired.

         ¶ 6 The District moved to dismiss the complaint under sections 2-615 and 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure. 735 ILCS 5/2-615, 2-619.1 (West 2014). The circuit court granted the motion as to count I and thereby dismissed plaintiffs' claim based on a violation of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Act. That claim is not at issue in this appeal. Next, the circuit court denied the District's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' takings clause claim, based on its finding that plaintiffs sufficiently alleged a physical invasion of their properties as a result of the District's actions. The circuit court then granted the District's motion to certify the following question for interlocutory appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308: "Does Arkansas Game and Fish Commission v. U.S.[, ] 133 S.Ct. 511 (2012), overrule the Illinois Supreme Court's holding in People ex rel. Pratt v. Rosenfield, 399 Ill. 247 (1948)[, ] that temporary flooding is not a taking?" See Ill. S.Ct. R. 308 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010).

         ¶ 7 The appellate court declined to consider the facts of the case and addressed only the certified question. The appellate court first compared the takings clause of the Illinois Constitution with the takings clause in the fifth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court found that the "Illinois takings clause provides protection greater than that of its federal counterpart." 2015 IL App (1st) 132317, ¶ 14 (citing International College of Surgeons v. City of Chicago, 153 F.3d 356, 363 (7th Cir. 1998)). The court concluded that, "to the extent that Pratt holds that temporary flooding of property can never be a compensable taking under the Illinois Constitution, it is effectively overruled by Arkansas Game & Fish Comm'n." Id. ¶ 26. The appellate court remanded the case to the circuit court to address the merits of plaintiffs' complaint in light of this conclusion. The District filed a petition for leave to appeal to this court, which we allowed. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. Jan. 1, 2015). This court also granted leave to the Illinois Association of Wastewater Agencies, the Illinois Municipal League, and the Village of Glenview to file amicus curiae briefs.

         ¶ 8 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 9 This court is now asked to review the appellate court's answer to the certified question-whether Arkansas Game & Fish Comm'n overruled the Illinois Supreme Court's holding in Pratt that temporary flooding is not a taking. Our review of the appellate court's ruling on certified questions is governed by Rule 308. DeBouse v. Bayer, 235 Ill.2d 544, 550 (2009). We review certified questions, which are by definition questions of law, de novo. Moore v. Chicago Park District, 2012 IL 112788, ¶ 9. Plaintiffs' claim is based solely on the Illinois takings clause. This court is the final arbiter of state law. Hope Clinic for Women, Ltd. v. Flores, 2013 IL 112673, ¶ 79. The U.S. Supreme Court has no authority to overrule a state court's declaration of the meaning of state law. Id.; see Bute v. Illinois, 333 U.S. 640, 668 (1948) ("The Supreme court of Illinois has affirmed both sentences ***. It has thus conclusively established their compliance with Illinois law."). Therefore, the Supreme Court's decision in Arkansas Game & Fish Comm'n could not overrule a decision of this court regarding the Illinois takings clause.

         ¶ 10 However, Illinois employs a limited lockstep approach when interpreting cognate provisions of the Illinois and U.S. Constitutions. Under this approach, there are three possible scenarios. People v. Caballes, 221 Ill.2d 282, 289 (2006). If a provision is unique to the state constitution, it must be interpreted without reference to a federal counterpart. Id. If a provision in the state constitution is similar to a provision in the federal constitution, but differs from it in some significant respect, the language of the provision must be given effect. Id. at 289-90. Lastly, if a provision of the state constitution is identical to or synonymous with the federal constitutional provision, federal authority on the provision prevails, unless "the language of our constitution, the constitutional convention debates and committee reports, or state custom and practice *** indicate that the provisions of our constitution are intended to be construed differently." Hope Clinic for Women, Ltd., 2013 IL 112673, ΒΆ 83. Under this approach, this court will follow the lead of the United States Supreme Court when it publishes decisions regarding a constitutional provision if it is determined that the relevant provision is to be interpreted as synonymous with its Illinois counterpart. The circuit court should have avoided the use of the term "overruled" and drafted its certified question in ...


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