Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed July 3, 2014
People ex rel. Madigan v. Burge 2014 IL 115635, 115645 cons.
Appellate citation: 2012 IL App (1st) 112842.
JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Justices Thomas, Karmeier, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Chief Justice Garman dissented, with opinion, joined by Justice Kilbride.
Justice Freeman dissented, with opinion.
In 1997, Jon Burge retired from the Chicago Police Department, where he had served as a supervisor, and he began receiving pension benefits. In 2003, a federal civil rights lawsuit was filed alleging that torture and abuse of prisoners had taken place under his command and that he was aware of it. He denied all this under oath. In 2010, he was sentenced to four and one-half years in prison after a federal grand jury found him guilty of the felonies of perjury and obstruction of justice in the civil rights proceeding. Thus, Burge’s conduct in the civil lawsuit is the only criminal activity for which he has been convicted, and he has not been indicted or convicted for conduct taking place while he was a police officer. In 2011, the Retirement Board of the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund took up the question of whether Burge’s pension benefits should be terminated due to his felony convictions. The eight-person board was tied as to whether the convictions arose out of Burge’s employment as a police officer, and a motion to terminate benefits was not passed. The Board then issued a decision that benefits would continue, and no administrative review was sought.
In the circuit court of Cook County, the Attorney General filed a civil action under a 1982 statute permitting her to seek to enjoin any act or practice that violates the Pension Code. She sought a termination of new payments and repayment of earlier disbursements. It was alleged that the convictions related to, arose out of, or were connected with Burge’s service as a police officer, making the payments forbidden by the Code. The circuit court, however, was of the view that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear the Attorney General’s complaint and dismissed it, finding that an earlier 1972 statute vested jurisdiction over the issue exclusively in the Board.
In the appellate court, a different conclusion was reached. That reviewing body opined that the Board and circuit court had concurrent jurisdiction, but that the Board had erred when it determined, on the basis of a tie vote, to allow benefits to continue. The appellate court found that decision to be a “voidable” one which should not be deferred to, and it reinstated the Attorney General’s complaint, remanding to the circuit court for a decision on the merits.
On appeal by both Burge and the Board, the Illinois Supreme Court addressed the issue of who should decide whether the pension benefits should be terminated—not whether they should be.
The supreme court said that the earlier statutory provision giving the Board exclusive, original jurisdiction over matters “relating to or affecting the [pension] fund” governs because it is more specific than the more recently enacted general provision concerning violation of the Pension Code under which the Attorney General brought her action. Burge’s benefits had been approved by the Board in 1997. Unlike what the appellate court had held, the fact that, because of a tie vote, the Board did not terminate the benefits, but permitted them to continue, was not a statutory violation.
The appellate court was reversed and the circuit court’s dismissal of the Attorney General’s action was affirmed.