In the Interest of H.R.

Annotate this Case
NO. 4-96-0206
IN THE APPELLATE COURT
OF ILLINOIS
FOURTH DISTRICT
In the Interest of H.R. and M.R., ) Appeal from
Alleged Abused/Neglected Minors, ) Circuit Court of
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, ) Champaign County
Petitioner-Appellant, ) No. 95J351
v. )
THOMAS RADECKI and DIANE ZDUNICH ) Honorable
f/k/a RADECKI, ) Ann A. Einhorn,
Respondents-Appellees. ) Judge Presiding.
_________________________________________________________________

JUSTICE McCULLOUGH delivered the opinion of the court:

The State appeals from a March 15, 1996, order of the
circuit court of Champaign County dismissing the petition for
adjudication of wardship of H.R. (born May 9, 1990) and M.R. (born
December 16, 1992). The only issue on review is whether the trial
court committed an abuse of discretion by dismissing the petition
for adjudication of wardship on the ground the hearing had not been
completed within the 90 days set by section 2-14 of the Juvenile
Court Act of 1987 (Act) (705 ILCS 405/2-14 (West 1994)). We
reverse and remand for further proceedings.
The State's arguments on appeal are (1) the trial court's
reliance on In re S.G., 277 Ill. App. 3d 803, 661 N.E.2d 437
(1996), appeal allowed, 166 Ill. 2d 540 (1996), was erroneous
because that decision did not recognize that the 90-day period in
section 2-14 of the Act violated the separation of powers clause of
the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. II, 1); and (2)
the statutory language did not mandate dismissal if the adjudicato-
ry hearing had been started, but not completed, within the 90-day
period. Respondent mother is not a party to this appeal. However,
respondent father initially argues that the State's arguments are
waived because they were not raised in the trial court. It is
clear from a reading of the transcript of the hearing on the motion
to dismiss that the State argued the decision in S.G. was distin-
guishable on its facts and the 90-day provision in section 2-14 of
the Act did not require dismissal in this case. In addition, the
question of the constitutionality of the statute may be raised at
any time. People v. Bryant, 128 Ill. 2d 448, 453-54, 539 N.E.2d 1221, 1223-24 (1989). Therefore, we decline to find waiver.
The separation of powers issue is not addressed as it is
unnecessary to disposition of this appeal. Courts generally do not
address constitutional issues unnecessarily, i.e., where a case may
be resolved on other grounds. Exchange National Bank v. Lawndale
National Bank, 41 Ill. 2d 316, 321, 243 N.E.2d 193, 195 (1968); In
re Marriage of Bennett, 225 Ill. App. 3d 828, 830, 587 N.E.2d 577,
579 (1992).
Even though the Supreme Court of Illinois has granted a
petition for leave to appeal in S.G., we will decide this case
instead of staying it pending the decision of the supreme court in
S.G. because of the distinctions between the two cases and because
of the potential for harm to H.R. and M.R.
Section 2-14 of the Act reads, in relevant part:
"(a) Purpose and policy. The legislature
recognizes that serious delay in the adjudica-
tion of abuse, neglect, or dependency cases
can cause grave harm to the minor and the
family and that it frustrates the best inter-
ests of the minor and the effort to establish
permanent homes for children in need. The
purpose of this Section is to insure that,
consistent with the federal Adoption Assis-
tance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, Public
Law 96-272, as amended, and the intent of this
Act, the State of Illinois will act in a just
and speedy manner to determine the best inter-
ests of the minor, including providing for the
safety of the minor, identifying families in
need, reunifying families where it is in the
best interests of the minor, and, if reunifi-
cation is not in the best interests of the
minor, finding another permanent home for the
minor.
(b) When a petition is filed alleging
that the minor is abused, neglected or depen-
dent, an adjudicatory hearing shall be held
within 90 days of the date of service of
process upon the minor, parents, any guardian
and any legal custodian.
