Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

A Victory for Enforcement of Administrative Adjudication

Many municipalities struggle with what to do about Adjudication Court scofflaws: property owners or vehicle owners who rack up violation after violation or parking ticket after parking ticket and refuse to pay or do not even show up for the proceedings.  Until two weeks ago, the McHenry County Circuit Court had refused to allow home rule municipalities to enforce their Administrative Adjudication judgments through the court.  The court’s refusal to allow the enforcement of administrative adjudication court judgments left municipalities powerless to collect their adjudication judgments when respondents refused to voluntarily pay their administrative adjudication fines.  We recently challenged the circuit court’s refusal to allow enforcement of administrative adjudication judgments in an appeal in the case of Lake in the Hills v. Dennis Niklaus, No. 2-13-0654.  The end result was a win for home rule municipalities and their administrative adjudication courts.

In the Niklaus case, a property owner had racked up over $45,000 in fines for continually violating the Village of Lake in the Hills’ ordinance prohibiting the placement of items in the roadway.  After the property owner continued to ignore the tickets issued to him and refused to pay his fines, we filed a copy of the adjudication court judgment in circuit court and then served a wage garnishment on the property owner’s employer.  The McHenry County Circuit Court then dismissed our proceedings and ruled that a home rule municipality could not enforce its administrative adjudication judgments in circuit court.  The ruling was particularly curious considering that the court recognized enforcement for non-home rule governments through the circuit court.  We appealed the ruling and on May 15, 2014, the Second District Appellate Court issued an opinion holding that “the method attempted by the Village to seek enforcement in this case was appropriate under division 2.1 of the Municipal Code and that once the orders were properly enrolled the Village could commence collection proceedings.”

The required procedure to enforce an administrative adjudication order in the circuit court is relatively simple.  Just as we argued in the appeal, the municipality need only wait until the time for administrative review has expired (typically 35 days) and then file a copy of the administrative adjudication order with the circuit clerk.  Once the administrative adjudication order is filed in the circuit court, the municipality can then issue wage garnishments to a respondent’s employer, file citations to discover assets to the respondent’s bank account (which allows the municipality to intercept funds in a respondent’s bank account), and can use any other collection tool allowed in the circuit courts.   As noted by the Appellate Court, use of this procedure by which the judgment is obtained in the administrative adjudication court but collected in the circuit court can greatly reduce litigation cost and allow for speedier resolution of ordinance violation matters.


 

Jennifer J. Gibson

Author: Jennifer J. Gibson