Chicago City Hall | Jonathan Bilyk
An Illinois appeals panel has said it has no jurisdiction to reverse a Cook County judge’s refusal to take some of the payments by the city of Chicago, meant to cover city retirees’ health insurance coverage, to instead pay fees to attorneys suing the city on behalf of retirees.
The Nov. 15 ruling was penned by Justice Thomas Hoffman, with concurrence from Justices Mathias Delort and Maureen Connors, of the Illinois First District Appellate Court. The decision was filed as an unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23, which means it may not be cited as precedent except in limited circumstances.
The ruling went against Chicago lawyer Clinton Krislov in a class action he is pressing on behalf of Chicago city retirees against the city. The retired workers launched the suit in 2013, alleging City Hall breached the state constitution by taking actions that “diminished or impaired” retirement benefits. Other defendants include trustees of the police, fire, laborers' and municipal employees' annuity and benefit funds.
Specifically, the retirees alleged the city improperly moved in 2013, as a money saving measure, to phase out health insurance coverage by 2017 for workers who retired after 1989. The controversy has been tied up in court for six years.
The most recent appellate ruling on the questions of the case found retirees did not have an absolute right to certain levels of funding for health insurance, as justices ruled that particular benefit "always came with an expiration date.”
On July 29, Krislov and plaintiffs asked Cook County Judge Neil Cohen for a preliminary injunction, requesting he order one-third of the subsidy payments, due from the city for retiree health insurance, be placed in escrow to protect Krislov’s claim for attorney fees stemming from the class action.
Cohen refused on grounds he had already denied the same requests, submitted in different forms, in February and July. Those earlier requests had been refused, because Cohen found the subsidies were exempt from attachment for attorney fees, court papers said.
The appellate court refused to touch the matter.
“The relief sought by the plaintiffs and Krislov in their Emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction was injunctive in nature, as it requested an order to escrow a portion of the health insurance subsidy payments due from the City,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman continued: “In order to grant the relief, the circuit court would have been required to first adjudicate Krislov’s right to payment of its attorneys’ fees from the health insurance subsidy payments due from the City. The relief sought is in the nature of a final order disposing of an issue in controversy, namely, Krislov’s right to payment of its attorneys’ fees from the health insurance subsidy payments.”
Hoffman concluded the plaintiffs and Krislov have no right to appeal under the Illinois Supreme Court rule Krislov cited in the briefs he filed in the case.
Other lawyers and firms involved in the case include: David R. Kugler, of suburban Long Grove; Richard J. Prendergast, of Chicago; Laner Muchin Ltd., of Chicago; Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, of Chicago; and Hogan, Marren, Babbo & Rose, of Chicago.