Maag throws out SIU suit

The Madison County Record Sep. 8, 2004, 1:04pm

Mt. Vernon--A Carbondale business trying to block a change in Southern Illinois University's housing rules had its case thrown out on appeal by Justice Gordon Maag.

In a July opinion published Sept. 1, Justice Maag ruled that the business, S&M Enterprises, had no right to sue SIU's Board of Trustees; Illinois law prohibits lawsuits against State agencies in the circuit courts.

The case resulted from a 2002 decision by SIU to require unmarried freshmen students under 21 years old to live in university-owned housing on campus. The policy since 1995 had allowed freshmen to live on campus or in "accepted off-campus housing." S&M owned a housing facility, the Stevenson Arms, that qualified as accepted housing. The new policy was to take effect for the fall 2003 semester.

In July 2002 S&M learned that freshmen would no longer be allowed to live at the Stevenson Arms. A month later S&M sued SIU in St. Clair County, asking Judge Alexis D. Otis-Lewis to strike down the rule change as improper, arbitrary and invalid.

SIU asked Judge Otis-Lewis to transfer the case to Jackson County, where both parties resided and where all the transactions between S&M and the university took place. SIU also asked Otis-Lewis to dismiss the case because the court had no jurisdiction.

Judge Otis-Lewis ordered the venue transfer to Jackson County but didn't address the jurisdiction issue.

That issue would reappear in Justice Maag's ruling.

S&M appealed the change-of-venue decision. But before even addressing the venue question, Maag found that sovereign immunity prevented S&M from suing a state university. Nothing in the law creating and governing SIU gave S&M the right to challenge the trustees' decisions in circuit court, according to Maag.

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