(c) Upon written motion of a party filed
no later than 10 days prior to hearing, or
upon the court's own motion and only for good
cause shown, the Court may continue the hear-
ing for a period not to exceed 30 days, and
only if the continuance is in the best inter-
ests of the minor. When the court grants a
continuance, it shall enter specific factual
findings to support its order, including
factual findings supporting the court's deter-
mination that the continuance is in the best
interests of the minor. Only one such contin-
uance shall be granted. A period of continu-
ance for good cause as described in this
Section shall temporarily suspend as to all
parties, for the time of the delay, the period
within which a hearing must be held. On the
day of the expiration of the delay, the period
shall continue at the point at which it was
suspended.
The term 'good cause' as applied in this
Section shall be strictly construed and be in
accordance with Supreme Court Rule 231(a)
through (f). Neither stipulation by counsel
nor the convenience of any party constitutes
good cause. If the adjudicatory hearing is
not heard within the time limits required by
subsection (b) or (c) of this Section, upon
motion by any party the petition shall be
dismissed without prejudice.
(d) The time limits of this Section may
be waived only by consent of all parties and
approval by the court." (Emphasis added.)
705 ILCS 405/2-14 (West 1994).
In S.G., the petition for adjudication of wardship was
filed on April 28, 1992, alleging sexual abuse and injurious
environment. A temporary custody hearing was conducted that day,
and custody was temporarily removed from the mother. When the
mother was released from jail after criminal charges were dis-
missed, she requested a second temporary custody hearing, which was
conducted on June 22, 1992. The children's fathers were given
notice by publication and were defaulted on September 1, 1992.
Following a continuance for good cause from the original November
10, 1992, hearing date, the hearing was begun on December 15, 1992.
The appellate court in S.G. summarized the proceedings between
September 1, 1992, and the March 12, 1993, determination of neglect
as follows:
"Space does not permit us to provide
details of the proceedings on each of the 21
occasions this case was heard between April
28, 1992, and March 12, 1993, when the adjudi-
cation hearing was completed. Suffice it to
say that the trial judge kept trying to find
time for the hearing, Pearlie [(the mother)]
continuously asked for a trial, the State
answered ready, lawyers made motions and
objections, and the case was heard piecemeal
after a perfunctory beginning on December 15,
1992, finally getting under way on March 8,
1993." S.G., 277 Ill. App. 3d at 806, 661 N.E.2d at 439.
At the March 8, 1993, hearing, the trial court denied the mother's
motion to dismiss. In S.G., the appellate court held that, since
the triggering event was the September 1, 1992, default of the
fathers, the statute was not satisfied when the trial judge heard
opening statements and one nonessential witness on December 15,
1992. S.G., 277 Ill. App. 3d at 807-08, 661 N.E.2d at 440.
To the extent that the S.G. court held that the adjudica-
tion must be completed within the time limit set forth in section
2-14, we disagree. In the case at bar, there is no dispute that
the hearing began within the 90-day period provided by the statute.
The original petition was filed on November 9, 1995. On that date,
a shelter-care hearing was conducted at which both respondent
parents appeared in person and by counsel. The ninetieth day after
November 9, 1995, was February 7, 1996. The adjudicatory hearing
began on February 2, 1996. At that hearing, the court heard
extensive testimony from the psychiatrist treating respondent
mother. After the psychiatrist's testimony, the adjudicatory
hearing was continued to March 20, 1996. However, respondent
mother filed a motion to dismiss which was granted on March 15,
1996.
The statutory language does not require dismissal of a
petition for wardship where the adjudicatory hearing has begun, but
not been completed, within the 90-day period set forth in the
statute. Section 2-14(b) of the Act requires that the adjudicatory
hearing be "held" within the 90-day period.
