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Illinois Supreme Court found way around constitutional question to kill legislator pay raise suit

Friday, Sep 23, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background is here. From the Illinois Constitution

SECTION 11. COMPENSATION AND ALLOWANCES

A member shall receive a salary and allowances as provided by law, but changes in the salary of a member shall not take effect during the term for which he has been elected.

So, when the General Assembly voted to forgo scheduled cost of living pay increases after they were sworn into a new term, that clearly violated the constitution.

* But the Illinois Supreme Court completely sidestepped that question when it struck down a lawsuit filed by two former legislators who had voted to cut their pay. Here’s Capitol News Illinois

But in a 6-0 decision, the court declined to rule on the constitutionality aspect, saying the former lawmakers undercut their own case by voting in favor of the measures, touting them to the public and waiting too long to file their claims.

“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 the court. […]

During oral arguments, Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office, representing Mendoza, did not challenge the finding that the legislative acts were unconstitutional, but argued that the former senators had effectively waived their right to any relief by voting in favor of the pay reduction bills.

It also argued that the former lawmakers waited an unreasonable length of time before filing their claims and that their claims should be barred by the statute of limitations, which is generally five years.

And the Supremes agreed.

       

11 Comments »
  1. - Arsenal - Friday, Sep 23, 22 @ 10:49 am:

    Noland made a strategic mistake filing a writ of mandamus. That’s an equitable remedy, and “one who comes into equity must come with clean hands”. Writs of mandamus are also considered pretty extraordinary remedies, so courts are going to look for reasons to not grant them. Laches was, clearly, as good a reason as any.


  2. - Anyone Remember - Friday, Sep 23, 22 @ 10:58 am:

    It may not be “binding” on the Illinois Constitution of 1970, but the time limit on Court of Claims is 5 years.


  3. - Norseman - Friday, Sep 23, 22 @ 11:04 am:

    Perfect opinion IMHO. These politicians participated in a political stunt to garner votes knowing the bill they voted for was unconstitutional. The State’s lawyers and the Supremes hit on the perfect approach to prevent these pols from having their cake and eating it too.


  4. - Big Dipper - Friday, Sep 23, 22 @ 11:13 am:

    It is well settled law in Illinois that courts must avoid addressing a constitutional issue if there is any other way to dispose of the case. Because of separation of powers concerns, courts don’t want to invalidate legislation unless there is no other option.


  5. - Big Dipper - Friday, Sep 23, 22 @ 11:15 am:

    I should have said a constitutional challenge to a statute rather than constitutional issue in general.


  6. - Telly - Friday, Sep 23, 22 @ 11:21 am:

    A wise decisions — both legally and politically. In addition to preventing legislators from “having their cake” — as @Norseman put it — it also doesn’t upend previous rulings that blocked governors (or comptrollers) from cutting or suspending legislative pay, preventing stunts by both the legislative and executive branches.


  7. - well… - Friday, Sep 23, 22 @ 11:29 am:

    The Supremes were absolutely correct. The doctrine of laches is well-established. You cannot unreasonably “sleep on your rights” and then ask the court to find in your favor.


  8. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Sep 23, 22 @ 11:34 am:

    === Perfect opinion IMHO. These politicians participated in a political stunt to garner votes knowing the bill they voted for was unconstitutional. The State’s lawyers and the Supremes hit on the perfect approach to prevent these pols from having their cake and eating it too.===

    - Norseman - has this cold, pithy perfect.

    I hope things are remembered when any discussion is ginned up again to “no budget, no pay”

    Looking at the opinion and the cheering (rightfully so) to its end, keep the idea of this opinion, and the constitution in mind, to that political stunt too


  9. - Moe Berg - Friday, Sep 23, 22 @ 11:56 am:

    In noting that the legislator petitioners voted to block the pay increases they were seeking to be awarded retroactively the judges were also saying, “you killed your parents, don’t seek our sympathy because you’re orphans.”


  10. - Norseman - Friday, Sep 23, 22 @ 12:44 pm:

    Thank you OW.


  11. - Stu - Friday, Sep 23, 22 @ 1:24 pm:

    I hope Kane Co. voters remember this when Noland is up for retention.


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