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Enbridge Pipeline (Illinois), LLC v. Monarch Farms, LLC

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

July 28, 2017

ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MONARCH FARMS, LLC; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JOHN L. BENJAMIN; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ESTATE OF DOROTHY BENJAMIN; JOHN WHITE, Tenant; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; UNKNOWN OWNERS; and UNKNOWN HEIRS or LEGATEES, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MONARCH FARMS, LLC; JULIA B. CRESCI, as Trustee Under the Provisions of a Trust Agreement Dated December 26, 2012, Known as the Julia B. Cresci Revocable Living Trust; THE JULIA B. CRESCI REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST; WILLIAM M. BUTLER; WADE E. BUTLER; KATHRYN B. REYNOLDS; JOHN Y. BUTLER; BILL BUTLER; WADE BUTLER; JOHN BUTLER; KATIE MOORE; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MARGOT Y. RUDESILL, as Trustee Under the Provisions of a Trust Agreement Dated November 10, 1987; TRUST AGREEMENT DATED NOVEMBER 10, 1987; KURT RUDESILL, Tenant; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
KENT MURPHY; LINDA MURPHY; METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, as Mortgagee; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ROSEMARY KING, as Trustee of the Trust Under the Last Will and Testament of Allan King; THE TRUST UNDER THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ALLAN KING; DAVID A. KING, Individually and d/b/a King Brothers; JOHN J. KING, Individually and d/b/a King Brothers; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; UNKNOWN OWNERS; and UNKNOWN HEIRS and LEGATEES, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CATHERINE JORDAN KELLER; PATRICIA JORDAN; CARL D. REUM, Individually and d/b/a Reum Brothers Farm; ROGER L. REUM, Individually and d/b/a Reum Brothers Farm; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DORIS J. GRUNLOH, as Trustee of the Doris J. Grunloh Revocable Living Trust Dated May 26, 2000, and Individually as Life Tenant; DORIS J. GRUNLOH REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST; GREGORY GRUNLOH; DOUGLAS GRUNLOH; SCOT GRUNLOH; TODD GRUNLOH; 1ST FARM CREDIT SERVICES, as Mortgagee; FARM CREDIT SERVICES OF WEST CENTRAL ILLINOIS, as Mortgagee; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ULEVIA H. PROSSER, as Trustee of the Ulevia H. Prosser Living Trust, Dated January 27, 1998; THE ULEVIA H. PROSSER LIVING TRUST DATED JANUARY 27, 1998; RAYMOND DEAN PROSSER, as Trustee of the Raymond Dean Prosser Living Trust Dated January 27, 1998; BUSEY BANK, as Mortgagee; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
TERRENCE G. KILLIAN and TIMOTHY A. KILLIAN, as Co-Trustees of the Tom and Jean Killian Family Trust Dated April 24, 2009; TOM AND JEAN KILLIAN FAMILY TRUST DATED APRIL 24, 2009; THE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, as Mortgagee; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
LESLIE DEAN TROYER; MARY TERESA TROYER; FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF SULLIVAN, as Mortgagee; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ROBERT J. KING, as Trustee of the Robert J. King Declaration of Trust; THE ROBERT J. KING DECLARATION OF TRUST; MARY E. SWEENEY; ANN M. HARVEY; STEPHEN E. KING; DAVID A. KING, Individually and d/b/a King Brothers; JOHN J. KING, Individually and d/b/a King Brothers; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
TIMOTHY A. KILLIAN; PEOPLES BANK OF LEXINGTON, ILLINOIS, as Mortgagee; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
C&C WEBBER PROPERTIES, INC.; MARK FREED; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
KILLIAN FARMS, INC.; MK FARMS; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
AL KILLIAN; MK FARMS; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
AL KILLIAN, as Trustee of a Trust Agreement Dated September 10, 1997, Known as the Al Killian Trust; THE AL KILLIAN TRUST, Dated September 10, 1997; MK FARMS, INC.; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
KORTE FARM PARTNERSHIP TRUST, Dated December 26, 2011; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
BETTY M. BITTNER, as Trustee of the Betty Bittner Revocable Trust Dated June 7, 2008; THE BETTY BITTNER REVOCABLE TRUST DATED JUNE 7, 2008; VICTOR W. BITTNER, as Trustee of the Victor W. Bittner Revocable Trust Dated June 7, 2008; THE VICTOR W. BITTNER REVOCABLE TRUST DATED JUNE 7, 2008; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants. ENBRIDGE PIPELINE (ILLINOIS), LLC, n/k/a Illinois Extension Pipeline Company, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
BRYAN K. HOGGINS; NATIONAL CITY BANK, Mortgagee; BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON CORPORATION; TRUSTEE UNDER THE POOLING AND SERVICE AGREEMENT, Mortgagee; NONRECORD CLAIMANTS; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants-Appellants.

         Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County Nos. 14ED27, 14ED43, 14ED44, 14ED45, 14ED52, 14ED53, 14ED19, 14ED07, 14ED09, 14ED24, 14ED26, 14ED12, 14ED17, 14ED33, 14ED36, 14ED38, 14ED39, 14ED40, 14ED41, 14ED46, 14ED49 Honorable Paul G. Lawrence, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Holder White and Pope concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          STEIGMANN, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 In April 2014, the Illinois Commerce Commission (Commission) granted plaintiff, Enbridge Pipeline (Illinois), LLC, now known as the Illinois Extension Pipeline Company (IEPC), eminent-domain authority to acquire easements over certain real estate for the planned construction of an approximately 170-mile liquid petroleum (oil) pipeline project known as the Southern Access Extension (SAX).

         ¶ 2 During the months of June and July 2014, IEPC filed separate complaints for "condemnation of permanent and temporary easements for common-carrier pipeline" (condemnation complaints) against the following defendants: (1) Monarch Farms, LLC (McLean County case No. 14-ED-27, this court's case No. 4-15-0807); (2) John L. Benjamin (McLean County case No. 14-ED-43, this court's case No. 4-15-0808); (3) the Estate of Dorothy Benjamin and John White (McLean County case No. 14-ED-44; this court's case No. 4-15-0809); (4) Monarch Farms, LLC, Julia B. Cresci, the Julia B. Cresci Revocable Living Trust, William M. Butler, Wade E. Butler, Kathryn B. Reynolds, John Y. Butler, Bill Butler, Wade Butler, John Butler, and Katie Moore (McLean County case No. 14-ED-45, this court's case No. 4-15-0810); (5) Margot Y. Rudesill, the Trust Agreement dated November 10, 1987, and Kurt Rudesill (McLean County case No. 14-ED-52, this court's case No. 4-15-0811); (6) Kent Murphy, Linda Murphy, and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (McLean County case No. 14-ED-53, this court's case No. 4-15-0812); (7) Rosemary King, the Trust Under the Last Will and Testament of Allan King, and David A. King and John J. King, both individually and d/b/a King Brothers (McLean County case No. 14-ED-19, this court's case No. 4-15-0819); (8) Catherine Jordan Keller, Patricia Jordan, and Carl D. Reum and Roger L. Reum, both individually and d/b/a Reum Brothers Farm (McLean County case No. 14-ED-07, this court's case No. 4-15-0820); (9) Doris J. Grunloh, Doris J. Grunloh Revocable Living Trust, Gregory Grunloh, Douglas Grunloh, Scot Grunloh, Todd Grunloh, 1st Farm Credit Services, and Farm Credit Services of West Central Illinois (McLean County case No. 14-ED-09, this court's case No. 4-15-0821); (10) Ulevia H. Prosser, the Ulevia H. Prosser Living Trust, Raymond Dean Prosser, and Busey Bank (McLean County case No. 14-ED-24, this court's case No. 4-15-0822); (11) Terrence G. Killian, Timothy A. Killian, Tom and Jean Killian Family Trust, and the Department of Revenue (McLean County case No. 14-ED-26, this court's case No. 4-15-0823); (12) Leslie Dean Troyer, Mary Teresa Troyer, and First National Bank of Sullivan (McLean County case No. 14-ED-12, this court's case No. 4-15-0824); (13) Robert J. King, the Robert J. King Declaration of Trust, Mary E. Sweeney, Ann M. Harvey, Stephen E. King, and David A. King and John J. King, both individually and d/b/a King Brothers (McLean County case No. 14-ED-17, this court's case No. 4-15-0825); (14) Timothy A. Killian and Peoples Bank of Lexington, Illinois (McLean County case No. 14-ED-33, this court's case No. 4-15-0826); (15) C&C Webber Properties, Inc., and Mark Freed (McLean County case No. 14-ED-36, this court's case No. 4-15-0827); (16) Killian Farms, Inc., and MK Farms (McLean County case No. 14-ED-38, this court's case No. 4-15- 0828); (17) Al Killian and MK Farms (McLean County case No. 14-ED-39, this court's case No. 4-15-0829); (18) Al Killian, the Al Killian Trust, and MK Farms, Inc. (McLean County case No. 14-ED-40, this court's case No. 4-15-0833); (19) Korte Farm Partnership Trust (McLean County case No. 14-ED-41, this court's case No. 4-15-0834); (20) Betty M. Bittner, the Betty Bittner Revocable Trust, Victor W. Bittner, and the Victor W. Bittner Revocable Trust (McLean County case No. 14-ED-46, this court's case No. 4-15-0836); and (21) Bryan K. Hoggins, National City Bank, Bank of New York Mellon Corporation, and Trustee under the Polling and Service Agreement (McLean County case No. 14-ED-49, this court's case No. 4-15-0839) (collectively, landowners).

