Representing Revoked or Suspended Drivers Before The Office of The Secretary of State - Part 3

2. Basis of Complaint

The complaint should set forth the grounds upon which the plaintiff seeks to overturn the decision of the Secretary of State and must do so upon motion of the state or the court. Section 3 108 of the A.R.A.

In the author's opinion, while it may be legally sufficient to merely allege that the decision of the Secretary of State is contrary to law or against the manifest weight of the evidence (unless otherwise ordered by the court), a better practice is to specifically set forth, in separate counts, the grounds upon which the complaint is based, e.g.:

(1) The specific reasons that the plaintiff alleges the decision is contrary to law or against the manifest weight of the evidence and the specific reasons therefore;

(2) That the plaintiff alleges the decision is arbitrary, capricious and constitutes an abuse of the discretion vested in the Secretary of State and the specific reasons therefore;

(3) Violation of the provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act (5 ILCS 100/1-1, et.seq.), e.g.:

(a) Failure to serve a proposal for decision upon the petitioner or give petitioner an opportunity to file an exception to an adverse decision where the person(s) rendering the final decision in the matter did not hear the matter themselves, nor were provided with record of the entire proceedings before rendering such decision. See Section 1013 of the Administrative Procedures Act (supra); or

(b) Failure to accompany findings of fact with a concise and explicit statement of the underlying facts in support thereof. See Section 1014 of the Administrative Procedures Act (supra).

C. Filing of the Answer and Discovery

The Secretary of State is represented in administrative review proceedings by the Attorney General who must file its appearance within thirty five (35) days of the service of the complaint and, unless otherwise ordered or stipulated, file an answer which consists of the entire record of proceedings. Rule 291(c) of the Rules of the Supreme Court; 735 ILCS 5/3 108(b).

The right to discovery, as well as the procedural rules governing discovery, are equally applicable to administrative review proceedings as to other civil proceedings. The right to discovery becomes particularly important if the plaintiff is attempting to establish, e.g., the failure of the Secretary of State to follow or abide by the provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act since in most cases such failures are not evident or plain from a review of the record of proceedings.

D. Hearing on the Complaint

At the time of the hearing on the Complaint for Administrative Review, the Court generally reviews the complaint, the record of proceedings and argument of counsel in open court. Counsel may not attempt to introduce and the court may not entertain new or additional evidence or testimony on matters in issue before the administrative agency. 735 ILCS 5/3 110; Franz_v._Edgar, 133 Ill. App. 3d 513, 478 N.E. 2d 1165 (Ill. App. 4th Dist. 1985).

E. Decision of the Court

Pursuant to the provisions of 735 ILCS 5/3 111, the Circuit Court may dispose of the Complaint for Administrative Review in one of several different ways:

(1) Affirm or reverse the decision in whole or in part;

(2) Reverse and remand the decision in whole or in part, and in such case, to state the questions requiring further hearing or proceedings and to give such other instructions as may be proper;

(3) Remand

(a) to affirm or reverse the decision in whole or in part;

(b) where a hearing has been held by the agency, to reverse and remand the decision in whole or in part, and, in such case, to state the questions requiring further hearing or proceedings and to give such other instructions as may be proper;

(c) where a hearing has been held by the agency, to remand for the purpose of taking additional evidence when from the state of the record of the administrative agency or otherwise it shall appear that such action is just. However, no remandment shall be made on the ground of newly discovered evidence unless it appears to the satisfaction of the court that such evidence has in fact been discovered subsequent to the termination of the proceedings before the administrative agency and that it could not by the exercise of reasonable diligence have been obtained at such proceedings; and that such evidence is material to the issues and is not cumulative; 735 ILCS 5/3 111 (5 7).

Technical errors in the proceedings before the administrative agency or its failure to observe the technical rules of evidence shall not constitute grounds for the reversal of the administrative decision unless it appears to the court that such error or failure materially affected the rights of any part and resulted in substantial injustice to him or her. 735 ILCS 5/3 111(b).

F. Applicable Case Law

1. Review of Findings and Conclusions of Agency

The findings and conclusions of an administrative agency are presumed to be prima facie true and correct. 735 ILCS 3 110.

This provision has been interpreted to mean that a court upon administrative review will not interfere with the discretionary authority of an administrative agency unless the agency is found to have acted in an arbitrary or capricious manner in the exercise of its authority or that the decision of the agency is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence appearing in the record before the agency. Murdy_v._Edgar, supra; Eastman_Kodak_Co._v._Fair Employment_Practices_Com, 86 Ill. 2d 60, 426 N.E. 2d 877 (1981).

2. Manifest Weight Test

A reviewing court is not to reweigh the evidence or make an independent determination of the facts. The sole function of the court is to ascertain whether the findings of the agency is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. Menning_v._Department_of_Registration_and_Educa¬tion, supra; Murdy_v._Edgar, supra.

The courts have attempted to define the phrase "mani¬fest weight of the evidence" in various ways:

In order to set aside the agency decision the reviewing court must find that all "reasonable and unbiased persons, acting within the limits prescribed by law and drawing all inferences in support of the finding, would agree that the finding is erroneous.

The relevant question is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

In O'Boyle_v._Personnel_Board, 119 Ill. App. 3d 648, 456 N.E. 2d 998 (1983), the court said:

The fact that an opposite conclusion might be reasonable or that the court might have reached a different conclusion is not adequate to set aside the agency's decision . . . . . . . If there is anything in the record which fairly supports the action of the agency, the decision is not against the manifest weight of the evidence and must be sustained on judicial review. 119 Ill. App. 3d 648 at 653 654; 456 N.E. 2d 998 at 1002 3.

3. Court Bound by Record of Proceedings

In determining whether there is sufficient evidence to support an administrative decision, courts of review will consider only that evidence appearing in the record of proceedings before the administrative agency. Franz_v. Edgar, supra; Green_v._Edgar, 104 Ill. Dec. 533, 502 N.E. 2d 1193 (Ill. App. 1st Dist. 1986).

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