Tuesday, March 10, 2015

ALA's Cases Pending Highlights Illinois Supreme Court's March Term

The Cases Pending Committee, co-chaired by Joanne R. Driscoll (photo on left) and Clare J. Quish (photo on right), provides Association members with valuable information regarding matters set to be heard by the Illinois Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s March Term began this week, with oral arguments scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, March 10 and 11, and next Tuesday and Wednesday, March 17 and 18. The Court will hear a total of 11 cases – 6 civil and 5 criminal. Below is a list of the civil cases scheduled to be heard, with the dates of oral argument:

In re Marriage of Mueller, No. 117876 – March 11

One West Bank, N.A. v. Standard Bank & Trust Co., No. 117950 – March 11

In re Pension Reform Litigation, No. 118585 – March 11

Coleman v. East Joliet Fire Protection Dist., No. 117952 – March 17

Turcios v. The DeBruler Co., No. 117962 – March 17

McVey v. M.L.K. Enterprises, L.L.C., No. 118143 – March 18

The Court will hear two pension cases this term, including one concerning the constitutionality of the law affecting pensions of state workers.  Summaries for all these cases can be accessed by ALA members on the Association
s website by clicking on our Cases Pending publication. To read abbreviated summaries for the two pension cases, please continue reading this post. 


No. 118585
In re Pension Reform Litigation

This case involves the direct appeal of five lawsuits, one filed in Cook County, three filed in Sangamon County, and one filed in Champaign County, which were consolidated and decided in Sangamon County. The lawsuits each alleged that Public Act 98-0599 (the “Act”) violated the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIII, § 5), which prohibits the diminishment or impairment of any membership benefit in any pension or retirement system of the State. Relying on Kanerva v. Weems, 2014 IL 115811, the circuit court granted plaintiffs’ joint motions for partial summary judgment and judgment on the pleadings as to defendant’s affirmative defense or, in the alternative, to strike the affirmative defense that the Act is a justified exercise of the State’s reserved sovereign powers or police powers.

The circuit court found that the pension protection clause was plain and unambiguous in its prohibition against diminishing or impairing anything that qualifies as a benefit of an enforceable contractual relationship resulting from membership in one of the State’s pension or retirement systems. The court also rejected the State’s sovereign or police powers defense as being not legally valid, citing Kanerva’s holding that the court “may not rewrite the pension protection clause.” Because the Act expressly provided for nonseverability, the court held the entire Act unconstitutional.

Direct Appeal – Supreme Court Rule 302(a): 12/03/14

Oral Argument: 03/11/15

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No. 117876
In re Marriage of Mueller

The issue in this case involves whether the court can offset the value of a spouse’s pension in lieu of Social Security to put the spouse participating in a pension program in a similar position as the spouse participating in Social Security.

The parties married in 1992 and in 2012, the wife filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. The trial court awarded the wife a portion of the husband’s police pension benefits without considering the value of the wife’s anticipated Social Security benefits or offsetting the value of the husband’s pension benefits by the value of Social Security benefits he would have received had he participated in Social Security instead of the pension. The husband appealed.

The Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District, affirmed, rejecting the husband’s argument that, because the trial court could not consider the wife’s Social Security benefits in determining the equitable distribution of marital property, fairness required the court to offset its valuation of the husband’s pension by the value of Social Security benefits he would have received had he participated. The court explained that the Illinois Supreme Court’s holding in In re Marriage of Crook, 211 Ill. 2d 437 (2004) that Social Security benefits may not be divided directly or used as a basis for an offset during dissolution proceedings, did not decide whether a spouse who participates in a pension system in lieu of Social Security must be placed in a position similar to that of the other spouse whose Social Security benefits will be statutorily exempt from equitable distribution, leaving that issue to another day. The appellate court deferred to the Illinois Supreme Court to determine whether that day had arrived and how to resolve the issue.

Appellate Court Decision: 2014 IL App (4th) 130918-U. Steigmann, J., with Knecht, J., concurring. Appleton, P.J., dissenting.

PLA Allowed: 09/24/14

Oral Argument: 03/11/15

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