News & Insights

Who Woulda Thunk?

01 Dec 2002

Pervis Daniels, a workers' compensation petitioner, appealed what he considered to be an inadequate award. He argued for the first time in the Appellate Court that the Industrial Commission decision was void. Two Commissioners on the panel had been temporarily appointed by the Chairman, but had not been appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate, as provided by 820 ILCS 305/13 (West 1992). After a split decision by the Appellate Court affirming the award (3-2), the Supreme Court granted leave to appeal. In another split decision, the Supreme Court held (4-3) that the Industrial Commission panel was indeed appointed improperly, and its decision was therefore void.

The Court reached this conclusion despite (a) the argument that the petitioner's objection was untimely, (b) that it was never alleged that the Commissioners who were not validly appointed were otherwise unqualified, and (c) that it was never claimed that their appointments were the result of malfeasance or a deliberate attempt to subvert the goals of the Act. Instead, the two commissioners in question exercised the duties of their office under color of lawful appointment, which only later was found to be defective.

(But other workers' compensation petitioners who were disappointed by awards of the same Industrial Commission panel should not be tempted to now challenge their awards on the same ground. A reading of the opinion suggests that a majority of the Supreme Court would reject such tag-alongs, either on the merits or under the "de facto officer" doctrine, by which a litigant may be prevented from contesting the legality of the acts of an officer by calling into question the validity of the officer's title to office. So Pervis Daniels alone gets the benefit of this result.) Daniels v. Industrial Commission, Dkt. No. 90318, 201 Ill.2d 160, 775 N.E.2d 936, 266 Ill.Dec. 864 (Aug. 29, 2002).

Contact:   Michael D. Freeborn


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