Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division
STONE STREET PARTNERS, LLC, a/k/a PMD, Individually and on Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff-Appellant,
THE CITY OF CHICAGO, THE CITY OF CHICAGO DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS, PATRICIA JACKOWIAK, Director, Department of Administrative Hearings; THE CITY OF CHICAGO DEPARTMENT OF STREETS AND SANITATION; THOMAS G. BYRNE, Commissioner of the City of Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation, Defendants-Appellees.
from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 12 CH 10860
Honorable LeRoy K. Martin, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Presiding Justice Hoffman and Justice Connors concurred in
the judgment and opinion.
1 In an earlier case, Stone Street Partners, LLC (Stone
Street), challenged certain practices of the City of Chicago
Department of Administrative Hearings (Department). See
Stone Street Partners, LLC v. City of Chicago
Department of Administrative Hearings, 2017 IL 117720.
Stone Street won a partial victory, and the judgment against
it was vacated. In this appeal, stemming from a different
citation which the City of Chicago (City) issued, Stone
Street presents other challenges to the Department's
practices. The circuit court rejected these challenges. We
3 On January 17, 2012, the City of Chicago Department of
Streets and Sanitation (DSS) issued an administrative notice
of ordinance violation against an entity named PMD regarding
property located at 34 East Oak Street in
Chicago. The notice stated: "[i]mproperly
contained refuse exist [sic] at this location."
It alleged that Stone Street violated section 7-28-261 of the
Chicago Municipal Code, which provides:
"(a) No person shall deposit refuse in a standard or
commercial refuse container, or compactor, in a manner that
prevents complete closure of the container's cover, or
deposit refuse on top of a container in a manner that
interferes with opening of the container, or pile or stack
refuse against a container.
(b) The owner, his agent or occupant of a property shall not
allow any person to violate subsection (a) of this section.
The presence of refuse preventing complete closure of the
container's cover, deposited on or piled or stacked
against a standard refuse container, a commercial refuse
container, or compactor shall be prima facie evidence of
violation of this subsection (b).
(c) Any person who violates any provision of this section
shall be fined not less than $200.00 and not more than
$500.00 for each offense. Each day that a violation continues
shall constitute a separate and distinct offense."
Chicago Municipal Code § 7-28-261 (amended July 7,
4 On February 23, 2012, an attorney for Stone Street appeared
before the Department to contest the notice. According to
Stone Street's complaint, before the hearing began,
Pamela Harris, the administrative law judge (ALJ) who heard
Stone Street's case,
"stated to everyone in the courtroom that no
representative from the City was available to discuss or
pre-try the cases. ALJ Harris stated that she had the
authority to impose the minimum penalty permitted under the
Municipal Code should anyone plead liable to the charges. ALJ
Harris indicated in no uncertain terms that a trial tax would
be imposed if anyone exercised their rights to a hearing and
was found guilty. ALJ Harris made it clear to the entire
courtroom that they would not receive the minimum fine if
they proceeded to a hearing and were found guilty."
5 When Stone Street's hearing commenced, the ALJ tendered
two photographs to Stone Street's attorney depicting a
trash can bearing the letters "PMD" that was so
filled with garbage that the lid could not close. The
attorney objected to the introduction of these photographs on
the basis that the City failed to produce them in response to
a Freedom of Information Act request he had propounded on the
City before the hearing. The ALJ admitted the photographs
into evidence over this objection and found that the City had
established a prima facie case of an ordinance
6 In response, Stone Street's attorney objected to the
entire proceeding on the basis that the City was engaging in
the unauthorized practice of law because no attorney appeared
for the City. The ALJ rejected this argument and found Stone
Street liable. The ALJ then assessed a $300 fine, which was
$100 more than the minimum, and a $40 fee and entered
judgment against Stone Street for $340. Stone Street's
complaint does not allege that its attorney specifically
objected to the imposition of a fine greater than $200.
7 On March 26, 2012, Stone Street filed a four-count
"Class Action & Administrative Review
Complaint." The complaint alleged generally that the
City "filed, appeared, and prosecuted" the case
against Stone Street "without a licensed attorney in
violation of Illinois law." It further alleged that,
because the City "appeared and prosecuted the case
without an attorney, the proceedings are null and void as a
matter of law." According to Stone Street, "[t]he
City's policy and practice of prosecuting these types of
cases without a licensed attorney has affected, and continues
to affect, thousands of individuals and entities."
8 In count I, Stone Street sought declaratory and injunctive
relief "invalidating all fines, penalties, orders and
judgments where the city appeared without a licensed
attorney" on behalf of a class. Stone Street also sought
a declaration that "the City of Chicago's practice
of permitting an ALJ to act as both judge and
prosecutor" violated its right to due process under the
federal and Illinois constitutions.
9 In count II, Stone Street alleged that the ALJ who heard
Stone Street's case stated that, while she was authorized
to impose the minimum fine on anyone who entered a plea to
liability, she would impose what Stone Street characterized
as a "trial tax" by imposing more than the minimum
fine on anyone who opted to proceed with a contested hearing.
Stone Street requested a declaration that "the custom
and practice of penalizing litigants for exercising their
right to a ...