"The question before us is one of statu-
tory interpretation. The fundamental canon of
construction is to ascertain and give effect
to the intention of the legislature. Varelis
v. Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 167 Ill. 2d 449, 454 (1995). Courts will look first to
the words of the statute (Metropolitan Life
Insurance Co. v. Washburn, 112 Ill. 2d 486,
492 (1986)), for the language used by the
legislature is the best indication of legisla-
tive intent (Kirwan v. Welch, 133 Ill. 2d 163,
165 (1989); County of Du Page v. Graham,
Anderson, Probst & White, Inc., 109 Ill. 2d 143, 151 (1985)). When the statutory language
is clear, no resort is necessary to other
tools of interpretation. Henry v. St. John's
Hospital, 138 Ill. 2d 533, 541 (1990). More-
over, courts should not, under the guise of
statutory construction, add requirements or
impose limitations that are inconsistent with
the plain meaning of the enactment. People ex
rel. LeGout v. Decker, 146 Ill. 2d 389, 394
(1992); In re Estate of Swiecicki, 106 Ill. 2d 111, 120 (1985)." Nottage v. Jeka, 172 Ill. 2d 386, 392, 667 N.E.2d 91, 93 (1996).
Where technical terms are employed in a statute, they
will be given their technical meaning if that is the context in
which they are employed. Maiss v. Metropolitan Amusement Ass'n,
241 Ill. 177, 181, 89 N.E. 268, 269 (1909); Department of Public
Works & Buildings v. Wishnevsky, 131 Ill. App. 2d 702, 704, 267 N.E.2d 355, 356 (1971); see Galowich v. Beech Aircraft Corp., 92 Ill. 2d 157, 165-66, 441 N.E.2d 318, 321 (1982) (technical meaning
of "costs"). As it relates to court proceedings, "hold" means
"[t]o administer; to conduct or preside at; to convoke, open, and
direct the operations of." Black's Law Dictionary 731 (6th ed.
1990) (definition number six of "hold"); see also Black's Law
Dictionary 724 (6th ed. 1990) (definition of "held" states "[i]n
reference to the decision of a court, means decided," also refers
reader to definition of "hold").
Section 2-14(b) requires that the adjudicatory hearing be
"held" within 90-days of the date service of process is had on the
necessary parties.
Section 2-14(c) allows for one 30-day continuance which
suspends the period during which the hearing must be "held."
Section 2-14(c) also provides that the petition shall be dismissed
without prejudice if the adjudicatory hearing is not "heard" within
the limitations of section 2-14(b) or (c). We disagree with the
S.G. court's interpretation of "heard." Although the matter must
be "heard" that is not synonymous with "concluded." Witnesses and
parties may be "heard" at a hearing on a matter which is not
concluded. See Black's Law Dictionary 721 (6th ed. 1990) (defini-
tion of "hearing"). A hearing need not be concluded and the
decision of the tribunal need not be made for the matter to be in
the process of being "heard." It must be recognized that the
number and availability of witnesses affects when the hearing will
be concluded. The legislature could not have reasonably meant that
a hearing, though commenced, must be halted and the cause dismissed
because of the illness of one of the witnesses, or that the parties
to the proceeding would simply be denied the opportunity to present
witnesses who would not be available on time.
Interestingly, in this case and in S.G., it was one or
both of the respondent parents who moved for dismissal, not a
guardian ad litem for the children. While one of the express
purposes of the statute is to prevent grave harm to minors and
families by less than diligent court proceedings (705 ILCS 405/2-
14(a) (West 1994)), the overall purpose of the Act is to safeguard
the children (see 705 ILCS 405/1-2(1) (West 1994)). Giving the
persons alleged to be endangering the children the opportunity to
retain custody of the children simply because an adjudicatory
hearing, though started, has not been concluded within the 90-day
period is not consistent with the overall purpose of the Act.
Therefore, we construe section 2-14 of the Act as requiring that
the adjudicatory hearing be commenced within 90 days.
The beginning of the adjudicatory hearing within 90 days
in the case at bar satisfied the statute, and the dismissal of this
case was an abuse of discretion. The judgment of the circuit court
of Champaign County is reversed, and the cause is remanded for
further proceedings.
Reversed and remanded.
COOK, P.J., and GARMAN, J., concur.