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Robelet v. Police Pension Fund of City of Crystal Lake

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

November 15, 2017

VICTOR ROBELET, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THE POLICE PENSION FUND OF THE CITY OF CRYSTAL LAKE, ILLINOIS; THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE POLICE PENSION FUND OF THE CITY OF CRYSTAL LAKE, ILLINOIS; and THE CITY OF CRYSTAL LAKE, ILLINOIS, Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of McHenry County, No. 16-MR-581 Honorable Thomas A. Meyer, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE SPENCE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McLaren and Jorgensen concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          SPENCE JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Plaintiff, Victor Robelet, appeals from the trial court's order affirming the decisions of defendant the Board of Trustees of the Police Pension Fund of the City of Crystal Lake (Board) to deny his motion to continue the hearing on his application for a line-of-duty disability pension, to deny his motion to reconsider, and to dismiss his claim for want of prosecution. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On May 6, 2015, Robelet filed with the Board an application for a line-of-duty disability pension. He was later terminated from his job as a police officer. Robelet was initially represented by attorney Raymond Garza for both his pension application and his grievance arbitration against the City of Crystal Lake (City) on a disciplinary matter.

         ¶ 4 On July 21, 2015, the City filed a motion to intervene in the pension proceeding, and the Board granted the motion on September 28, 2015, over Robelet's objection. The City was given 28 days to turn over its initial exhibits to Richard Reimer, the Board's attorney, and to Garza. It was also given 14 days after receiving the final independent-medical-examination reports to disclose to Reimer and Garza any additional exhibits or witnesses.

         ¶ 5 On June 1, 2016, the Board sent Garza and the City copies of the documents on which it intended to rely, subject to any objections. The parties were allowed to present additional evidence if they first turned over copies no later than 10 days before the start of the hearing.

         ¶ 6 On July 9, 2016, attorney Thomas McGuire sent a letter to the arbitrator, stating that Robelet had retained him to substitute for Garza in the grievance arbitration hearing, scheduled for August 4 and 5, 2016. He stated that he could not be prepared to represent Robelet on those dates, due to his "volume of professional commitments, " and he requested that the arbitration be postponed to any date after September 14, 2016.

         ¶ 7 On August 4, 2016, McGuire sent a letter to Reimer, stating that he was unprepared to represent Robelet on the date set for the pension hearing to commence, August 15, 2016, due to ongoing medical issues. He asked that the Board continue the hearing to a date after September 15, 2016, at which point, he believed, his medical problems would be corrected or diminished. McGuire also asked that the Board send him copies of all the documents in its possession relating to the case.

         ¶ 8 The following day, on August 5, 2016, Reimer sent a letter to McGuire, stating that the Board had "made numerous efforts to schedule [the pension hearing] for a date agreeable to all parties and counsel, " to no avail. He stated that the hearing was set for August 15, 2016; that the City had objected to continuing the matter; and that he did not have the authority to grant the request for a continuance. Reimer stated that the hearing date was scheduled before McGuire had filed his appearance and that he should not have accepted the case if he could not represent Robelet on the scheduled hearing date. Reimer stated that the Board would consider the request for a continuance at the beginning of the hearing, but, if the request were denied, Robelet would be expected to put on his case-in-chief on that date. Finally, Reimer stated that all of the relevant evidence had been given to Robelet via Garza and that the Board would not be providing another set of copies.

         ¶ 9 On August 7, 2016, Garza sent McGuire an e-mail briefly discussing his "thoughts and impressions" on how he was going to proceed with the case before he was dismissed. He also stated that he was available to answer any questions that McGuire might have.

         ¶ 10 On August 10, 2016, the City sent McGuire copies of all of the documents it had produced with respect to Robelet's case, including videos.

         ¶ 11 On August 12, 2016, McGuire e-mailed to the Board via Reimer a formal motion to continue. McGuire stated that, in agreeing to represent Robelet, he considered that: Robelet no longer wished to be represented by Garza; Robelet had not previously requested a continuance; although McGuire had been experiencing health problems, he anticipated being able to represent Robelet by September 15, 2016; and a continuance would not prejudice the Board. McGuire further stated that he was not certain that he had received ...


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