The Illinois Supreme Court, in its recent decision in Cammacho v. City of Joliet, 2024 IL 129263, addressed the broad question whether § 1-2.1-2 of the Municipal Code prohibits a home rule municipality from administratively adjudicating violations of its ordinances.  Additionally, the Illinois Supreme Court considered the narrower issue of whether the City of Joliet’s administrative hearing officer had jurisdiction to hear and decide ordinance violations involving traffic offenses that require reporting to the Illinois Secretary of State.

The Background Facts in Cammacho v. City of Joliet

The City of Joliet (“City”) is home to the crossroads of I-80 and I-55, a major rail line intersection, the Chicago Area Waterway System, and logistic parks and transport facilities.  Cammacho, 2024 IL 129263 at ¶ 5. The combination of these things results in significant traffic congestion, specifically commercial truck traffic. Id. at ¶ 6.  The City enacted a set of ordinances to address the traffic concerns. Id. Included in the ordinances are designations of certain Joliet thoroughfares as approved truck routes and prohibitions on commercial trucks from operating on any non-designated state or local roadways. Id. at ¶ 7. Additionally, the City posts multiple “No Trucks” signs along applicable streets and has a “Truck Enforcement” division within its police department to enforce compliance with the City ordinances. Id

The Plaintiffs are commercial truck drivers who traveled on routes with “No Truck” signs posted and on non-designated thoroughfares within the city. Id. at ¶ 8.  The City issued them citations for violating ordinances. The citations stated a hearing date and time if the fine was not paid, which would take place in the Joliet Municipal Building. Id

The Plaintiffs challenged the City’s jurisdiction to hear and decide the cases through its administrative adjudication process established in its Code of Ordinances. Id. at ¶ 9. They argued that the Illinois Municipal Code required that the ordinance violations be adjudicated in the circuit court. Id. The hearing officer disagreed and issued decisions finding Plaintiffs liable for the violations and imposed fines. Id.

The Plaintiffs sought administrative review by the circuit court, requesting the circuit court to vacate the hearing officer’s decision and dismiss the citations. The circuit court rejected the Plaintiffs’ request and affirmed the hearing officer’s decision. Id. at ¶ 12. The Appellate Court then reversed the circuit court and hearing officer’s decisions. Id. at ¶ 14. It determined that home rule municipalities are prohibited from administratively adjudicating “traffic regulations governing the movement of vehicles” and “reportable offenses under Section 6-204 of the Illinois Vehicle Code.” Id. The Appellate Court found that the ordinance violations at issue fit within “traffic regulations governing the movement of vehicles.” Id

The Illinois Supreme Court Rules That § 1-2.1-2 of the Municipal Code Does Not Preempt Home Rule Municipality Authority to Administratively Adjudicate Ordinance Violations

The Illinois Supreme Court first considered the general question of whether § 1-2.1-2 of the Municipal Code preempts a home rule municipality’s authority to administratively adjudicate ordinance violations. Id. at ¶¶ 18-38. The Court noted that a limitation on a home rule municipalities authority must be specifically expressed by the legislature. Division 2.1 states that it “applies only to municipalities that are home rule units.” 65 ILCS 5/1-2.1-1. The Court found that the language within division 2.1 of the Municipal Code does not indicate an intent to limit home rule municipalities authority to administratively adjudicate violations of its ordinances. Id. at ¶ 29. Instead, multiple sections expressly indicate that the legislature did not intent to limit home rule authority to enforce or adjudicate ordinance violations. Id. Thus, § 1-2.1-2 is not a jurisdictional provision limiting home rule authority to administratively adjudicate its ordinances, but it does state that some ordinance violations are outside of a “system of administrative adjudication” to which division 2.1 applies. 65 ILCS 5/1-2.1-2. Id. at ¶ 32.

If a home rule municipality does establish a “system of administrative adjudication” in line with §1-2.1-2 of the Municipal Code, §1-2.1-8 provides mechanisms of enforcement for administrative decisions made. Id. at ¶ 36. These include that findings made in this system may be enforced in the same manner as a judgment entered by a court of competent jurisdiction and the home rule municipality may record liens pursuant to a court order. 65 ILCS 5/1-2.1-8. Id. at ¶¶ 36-37. The Court concluded that the Appellate Court erred in reversing the hearing officer’s decision because §1-2.1-2 does not divest a home rule unit of jurisdiction to adjudicate ordinance violations or to impose a fine for a violation. Id. at ¶ 38. 

Joliet’s Code of Ordinances

The Court turned to the Plaintiffs second argument that the Joliet Code of Ordinances does not allow an administrative adjudication for the ordinance violations for which they were found liable by the city’s administrative hearing officer.  Id. at ¶¶ 40-43. The Court focused on § 3-5 that delineates whether an ordinance violation shall be adjudicated through the circuit court or through the City’s administrative adjudication process. Id. at ¶ 42. Subsection (e) of § 3-5 indicates that “[a]ny traffic offense requiring reporting to the Secretary of State shall be returnable to the Will [County] Court House on the applicable return date.” Id. Based on the Joliet Code of Ordinances, traffic offenses requiring reporting to the Secretary of State must be prosecuted in the Will County Circuit. Id. at ¶¶ 43, 50. On the other hand, traffic offenses that do not require reporting are to be adjudicated through the City’s administrative process. Id. at ¶¶ 52-53.

The Supreme Court then considered what traffic offenses are “reportable offenses” under the Illinois Vehicle Code that must be prosecuted in the circuit court.  Id. at ¶¶ 45-49. The Plaintiffs were Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDL) holders, and thus any local ordinance violations they commit other than parking violations should be considered offenses required to be reported to the Secretary of State. 625 ILCS 5/6-204. Id. at ¶ 48. Section 3-5 of the Joliet Code of Ordinances required that Plaintiffs appear in circuit court, not before the City’s administrative hearing unit, to have their objection to the traffic violation adjudicated.  Id. at ¶ 50. Therefore, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed with the Appellate Court that the Joliet administrative hearing officer did not have jurisdiction to rule on the Plaintiffs’ ordinance violations. Id.

The Illinois Supreme Court’s decision in Cammacho v. City of Joliet is important for home rule municipalities for two reasons.  First, the decision reiterates that home rule municipalities have authority to establish administrative adjudication systems and to prosecute local ordinance violations.  Second, the decision does indicate that a certain class of ordinance violations – those traffic offenses that are “reportable” to the Secretary of State – must be adjudicated in circuit court, rather than through a home rule municipality’s administrative adjudication process.     

Authored by:

not-pictured: Lily McKay

John A. Wall