         ¶ 3 IEPC's condemnation complaints sought (1) right-of-way and easement interests in landowners' respective properties and (2) determinations as to just compensation IEPC owed to landowners for its property interests. In response, each landowner filed a "traverse and motion to dismiss" (traverse motions), seeking dismissal of IEPC's condemnation complaints. Following a November 2014 hearing, the trial court denied landowners' traverse motions.

         ¶ 4 In September 2014, a jury was empanelled to consider (1) IEPC's condemnation complaints against landowners in McLean County case Nos. 14-ED-27, 14-ED-43, 14-ED-44, 14-ED-45, 14-ED-52, and 14-ED-53 and (2) landowners' consolidated damages counterclaim. Prior to opening statements, the trial court granted IEPC's motion to exclude landowners' controlled expert witnesses. Thereafter, IEPC moved for directed verdicts on its condemnation complaints. Following argument, the court (1) granted directed verdicts in IEPC's favor as to the six landowners and (2) awarded landowners just compensation totaling $124, 000.

         ¶ 5 At an October 2015 pretrial hearing involving the remaining landowners, the trial court granted IEPC's motion in limine, which barred landowners from providing expert or lay witness opinion testimony as to just compensation in connection with IEPC's condemnation complaints. Thereafter, the parties agreed that the court could conduct a stipulated bench trial on IEPC's condemnation complaints. Subsequent events that occurred during the bench trial prompted the court to (1) grant IEPC's motion for a directed verdict and (2) award landowners just compensation totaling $233, 500.

         ¶ 6 Landowners appeal, raising numerous claims that challenge the trial court's rulings. For the reasons that follow, we vacate the trial court's denial of landowners' traverse motions and remand with directions for further proceedings.

         ¶ 7 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 8 The issues presented in this appeal concern the trial court's rulings on the following issues: (1) IEPC's condemnation suit, which includes landowners' claims regarding the court's evidentiary rulings and (2) landowners' traverse motions. The following chronological discussion is tailored to those two issues.

         ¶ 9 A. Procedural History

         ¶ 10 In Enbridge Energy (Illinois), LLC v. Kuerth, 2016 IL App (4th) 150519, ¶¶ 6-23, 69 N.E.3d 287, and Enbridge Pipeline (Illinois), LLC v. Hoke, 2017 IL App (4th) 150544, ¶¶ 6-23, this court chronicled the extensive procedural history regarding IEPC's intent to (1) construct, operate, and maintain the SAX project under section 15-401 of the Common Carrier by Pipeline Law (220 ILCS 5/15-401 (West 2006)) and (2) acquire, when necessary, private property under eminent-domain authority to install the SAX project as authorized by section 8-509 of the Public Utilities Act (220 ILCS 5/8-509 (West 2006)). In this case, we provide only a truncated synopsis to place landowners' claims in context.

