By April Connley
Law Clerk, Illinois Appellate Court, First District.
In Lake Environmental, Inc. v. Arnold, 2014 IL App (5th) 130109, the Illinois Appellate Court, Fifth District, engaged in a discussion regarding whether appellate jurisdiction is proper when the trial court reverses an administrative agency’s decision and remands the matter for further proceedings by that agency. Although the court’s jurisdictional discussion was brief, the opinion provides valuable insight regarding when such an order is final for purposes of appellate jurisdiction.
In this case, the plaintiff, Lake Environmental,was working on an asbestos removal project when the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) issued an emergency work stop order. The IDPH eventually issued a final administrative decision that revoked the plaintiff’s license. Thereafter, a complaint for administrative review was filed in the circuit court.
The trial court ordered IDPH to reinstate the plaintiff’s license pending its decision on the merits. The court then entered an order reversing the revocation of the plaintiff’s license and remanded the case for further proceedings to determine whether or not the plaintiff’s license “should be suspended or revoked.” Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a motion for sanctions pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 137 (eff. Feb. 1, 1994), and the court held a hearing on the matter and ultimately entered an order providing, “[p]laintiff’s request for sanctions pursuant to Rule 137 is denied.” The plaintiff appealed.
The defendants contended that reviewing court did not have jurisdiction because, when a trial court reverses an administrative agency’s decision and remands the matter for further proceedings, the trial court’s order is not final for purposes of appellate jurisdiction. The court noted, however, that if on remand the agency has only to act in accordance with the directions of the court and conduct proceedings on uncontroverted incidental matters, or merely make a mathematical calculation, then the order is final for purposes of an appeal. Id. ¶ 6 (citing Edmonds v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Comm'n, 2012 IL App (5th) 110118WC ¶ 19).
The defendants argued that, in the case at bar, the trial court’s order appeared “patently non-final” by ordering a remand that authorized more than ministerial action. The plaintiff responded that the order fully adjudicated all of the issues, found IDPH’s purported justifications for revoking the plaintiff’s license to be without merit, and therefore left IDPH with no discretion on remand and no choice but to reinstate the plaintiff’s license. The plaintiff further responded that, by the time the trial court ruled on its request for sanctions, the remand had been completed and its license had been reinstated. The reviewing court agreed with the plaintiff on both points and concluded that it had jurisdiction over the appeal.
The reviewing court ultimately reversed the case and found that, when a trial court rules on a motion for sanctions pursuant to Rule 137, that judge “must provide specific reasons for his or her ruling, regardless of whether sanctions are granted or denied.”
Recommended Citation: April Connley, Fifth District Appellate Court Explains When Trial Court Order Remanding an Administrative Agency's Decision Is Final for Purposes of Appellate Jurisdiction, The Brief, (September 20, 2014), http://applawyers-thebrief.blogspot.com/2014/09/fifth-district-appellate-court-explains.html.
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