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Illinois Supreme Court rules against former lawmakers who voted against pay raises and now want the money

Thursday, Sep 22, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Click here to read the opinion. Mendoza press release…

The Supreme Court of Illinois ruled Thursday that former state legislators have no right to claw back raises they voted to reject, vindicating Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza’s 5-year-long fight against paying the former legislators.

“I’m so grateful the Supreme Court said “No” to these two former legislators who voted to forego their raises, then issued news releases praising their self-sacrifice in declining those raises as they asked their constituents to re-elect them. Years after they left the legislature they shamelessly sued me – and by extension, you, the taxpayers – saying they had no constitutional right to decline those raises and wanted them back.”

The unanimous bi-partisan decision holds that Comptroller Mendoza was right to raise the “Laches” legal doctrine which says you forfeit your rights if you wait too long to take action. In this case, former state senators Mike Noland and James Clayborne waited too long until after they voted to reject raises or left legislative office to file their suit, the court held.

“We conclude that under the facts here, where plaintiffs, former legislators, agreed to, acquiesced in, and voted for the Salary Reduction Laws, plaintiffs cannot now be allowed to challenge the reductions in their salaries during their previous terms in office,” Justice P. Scott Neville wrote for unanimous court. “Further, we vacate the circuit court’s orders finding that the Legislative Salary Clause prohibits mid-term changes in legislators’ salaries during their terms in office.”

“Today’s ruling is a victory for taxpayers, who could have been on the hook for $10 million or more had these former legislators prevailed,” Comptroller Mendoza said. “I want to thank Attorney General Kwame Raoul for standing with me and for taxpayers in this lawsuit.”

* From the opinion’s conclusion

We conclude that under the facts here, where plaintiffs, former legislators, agreed to, acquiesced in, and voted for the Salary Reduction Laws, plaintiffs cannot now be allowed to challenge the reductions in their salaries during their previous terms in office. We find that the defense of laches bars plaintiffs’ mandamus counts for their disputed salaries. Because laches bars plaintiffs’ mandamus counts, we do not need to reach the circuit court’s findings that the affirmative defenses of waiver and statute of limitations lacked merit or that plaintiffs’ request for cross-relief on behalf of the nonparty legislators lacked merit. Further, we vacate the circuit court’s orders finding that the Legislative Salary Clause prohibits mid-term changes in legislators’ salaries during their terms in office, finding the Salary Reduction Laws unconstitutional, and granting plaintiffs’ mandamus relief in the amounts of $71,507.43 for Noland and $104,412.93 for Clayborne. Judgment is entered for the defendant.

       

12 Comments »
  1. - Stones - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 10:27 am:

    Its very difficult to think of a more hypocritical action by the retired legislators. Kudos to the Supreme Court.


  2. - workingfromhome - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 10:30 am:

    Love Comptroller Mendoza.


  3. - hisgirlfriday - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 10:45 am:

    Good.

    Thank you, Comptroller Mendoza and Illinois Supreme Court.


  4. - DuPage Saint - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 10:47 am:

    Great out come and unanimous. I suppose they will be filing a claim for their attorney fees next


  5. - TheInvisibleMan - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 10:47 am:

    –hypocritical action by the retired legislators–

    To top it off, Mike Noland is currently a Kane County Circuit Court Judge in the 16th Judicial Circuit.


  6. - Product of the '60's - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 10:53 am:

    Can think of a whole bunch of words about these two, but will leave it at reprobates.


  7. - Big Dipper - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 11:00 am:

    ==Mike Noland is currently a Kane County Circuit Court Judge==

    To bring such a frivolous action does make one wonder re his qualifications for the bench.


  8. - MisterJayEm - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 11:54 am:

    Curiously, the lower court decisions, now unanimously overturned by the Supreme Court, were the product of two Cook County judges:

    Then-Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama ruled in July 2019 that the state constitution is “unambiguous” in prohibiting the unpaid furlough days that lawmakers approved for themselves.

    Judge Allen Price Walker rejected Mendoza’s arguments that Noland and Clayborne waited too long to sue in April 2021.

    Today, Allen Price Walker is still a judge in Cook County’s Chancery division and Franklin Valderrama is now a federal judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

    Two perfectly fine jurists unanimously overturned — a stark reminder that “The Law” is often much more ambiguous and fluid than we usually like to believe.

    – MrJM


  9. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 11:56 am:

    The law won.

    Congratulations to Mendoza.

    There should be no more confusion going forward


  10. - Walker - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 12:23 pm:

    “Waited too long” doesn’t remove the underlying confusion about who has what powers over these salary actions. I wish it did.


  11. - Just Me 2 - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 12:39 pm:

    I’m actually gonna’ side with the legislators on this. The #1 recruitment challenge we have for the General Assembly is the low pay. It is just not a part-time job anymore. That means only the wealthy, zealots, and corrupt people are running. Anything we can do to raise them up to something better is a benefit.


  12. - Norseman - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 12:59 pm:

    I’m very pleased with this opinion based on my quick reading. It sticks it to politicians who were playing games, but doesn’t approve that game.

    I disagree that there’s any remaining confusion. If an unconstitutional act is taken, file for relief immediately.


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