         ¶ 111. IEPC's Application for a Certificate in Good Standing and Eminent-Domain Authority

         ¶ 12 In August 2007, IEPC applied for a certificate in good standing, seeking the Commission's authorization to (1) construct, operate, and maintain the SAX project and (2) acquire, when necessary, private property under eminent-domain authority. Specifically, IEPC sought (1) a 60-foot wide permanent easement right-of-way for the pipeline and (2) an additional 60-foot temporary easement to facilitate construction.

         ¶ 13 In July 2009, the Commission granted IEPC a certificate in good standing, which authorized construction of the SAX project. The Commission, however, denied IEPC's request for eminent-domain authority, urging, instead, that IEPC continue negotiations with recalcitrant landowners who had declined IEPC's compensation offers. The Commission advised IEPC that it could renew its request for eminent-domain authority by demonstrating that it had made reasonable attempts to obtain the requisite easements through good-faith negotiations.

         ¶ 14 Some affected landowners (intervenors) appealed the Commission's grant of a certificate in good standing, and this court affirmed. Pliura Intervenors v. Illinois Commerce Comm'n, 405 Ill.App.3d 199, 200, 942 N.E.2d 576, 578 (2010) (Intervenors I). Specifically, we rejected intervenors' argument that the Commission erred by determining that (1) IEPC was fit, willing, and able to construct, operate, and maintain an oil pipeline and (2) a public need existed for the pipeline. Intervenors I, 405 Ill.App.3d at 208, 942 N.E.2d at 584.

         ¶ 15 2. IEPC's Renewed Petition for Eminent-Domain Authority

         ¶ 16 In July 2013, IEPC renewed its request for eminent-domain authority, seeking to condemn specific tracts of land traversed by the planned SAX project route because the owners of those respective properties had either (1) refused to negotiate with IEPC or (2) declined IEPC's compensation offers despite extensive negotiations.

         ¶ 17 Following a December 2013 administrative hearing, an administrative law judge (ALJ) recommended that the Commission grant IEPC eminent-domain authority. In April 2014, the Commission accepted the ALJ's recommendation and granted IEPC eminent-domain authority. In so doing, the Commission explained that the grant of a request for eminent-domain authority under section 8-509 of the Public Utilities Act requires "a utility [to] show that it made a reasonable attempt to acquire the property at issue." Intervenors affected by the Commission's grant of eminent-domain authority appealed, and this court affirmed. Pliura Intervenors v. Illinois Commerce Comm'n, 2015 IL App (4th) 140592-U (Intervenors II). In affirming the Commission's authorization, we rejected intervenors' argument that the grant of eminent-domain authority was not supported by substantial evidence that IEPC had engaged in good-faith negotiations. Id.

         ¶ 18 3. IEPC's Motion To Reopen

         ¶ 19 In May 2014, IEPC filed a "Motion to Reopen and Amend Order Concerning Diameter of the [SAX project], " requesting an amendment to the July 2009 certificate in good standing that the Commission issued. IEPC sought to reduce the pipe diameter of the SAX project from 36 to 24 inches, explaining that uncertain economic conditions and market demand for a different grade of crude oil caused IEPC to reevaluate the initial parameters of the SAX project. In December 2014, the ALJ recommended that the Commission grant IEPC's amendment, subject to certain conditions. The Commission later determined that public convenience and necessity required the issuance of an amended certificate to authorize a 24-inch pipeline. Intervenors appealed, and this court affirmed the Commission's order. Pliura Intervenors v. Illinois Commerce Comm'n, 2016 IL App (4th) 150084-U (Intervenors III).

         ¶ 20 At the time of the traverse and condemnation proceedings in the instant cases, (1) this court had published Intervenors I, which affirmed the Commission's July 2009 grant of a certificate in good standing issued to IEPC; (2) Intervenors II-which challenged the Commission's grant of eminent-domain authority to IEPC-was pending before this court; and (3) the parties were aware that pending before the Commission was IEPC's motion to amend the certificate in good standing to reflect the installation of a 24-inch diameter pipeline instead of a 36-inch diameter pipeline, which this court had yet to affirm in Intervenors III.

