Posted On: June 3, 2012 by Steven R. Merican

Appeal Dismissed In Whistle Blower Case Against Illinois University

Robert Van Der Hooning, formerly an assistant dean at the University of Illinois, sued the university’s board of trustees and four officials of the university for violations of the Illinois State Officials and Employees Ethics Act. Van Der Hooning’s lawsuit originally was filed in the Illinois Court of Claims. When he first filed the lawsuit, the Ethics Act gave jurisdiction only to the Court of Claims. But about two years later the Ethics Act was changed to allow Illinois circuit [trial] courts to take cases under the Act.

After that happened, Van Der Hooning filed a second lawsuit in the Illinois circuit court. The university officials then asked the Court of Claims to dismiss Van Der Hooning’s case because another one involving the same claim against the same parties was pending in the circuit court. That request was denied, but the court put the case on abeyance while Van Der Hooning pursued his case in the circuit court.

Defendants then asked the circuit court to dismiss Van Der Hooning’s second case because it already was pending in the Court of Claims. The circuit court denied that request, and defendants appealed the circuit court’s ruling.

The first question was whether the appellate court had jurisdiction to consider the appeal. Van Der Hooning argued there was no appellate jurisdiction because the order denying the request to dismiss was a typical interlocutory order, non-final and non-appealable. The university officials argued the appellate court had jurisdiction under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307(a), claiming the denial of its request to dismiss was really an injunction, which is appealable even though it is not a final order.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court agreed with Van Der Hooning and dismissed the appeal. This was a pretty easy one for the appellate court. The court refused jurisdiction because there was no statutory authority for the appellate court to accept the case. Here is how the appellate court explained it:

The trial court also had denied the officials’ request to stay the case while it proceeded in the Court of Claims. The university officials appealed that too. There was no argument about appellate jurisdiction over that interlocutory order. It was appealable under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307 because it was considered an injunction. But ultimately the appellate court affirmed the denial of the request to stay.

Read the whole case, Van Der Hooning v. Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, 2011 IL App (1st) 111531 (5/8/12), by clicking here.

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