Madison - St. Clair Record

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Illinois Supreme Court orders Fifth District to review record in protracted case out of St. Clair Co.

By Ann Maher | Sep 29, 2015

Garman rita

Another round of judicial review lies ahead in an asbestos contractor's protracted battle against a state agency involving cleanup of federal grounds.

The Illinois Supreme Court has ordered the Fifth District to review the record on appeal to determine whether a St. Clair County circuit court abused its discretion in denying Lake Environmental's motion for sanctions against the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The high court found that the appellate court improperly remanded the case to St. Clair County after concluding the trial court should have provided an explanation for its denial of sanctions, pursuant to Rule 137.

In a unanimous decision published Sept. 24, the high court found that Rule 137 imposes no requirements on a trial court judge to explain his or her reasons for denying sanctions, rather an explanation is only necessary when sanctions are ordered.

A record is "not inherently insufficient when the circuit court does not provide its reasons for denying the motion," Justice Rita Garman wrote for the majority.

The Supreme Court's remand order requires the Fifth District to figure out whether the St. Clair County court was wrong in denying Lake Environmental's motion for sanctions.

Lake Environmental had sought sanctions against the Illinois Department of Public Health after the agency revoked its license in 2010, based upon alleged regulatory violations during asbestos cleanup at Scott Air Force Base in 2008.

The basis for seeking sanctions came after Lake Environmental successfully argued in St. Clair County that the state was barred under the doctrine of res judicata from seeking to revoke its license because the Department of Public Health had voluntarily dismissed its emergency stop work order several months after filing it in 2008 when the agency found that violations had been remedied.

In the underlying suit filed in 2010, the Department of Public Health sought monetary penalties from Lake Environmental for the 2008 violations that had already been addressed.

The circuit court found that the Department of Public Health should have sought penalties during a 2008 administrative proceedings. The court subsequently granted summary judgment for Lake Environmental based on the doctrine of res judicata - which applies in cases where final judgment has already been made and are therefore no longer subject to appeal.

The Department of Public Health had filed for leave to appeal the appellate court's ruling that required an explanation for the denial of sanctions, which the Supreme Court accepted.

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Illinois Fifth District Appellate CourtTwentieth Judicial Circuit of IllinoisIllinois Supreme Court