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Hoffman v. Madigan

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

June 22, 2017

MICHAEL L. HOFFMAN, in His Official Capacity as Acting Director of Central Management Services, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
LISA MADIGAN, in Her Official Capacity as Attorney General of the State of Illinois, Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 15MR1050 Honorable John M. Madonia, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE HOLDER WHITE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Appleton and Knecht concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          HOLDER WHITE JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 In November 2015, plaintiff Tom L. Tyrrell, in his official capacity as Director of Central Management Services (CMS), filed a complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief. Following Tyrrell's resignation, Michael Hoffman, in his official capacity as Acting Director of CMS, was substituted as plaintiff. Throughout the proceedings below, Hoffman and CMS were referred to collectively as "CMS, " and we do the same. The complaint, in part, requested (1) defendant, Lisa Madigan, in her official capacity as Attorney General of the State of Illinois, be enjoined from representing CMS before the Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) on cases involving "personal assistants, " based on her refusal to defend CMS's determination that a personal assistant was not a State employee for purposes of the Workers' Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2014)), and (2) a special assistant Attorney General be appointed to represent CMS. That same month, the Attorney General filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2014)), alleging the complaint failed to state a legally valid cause of action. In May 2016, the trial court granted the motion to dismiss with prejudice.

         ¶ 2 CMS appeals, arguing the trial court erred by dismissing its complaint for failure to state a cause of action. We affirm.

         ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 A. Disabled Persons Rehabilitation Act

         ¶ 5 The Disabled Persons Rehabilitation Act (Rehabilitation Act) (20 ILCS 2405/1 et seq. (West 2014)) provides for the "rehabilitation, habilitation[, ] and other services to persons with one or more disabilities." The Rehabilitation Act gives the Department of Human Services (DHS) the power to establish programs designed "to prevent unnecessary or premature institutionalization" of persons with disabilities. 20 ILCS 2405/3(f) (West 2014)). One such program utilizes "personal assistants" to provide care and assistance to disabled people in their own homes. DHS regulations designate a disabled person receiving care as (1) the "customer" and (2) the "employer" of the personal assistant. 89 Ill. Adm. Code 676.30(b)(3) (2014). Solely for the purposes of coverage under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (5 ILCS 315/1 et seq. (West 2014)), the Rehabilitation Act designates these personal assistants as public employees. The amendment providing for this employee/employer relationship allowed personal assistants to collectively bargain with DHS to set the level of pay for personal assistants. The Rehabilitation Act specifically provides the State "shall not be considered to be the employer of *** personal assistants *** for any purposes not specifically provided in Public Act 93-204 or Public Act 97-1158, including but not limited to, purposes of vicarious liability in tort and purposes of statutory retirement or health insurance benefits." 20 ILCS 2405/3(f) (West 2014).

         ¶ 6 B. The Department of Central Management Services Act

         ¶ 7 Section 405-105 of the Department of Central Management Services Act directs CMS to establish a program coordinating, in part, the handling of "casualty insurance exposures of the State and the departments, divisions, agencies, branches, and universities of the State." 20 ILCS 405/405-105 (West 2014). In pertinent part, subsection (10) gives CMS the power and the duty to "[e]stablish rules, procedures, and forms to be used by State agencies in the administration and payment of workers' compensation claims. For claims filed prior to July 1, 2013, [CMS] shall initially evaluate and determine the compensability of any injury that is the subject of a workers' compensation claim and provide for the administration and payment of such a claim for all State agencies." 20 ILCS 405/405-105(10) (West 2014).

         ¶ 8 C. Underlying Workers' Compensation Case

         ¶ 9 Stephanie Yencer-Price worked in the Dailey household as a personal assistant pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act. After allegedly sustaining injuries while performing her duties as a personal assistant, Yencer-Price filed two workers' compensation claims alleging she was a State employee. CMS determined Yencer-Price was not a State employee and denied her workers' compensation claims. In making this determination, CMS relied, in part, on (1) the amendments to the Rehabilitation Act and the Public Labor Relations Act, which designated personal assistants as State employees exclusively for the purposes of collective bargaining; (2) DHS regulations designating the customer (and not the State) as the employer of the personal assistant; and (3) the Supreme Court's decision in Harris v. Quinn, 573 U.S.___, 134 S.Ct. 2618 (2014). Currently, Yencer-Price has two claims pending against DHS before the Commission.

         ¶ 10 D. Complaint

         ¶ 11 CMS's complaint alleged it explicitly asked the Attorney General to present its determination that Yencer-Price was not a State employee in proceedings before the Commission. However, the Attorney General refused to present this argument and objected to CMS's request to choose a special assistant Attorney General to represent CMS before the Commission. The complaint alleged the Attorney General had professional, statutory, constitutional, and ethical obligations to (1) apprise the Commission of CMS's reasons for denying Yencer-Price's claims and (2) present the lack of an employer-employee relationship between the State and Yencer-Price as a defense to Yencer-Price's claims. The complaint further alleged the Attorney General's refusal to raise this defense interfered with CMS's statutory duty to administer the workers' compensation program for State employees.

         ¶ 12 The Attorney General filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2014)), arguing CMS failed to set forth a legally valid cause of action. The motion to dismiss alleged (1) the Attorney General had the exclusive constitutional authority to represent the State, including its officers, employees, and agencies, when the State is the real party in interest in litigation and allowing CMS to choose private counsel would cause "chaos"; (2) the Attorney General was "vigorously defending" these workers' compensation cases; and (3) the Commission had repeatedly rejected the very argument CMS sought to raise and ruled that personal assistants are employed by the State.

         ¶ 13 In June 2016, the trial court granted the motion to dismiss. The court noted the potential for "chaos" if it determined the disagreement as to what argument the Attorney General should raise constituted a conflict of interest such that special counsel should be appointed. The court observed that the unique powers and constitutional authority the Attorney General holds include the responsibility to decide what arguments, strategies, and litigation tactics to employ. Additionally, the court noted the Attorney General, in fulfilling her responsibility to litigate on behalf of the State, was raising arguments that, in her experience, were successful. The court also expressed concern that allowing CMS to choose special counsel would open the floodgates for judicial oversight of every litigation decision made by the Attorney General with which an agency disagreed. The court ruled CMS's disagreement with the ...


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