Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed May 23, 2013
McFatridge v. Madigan, 2013 IL 113676
Appellate citation: 2011 IL App (4th) 100936.
JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
This complaint for a writ of mandamus was filed in the circuit court of Sangamon County in 2010. The plaintiffs are Michael McFatridge, the former elected State’s Attorney of Edgar County, and the County of Edgar itself.
McFatridge had prosecuted Gordon “Randy” Steidl and Herbert Whitlock for the 1986 murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads in Paris, Illinois, and obtained convictions, which were subsequently overturned in federal court. Both of those defendants then filed separate federal suits seeking financial recovery against McFatridge, Edgar County, and others. Various claims were made, including some involving intentional, willful, or wanton misconduct.
This litigation involves the State Employee Indemnification Act, which deals with the question of when Illinois will pay the litigation expenses of state employees who have been sued concerning their official duties. Pursuant to that statute, McFatridge sought mandamus to compel Attorney General Lisa Madigan to approve payment for the litigation expenses he incurred in his defense of the above-mentioned civil lawsuits against him. The Attorney General had previously refused requests for payment, contending that payment was presently barred under the Act by the allegations of intentional, willful, or wanton misconduct, but that there could be indemnification later if a court or jury should find that there was no such misconduct.
The circuit court dismissed the complaint for mandamus with prejudice, but, in 2011, the appellate court reversed, and the Attorney General appealed.
In this decision, the Illinois Supreme Court construed the Act. The statute has a provision that an elected official (such as a State’s Attorney) may choose his or her own defense counsel and have the resulting expenses paid as they are incurred. The supreme court said that this provision has no impact on an earlier provision of the Act that allows the Attorney General to decline representation if she determines that the claim is for intentional, willful, or wanton misconduct, which is what happened here.
Because the plaintiffs have neither established a clear right to the mandamus relief requested nor shown a clear duty on the part of the Attorney General to approve the payment of McFatridge’s defense expenses, the circuit court was affirmed in its dismissal, and the appellate court’s ruling to the contrary was reversed.