Interests Of Justice Overcomes School Board’s Preemption Forfeiture

After a collective bargaining agreement expired, a school board decreased health care benefits to teachers who took early retirement under the agreement. The teachers sued the school board for the full benefits. The trial court gave the teachers summary judgment, and the school board appealed.

The school board did not raise a federal preemption defense in the trial or appellate courts. The Second District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that preemption was subject to forfeiture because “this preemption affects only the applicable law, not the appropriate forum or jurisdiction …”

But in this case, the appellate court ignored the forfeiture because “[W]e believe that the interests of justice and the development of a sound body of precedent require the application of federal common law here … We observe with respect the United States Supreme Court’s statements regarding the importance of a uniform body of law in cases involving the interpretation of collective bargaining agreements … Accordingly, throughout this opinion we look to federal law in addressing the substantive issues raised by the parties, although we include citations to Illinois law where the issue is purely procedural or reference to state law may be helpful.”

In the end, the teachers’ summary judgment was affirmed. Read the whole opinion, Haake v. Board of Education for Township High School Glenbard District 87, No. 2-09-0103 (3/15/10), by clicking here.