Appellate Court Considers Alderman-Candidate’s Moot Appeal

Joe Rivera tried to run for an elected position as alderman in Chicago. But the Chicago Electoral Board upheld an objection to Rivera’s petition, preventing him from appearing on the election ballot.

Rivera then filed a petition in the trial court for review of the Board’s decision. Rather than serving the petition on the individual Board members or the Objectors, Rivera served their lawyers. The Objectors and the Board asked the trial court to dismiss Rivera’s petition because, they argued, the Illinois Election Code required Rivera to serve them personally, not through their attorneys.

The trial court agreed, and dismissed Rivera’s petition. Rivera appealed, but the election had passed by the time the appellate court considered the case. So the first question was whether the appeal was moot because it was impossible for the appellate court to reinstate Rivera to the election ballot.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court agreed that Rivera’s appeal was moot. But the court ruled it would consider the appeal anyway because it fell into the public-interest exception to the mootness rule. This is how the court explained its ruling.

… [A] reviewing court may address an otherwise moot issue pursuant to one of several exceptions: the public-interest exception, the capable-of-repetition exception, or the collateral-consequences exception … Regarding the public-interest exception, which is particularly applicable to election cases, mootness will be excused if there is a substantially public nature to the question involved, there is a need for an authoritative determination that will help guide our public officers, and there is a likelihood that the question will recur.

We find that the instant cause meets the public-interest exception to the mootness rules. Clearly, it involves questions of election law, “which inherently is a matter of public concern.” … And, the issue is likely to recur in future municipal elections. The sections of the [Illinois Election] Code in question–particularly, section 10-10.1–involve the most basic tenets of the specific legal procedure that must be followed to obtain review from the Board: the time allowed in which to file a petition for judicial review and the steps required to effectuate service. Therefore, an authoritative determination on these issues is desirable to guide public officers. Accordingly, we decline to dismiss the instant appeal as moot.

Rivera ultimately lost the argument over service. He was required to serve the individual Board members and the Objectors, not their attorneys. Read the whole opinion, Rivera v. City of Chicago Electoral Board, 2011 IL App (1st) 11028), by clicking here.