The Illinois Supreme Court has again placed on hold the closure of a Melrose Park Hospital, reinstating a temporary restaining order a state appeals panel had only hours earlier ordered lifted.
In an order issued late Thursday and signed by Illinois Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville, the state's high court stayed the decision of the Illinois First District Appellate Court until at least 4:30 p.m. Friday. The order followed an emergency appeal from the village of Melrose Park.
Earlier Thursday, a three-justice panel in the First District court had abruply pulled the plug on a Cook County judge's decision to put a hold on the plans of Pipeline Health to wind down operations at Melrose Park's Westlake Hospital.
The appellate decision had reversed the ruling of Cook County Circuit Judge Eve M. Reilly in the lawsuit brought by the village of Melrose Park against Pipeline Health over the company’s decision to wind down operations at Westlake Hospital in the village.
The decision was authored by Justice Terrence Lavin, with justices Daniel J. Pierce and Aurelia Pucinski concurring. The decision was issued as an unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23, which limits its use as precedent.
In early March, Melrose Park filed suit against Pipeline, accusing the company of fraud and of creating a “public nuisance” by moving forward with plans to close the hospital it had acquired only a few weeks earlier in January.
As part of that lawsuit, the village sought a temporary restraining order forbidding Pipeline from moving forward with its plans, and of making any more changes at the hospital without approval.
Judge Reilly granted the restraining order, and ordered the hospital to maintain service levels, threatening Pipeline with massive fines, should it refuse.
The hospital appealed the temporary restraining order, asserting the village had no right under the law to ask for or receive the restraining order.
On appeal, the justices agreed, finding Judge Reilly overstepped the bounds of state law in granting Melrose Park’s request.
Justice Lavin said Judge Reilly erred in conflating the village’s powers with the power granted under state law to county state’s attorneys to intervene on behalf of the people of the state to prevent the closure of a health facility.
“… The Village has identified no statute like the Counties Code granting it a duty, and corresponding right, which would be impacted in this instance,” Justice Lavin wrote. “The Village and the State’s Attorney are not similarly situated.
“… Simply put, the Village has not shown that any right belonging to the Village itself is in jeopardy.”
Justice Pucinski authored a brief special concurrence to the unanimous decision, saying, while the justices may have found Melrose Park’s situation regarding Westlake Hospital to be “sympathetic,” the village is limited in its legal options in this case.
“The Village has not demonstrated it has any contracts with the defendant health system, and there is nothing in the Constitution or laws of the State which give a municipality the responsibility to protect the health of its citizens as related to a private hospital,” Pucinski said.
However, Pucinksi still chided Pipeline for moving to wind down operations at Westlake before the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board had an opportunity to vote on Pipeline’s application to discontinue services at the hospital. A vote on that matter is expected May 1.
Pucinski said Pipeline “jumped the gun.”
“… It is entirely possible that if the Board denies the Discontinuation that it will be moot since the defendant will have literally emptied the hospital and shuts (sic) its doors,” Pucinski said.
“This is a matter for the legislature to resolve, but in the meantime, no matter how sympathetic a court is to the community involved, the Village of Melrose Park does not meet the requirements for standing in this matter.”
Reilly has served as a Cook County Circuit Court judge since 2016, when she was elected from among four Democrats running in the county's 10th Judicial Subcircuit. That subcircuit includes portions of Chicago's northwest side, and portions of Maine Township, Niles Township and Northfield Township.