Supreme Court Summaries


Opinion filed April 25, 2013


 

 

Palm v. 2800 Lake Shore Drive Condominium Ass’n, 2013 IL 110505

Appellate citation: 401 Ill. App. 3d 868.

 

      CHIEF JUSTICE KILBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Justices Garman, Karmeier, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

      Justice Thomas specially concurred, with opinion.

      Justice Freeman dissented, with opinion, joined by Justice Burke.

 

      Plaintiff, Chicago condominium unit owner Gary Palm, had a dispute with his condominium association, and, in 1999, sought access to some of its records and financial information. The City of Chicago, a home rule unit, has an ordinance concerning such requests. It requires production within three business days. Production was resisted on the theory that the ordinance was beyond the City’s constitutional home rule authority because state statutes on the same subject have different provisions. These statutes allow 30 days to respond to such requests, while also limiting the age of the requested documents to 10 years and requiring that a proper purpose be stated. The City’s ordinance placed no age limit on the material and required no such statement. Palm filed suit in the circuit court of Cook County. Ultimately, that court ordered production of the material. The defendants disputed the production order, but the appellate court affirmed, as did the Illinois Supreme Court here.

      In this decision, the supreme court held that the ordinance at issue here is enforceable as a valid exercise of the City’s home rule power. The supreme court said that the intention of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 is to give home rule units the broadest powers possible. The General Assembly may preempt the exercise of a municipality’s home rule powers by expressly limiting that authority, and may provide specifically by law for the exclusive exercise by the state of any power or function of a home rule unit. If the legislature intends to limit or deny the exercise of home rule powers by statute, the statute must contain an express statement to that effect. If there is no such express limitation, the constitution provides that an ordinance and a statute may operate concurrently.

      The supreme court has previously recognized that the home rule provisions of the Illinois Constitution are intended to eliminate, or at least reduce to a bare minimum, the circumstances under which local home rule powers are preempted by judicial interpretation of unexpressed legislative intent. This approach places almost exclusive reliance on the legislature, rather than the courts, to keep home rule units in line. If the constitutional design is to be respected, the courts should step in to compensate for legislative inaction or oversight only in the clearest cases of oppression, injustice or interference by local authorities with vital state policies.

      In this case, the defense had raised no argument as to whether the ordinance pertained to local government and affairs or whether there has been an express preemption, focusing instead on the proper relationship between the ordinance and state statutes and arguing that an ordinance exceeds home rule power if it conflicts with a state statute. The supreme court responded to this by stating that the conflict between the ordinance and the state statutes does not render the ordinance invalid or beyond home rule power. Comprehensive legislation which conflicts with an ordinance is insufficient to limit or restrict home rule authority. The fact that the state has occupied some field of government endeavor or that home rule ordinances are in some way inconsistent with state statutes is not itself sufficient to invalidate local ordinances because the state can always vindicate its interests by legislating in the proper form at the next legislative session.

      Although the defense contended that an inconsistent ordinance may be a valid exercise of home rule power only if it is more restrictive than a state statute, the supreme court has never held that a home rule unit may only enact an ordinance that is more restrictive than statutory provisions. The constitutional framework places almost exclusive reliance on the General Assembly to determine whether home rule authority should be preempted. If the legislature wishes to deny or restrict the City’s home rule authority, it may enact a statute so providing.

      Pursuant to the ordinance, an interim award of “reasonable” attorney fees had been made, payable to the successful unit owner’s lawyer. This award was made at what were testified to be market rates, which constituted the only evidence presented on this issue. In this decision, the award was upheld, even though the unit owner had agreed to and paid a lower amount. The difference goes to the attorney and is not a windfall to the client.