         ¶ 21 B. IEPC's Final Offers to Landowners and IEPC's Subsequent Condemnation Complaints

         ¶ 22 In May 2014, IEPC made final offers to each landowner in exchange for a permanent easement and a separate temporary easement to be used during construction of the SAX project. In total, IEPC sought (1) permanent easements traversing approximately 53.12 acres of landowners' respective parcels and (2) temporary easements traversing approximately 71.76 acres of landowners' respective parcels. In exchange for its aggregate land interests, IEPC offered landowners total compensation of $1, 344, 145.

         ¶ 23 The following month-after landowners did not respond to IEPC's final offers- IEPC filed the condemnation complaints at issue, seeking to obtain right-of-way and easement interests in landowners' respective properties and to determine just compensation for both interests. Appended to IEPC's motion was the Commission's (1) July 2009 order, which granted IEPC authorization to construct the SAX project and (2) April 2014 order, which granted IEPC eminent-domain authority.

         ¶ 24 C. Landowners' Traverse Motions

         ¶ 25 To facilitate the reader's understanding of a traverse motion, we provide the following synopsis of the motion's purpose:

" 'A traverse and motion to dismiss challenge plaintiff's right to condemn defendants' property. [Citations.] It is settled law in Illinois that when a traverse is filed, the burden is on the plaintiff to make a prima facie case of the disputed allegations. [Citations.] A prima facie case for the necessity of a condemnation is made by introducing a resolution or ordinance of the governing body which makes a finding that the condemnation is necessary. [Citations.] The agency that has been granted the power of eminent domain, rather than the court, has the authority to decide whether the exercise of the power is necessary to achieve an authorized purpose. Absent a clear abuse of this authority, the court will not inquire into the need or propriety of its exercise. [Citations.] Accordingly, where plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, it becomes the burden of defendant to show that there was an abuse of discretion by the governing board. [Citations.]' " Kuerth, 2016 IL App (4th) 150519, ¶ 51, 69 N.E.3d 287 (quoting Lake County Forest Preserve District v. First National Bank of Waukegan, 154 Ill.App.3d 45, 51, 506 N.E.2d 424, 428 (1987)).

         ¶ 26 1. The Parties' Filings

         ¶ 27 In July 2014, landowners filed separate traverse motions, challenging IEPC's right to condemn a portion of their respective parcels to install and maintain the SAX project. In particular, each landowner alleged that the following circumstances required dismissal of IEPC's condemnation complaints:

"2. *** [T]he property sought to be acquired *** is not necessary or convenient for the purpose for which it is sought to be taken.
3.*** [T]he amount of property sought to be taken *** is in excess of [IEPC's] needs.
4. [IEPC] does not seek to use the property sought *** for a public purpose.
5.*** [T]here has been no bona fide attempt to agree with [landowners] as to the just compensation and damages to be paid for the property sought to be taken.
6. *** [T]he project for which [IEPC] seeks to acquire [landowners' property] does not constitute a public convenience or necessity."

(Per the parties' agreement, in August 2014, the trial court consolidated landowners' cases.)

         ¶ 28 In September 2014, IEPC filed a response, alleging, in pertinent part, as follows:

"[I]t is clear that [landowners' traverse motions are] almost entirely an effort to re-litigate issues that were already considered and resolved by the Commission and the Fourth District Appellate Court. [Landowners'] request that [the trial court] sit in review of the *** appellate court, which already decided the issues of 'public need' and 'public convenience and necessity', is entirely improper."

         IEPC also argued that landowners were (1) "estopped from contesting the 'public need' and 'public convenience and necessity' issues" affirmed by this court in Intervenors I and (2) the claims raised in landowners' traverse motions were "an impermissible collateral attack on the Commission's orders."

         ¶ 29 2. The Hearing on Landowners' Traverse Motions

         ¶ 30 At the November 2014 hearing, landowners made the following arguments in support of their traverse motions:

"[Landowners'] position [is] that a traverse motion *** is an evidentiary hearing where [IEPC] has the burden to go forward, present evidence, and offer testimony that is subject to cross-examination. It is also [landowners'] understanding that *** if [IEPC satisfies its] burden to show a prima facie case that testimony supports the premise that [IEPC] should have eminent domain and [IEPC] ...

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