Township of Jubilee v State of Illinois (IL)

Summary: An action to quiet the title of property where the state will be named a defendant must be brought in the court of claims.

Township of Jubilee v State of Illinois, 2011 IL 111447, 960 NE2d 550, 355 Ill Dec 668 (Ill., 2011).

Facts: The Township of Jubilee contained a parcel of land known as “the public square” which was dedicated in 1860, vesting a fee simple to the public. A plat and survey were recorded with the recorder of deeds in 1860. Eventually, various tracts of land were sold and later deeded to the state, and in 1986 the State converted the property to a state park, though “the public square” was not among the tracts deeded to the state. Regardless, the state maintained a sign for the park on “the public square” and mowed the lawn on “the public square” for more than 20 years.

In 1997 the township of Jubilee brought an action to quiet title to the “public square” and to take further action as might be necessary to sell the property. The township named the state, the County of Peoria, the trustees of Jubilee College, and unknown owners and nonrecord claimants as defendants. The state moved to dismiss the claim arguing that the circuit court had no jurisdiction under the State Lawsuit Immunity Act and the Court of Claims Act.

This motion was denied, and the state filed a counter complaint structured as an action to quiet title for the state as fee simple owner stating that the Township had no legal authority to hold title, the township was never entitled to possess the property, and the township is a “subagency of the state and cannot have a superior title to land than dedicated to the public.” In the alternative, the state claimed adverse possession. The township answered with factual and legal challenges and the circuit court granted summary judgment to the township. The state appealed, asserting a lack of jurisdiction by the circuit court under the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

Holding: Affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reviewed the case de novo because the outcome turned on the construction of the statutes, presenting a question of law, and because the ruling giving rise to the appeal involved the grant of summary judgment. The court affirmed the decision by the circuit court, but held that this case should have been initiated in the court of claims, and the circuit court had no jurisdiction.

Furthermore, even when the state makes efforts to defend itself against the action, going so far as to answer a complaint, engage in discovery, and undertake whatever other defensive measures permitted in civil practice, those actions do not amount to a waiver or forfeiture, or otherwise jeopardize the state’s claim for sovereign immunity. The court affirmed here because the state was not merely defending its claim, but rather, filed its own complaint in the circuit court. The State Lawsuit Immunity Act only prevents the state from being named a defendant, it does not limit the state’s authority to seek redress in the circuit court.

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By: ATG Underwriting Department | Posted on: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 9:52am