Summary Judgment On One Of Two Counts Final And Appealable As To Entire Complaint

When George Smith was a police officer in Chicago, he contributed to the Police Pension Fund. When Smith resigned from the police force, the Police Pension Fund refunded his $18,000 contribution. A few years later, Smith became a state court judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. He made salary contributions to the Judicial Pension Fund during the seven years he was on the bench.

After he retired as a judge, Smith returned the $18,000 to the Police Fund and asked for the money to be transferred to the Judicial Pension Fund. He also asked for his police service credits to be applied to his judicial pension. The Police Fund complied, but the Judicial Fund refused the money and to apply the police service credits. The Judicial Fund stated it was prohibited from complying with Smith’s request because he was not an “active member,” as defined in the governing statute.

Smith sued both pension funds. His complaint had two counts: C0unt I against the Police Fund alleged denial of due process; Count II against the Judicial Fund asked for an order requiring the Judicial Pension Fund to accept the money. Smith argued that he was an “active member” because he had not withdrawn his money from the Judicial Fund.

The Judicial Fund asked for and received a summary judgment on Count II because, the trial court ruled, an “active member” can only be a sitting judge. Smith appealed.

The first question was whether the appellate court had jurisdiction to consider the appeal. A judgment is appealable only if it disposes of all claims against all parties. But the summary judgment was granted only to one count in the complaint − so the other count technically had not been resolved.

But the First District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that it had jurisdiction. Although the judgment was only on one count, the appellate court ruled that the disposition of Count II necessarily entailed a judgment on Count I. Here’s how the appellate court explained it:

Once the trial court determined that JRS [Judicial Pension Fund] had no statutory authority to accept the funds being transferred by the [Police] Retirement Board, there was, naturally, no more for the Retirement Board to do except to return the funds to the plaintiff. Therefore, the trial court’s August 9, 2007 order was final and appealable because it effectively terminated the litigation between both parties on the merits of the cause and disposed of all pending issues and parties.

Read the whole case, Smith v. Policeman’s Annuity and Benefit Fund, No. 1-07-2421 (5/26/09), by clicking here.