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Pietryla v. Dart

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

July 26, 2019

JACOB PIETRYLA, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THOMAS J. DART; COOK COUNTY ILLINOIS, and THE COOK COUNTY SHERIFF'S MERIT BOARD, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 17 CH 15753 Honorable Anna H. Demacopoulos, Judge Presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: Cass T. Casper, of Talon Law, LLC, of Chicago, for appellant.

          Attorneys for Appellee: Gretchen Harris Sperry, Kimberly A. Jansen, Robert T. Shannon, James M. Lydon, and Carson R. Griffis, of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, of Chicago, for appellee Thomas J. Dart.

          Kimberly M. Foxx, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Lyle K. Henretty and Jay Rahman, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for other appellees.

          JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Connors and Harris concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          CUNNINGHAM JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 In his complaint for declaratory, mandamus, injuctive and other relief, plaintiff-appellant Jacob Pietryla alleged that his termination by defendant-appellee Cook County Sheriffs Merit Board (Board) was void where the Board was improperly constituted. The circuit court of Cook County dismissed his first amended complaint pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2016)) on the basis that the de facto officer doctrine applied to bar his claims. Pietryla appeals, and for the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Following a hearing in February 2012, the Board terminated Pietryla's employment as a corrections officer based on Pietryla's plea of guilty to the charge of battery. Pietryla appealed his termination to the circuit court pursuant to the Administrative Review Law (id. § 3-104). On February 7, 2013, the circuit court affirmed the Board's decision. Pietryla did not appeal to this court.

         ¶ 4 Nearly five years later, on November 30, 2017, Pietryla filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County seeking "declaratory, injuctive, mandamus, and other relief, including reinstatement and back pay." His first amended complaint, at issue here, was filed on May 18, 2018, against defendants Thomas Dart, in his official capacity as the sheriff of Cook County, the Board, and Cook County. In that complaint, Pietryla alleged the following defects in the Board: (i) all Board members were appointed to less than six-year terms, (ii) some Board members had nonstaggered terms, i.e., their terms ended at the same time; (iii) the Board's chairperson and secretary had held their positions for longer than two years, and (iv) Board member Richard Hogan continued to sit on the board after his term expired in 2010 despite not being reappointed. According to Pietryla, these defects rendered the Board "improperly constituted," and therefore, its decision to terminate him was "void from inception."

         ¶ 5 Defendants moved to dismiss Pietryla's first amended complaint based, in relevant part, on operation of the de facto officer doctrine. The circuit court, after hearing argument, agreed that the doctrine was applicable and granted defendants' motion to dismiss with prejudice in a written order on August 28, 2018.

         ¶ 6 Pietryla moved to reconsider, which the court denied without additional briefing or argument in October 2018. Pietryla timely appealed.

         ¶ 7 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 8 We note that we have jurisdiction to review this matter, as Pietryla filed a timely notice of appeal following the denial of his motion for reconsideration. Ill. S.Ct. ...


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