The snapshot on this one for legal practitioners, paralegals and law students is easy—subject-matter jurisdiction for judicial review of an Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission decision vests in the Circuit Courts upon filing of a request for issuance of summons and an affidavit of payment of the probable cost of the record, NOT upon the date of mailing.
In Gruszeczka v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the Appellate Court, Second District, vacated the judgment of the Circuit Court of McHenry County as having been entered in the absence of subject matter jurisdiction as claimant failed to commence his action for judicial review within the 20-day period mandated in section 19(f)(1) of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Specifically, section 19(f)(1) provides a proceeding for judicial review of a Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission decision shall be commenced within 20 days of the receipt of notice of the decision.
Claimant sought judicial review of the Commission’s decision—affirming the arbitration decision denying claimant benefits under the Act—and mailed a request for the issuance of summons and his attorney’s affidavit of payment of the probable cost of the record to the clerk of the Circuit Court of DeKalb County. Said paperwork was filed stamped by the clerk on May 24, 2009—24 days after the Commission’s decision was undisputedly received in the office of claimant’s attorney on April 20, 2009.
The employer filed a motion to dismiss arguing the Circuit Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to entertain claimant’s action for judicial review because it was filed more than 20 days after the Commission’s decision was received by claimant’s attorney. Claimant responded, arguing he fulfilled the jurisdictional requirement for filing by mailing all necessary documents to the clerk within 20 days of his attorney’s receipt of the decision. Attached to claimant’s response, were affidavits of claimant’s attorney and a clerk at the attorney’s office stating the necessary paperwork was mailed to the Circuit Court Clerk on May 4, 2009. There was no evidence of when the Circuit Court Clerk received the document.
The Circuit Court denied the employer’s motion to dismiss for want of jurisdiction. Upon transfer of the matter to the Circuit Court of McHenry County, a motion to reconsider was also denied.
In reversing the lower court and dismissing the appeal, the Appellate Court refused to adopt the “mailbox rule”—i.e., the time of mailing is the time of filing for jurisdictional purposes—reasoning section 19(f)(1) of the Act was clear and unambiguous, should be given its plain and ordinary reasoning and must be strictly adhered to in order to vest the Circuit Court with subject-matter jurisdiction over a judicial review action under the act.
The Court further reasoned the legislature would have to engraft the “mailbox rule,” not the judiciary under the guise of statutory interpretation. Unwilling to interpret section 19(f)(1) of the Act as providing for a ��mailbox rule”, the Appellate Court vacated the judgment of the Circuit Court and held claimant failed to commence his action for judicial review within the 20-day period prescribed by the Act.
This article was researched and written by Sean C. Brogan, J.D. Please feel free to send questions and comments to Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org.