People ex rel. Lumpkin v. Cassidy

Annotate this Case
People ex rel. Lumpkin v. Cassidy, No. 83289 (9/24/98)

Docket No. 83289--Agenda 14--March 1998.
THE PEOPLE ex rel. JOHN R. LUMPKIN, Director of Public Health, Appellant,
v. DANIEL CASSIDY et al., Appellees.

JUSTICE HARRISON delivered the opinion of the court:
Under the Illinois Plumbing License Law (225 ILCS 320/0.01 et seq. (West
1996)), lawn sprinkler systems can only be installed by licensed plumbers; licensed
apprentice plumbers under the supervision of a licensed plumber; or, where a single
family residence is involved, by the owner, owner occupant or lessee occupant of the
residence. The issue in this case is whether that limitation is constitutional and can
be enforced by the State to prevent a lawn sprinkler company from using unlicensed
laborers to install the pipes and sprinkler heads in its lawn sprinkler systems where
the system includes a backflow prevention device installed by a licensed plumber to
prevent contamination of the water supply. The circuit court answered this question
in the negative, holding that the limitation in the statute as applied in this case
constitutes an "unreasonable interference with personal and property rights *** within
the meaning of the State and Federal Constitutions." The State brought a direct
appeal to this court under our Rule 302(a) (134 Ill. 2d R. 302(a)). We now reverse
and remand.
The litigation before us commenced when the State filed suit in the circuit
court of Du Page County to enjoin Daniel Cassidy and his business, KADC
Corporation, d/b/a Sundance Irrigation (hereinafter referred to collectively as
Cassidy), from using laborers rather than licensed plumbers to install the pipes and
sprinkler heads in its lawn sprinkler systems. The basis for the State's suit was that
the use of laborers violated the Illinois Plumbing License Law (225 ILCS 320/0.01
et seq. (West 1996)).
The Illinois Plumbing License Law mandates that "all plumbing shall be
performed only by plumbers licensed under the provisions of this Act hereinafter
called `licensed plumbers' and `licensed apprentice plumbers.' " 225 ILCS 320/3(1)
(West 1996). As used in the statute, " `plumbing' means the actual installation,
repair, maintenance, alteration or extension of a plumbing system by any person" and
is defined to include "lawn sprinkler systems." 225 ILCS 320/2 (West 1996).
Accordingly, the law in Illinois is that lawn sprinkler systems can only be installed
by a licensed plumber or a licensed apprentice plumber. Where the work is done by
a licensed apprentice plumber, the apprentice must be supervised by a licensed
plumber. 225 ILCS 320/3(4)(a) (West 1996).
The statute recognizes an exception to these rules for the owner occupant or
lessee occupant of a single family residence or the owner of a single family residence
under construction for his or her occupancy. Such owner, owner occupant or lessee
occupant is not prohibited
"from planning, installing, altering or repairing the plumbing system
of such residence, provided that (i) such plumbing shall comply with the
minimum standards for plumbing contained in the Illinois State Plumbing
Code, and shall be subject to inspection by the Department or the local
governmental unit if it retains a licensed plumber as an inspector; and (ii)
such owner, owner occupant or lessee occupant shall not employ other than
a plumber licensed pursuant to this Act to assist him or her." 225 ILCS
320/3(2) (West 1996).
The Illinois Plumbing License Act provides that persons violating the Act or
a rule or regulation promulgated thereunder "shall be guilty of a
Class B misdemeanor and a fine
of $500 for the first offense; and
a second or subsequent violation
of this Act shall be guilty of a
Class A misdemeanor with a
fine of $1,000." 225 ILCS
320/29(1) (West 1996).
The State's Attorney of the county in which the violation occurred or the
Attorney General, acting in the name of the People of the State of Illinois, are
responsible for bringing enforcement actions. In such actions, the court may enjoin
the use of plumbing installed in violation of the law or a rule or regulation
promulgated thereunder until it has been corrected. 225 ILCS 320/29(1) (West 1996).
In addition,
"[i]f it is established that the defendant contrary to this Act has been
or is engaging in or about to engage in plumbing without having been issued
a license or has been or is engaged in or is about to engage in plumbing after
his or her license has been suspended or revoked or after his license has not
been renewed, the Court may enter a judgment perpetually enjoining the
defendant from further engaging in plumbing contrary to this Act. In case of
violation of any injunction entered under this Section, the Court may
summarily try and punish the offender for contempt of Court. Such injunction
proceedings shall be in addition to, and not in lieu of, all penalties and other
remedies in this Act provided." 225 ILCS 320/29(2) (West 1996).
In the matter before us, the State has not attempted to prosecute Cassidy for
any past violations of the Plumbing License Law. It merely seeks to enjoin him from
violating the statute in the future.
The State's enforcement action was originally commenced in the circuit court
of Du Page County, but was subsequently transferred to Kane County, where Cassidy
had brought a related action for injunctive and declaratory relief against the City of
Aurora. The State and Cassidy each filed motions for summary judgment. 735 ILCS
5/2--1005 (West 1996). The materials presented to the circuit court in support of the
parties' respective motions showed that Cassidy is in the business of designing and
installing "lawn sprinkler systems" as that term is defined by section 2 of the
Plumbing License Law (225 ILCS 320/2 (West 1996)).
Cassidy's lawn sprinkler systems consist of underground pipes and sprinkler
heads connected to a customer's potable water supply by means of a reduced
pressure zone backflow prevention device, known as an RPZ valve. RPZ valves are
necessary because without them, changing pressure could pull contaminated water
from a customer's lawn into the house's water supply. Among the type of
contaminates that must be guarded against in a lawn sprinkler system are fertilizers,
insects, pesticides, and fecal matter from animals.
When an RPZ valve is installed and operating properly, there is no threat of
backflow contamination to the potable water supply. Cassidy always uses licensed
plumbers to install the RPZ valves on his systems. That is not the case with every
lawn sprinkler company. Some do not use licensed plumbers to install the valves, and
some do not use the valves at all.
After considering the parties' respective positions, the circuit court ultimately
granted Cassidy's motion for summary judgment and denied the motion for summary
judgment filed by the State. The circuit court held that the Illinois Plumbing License
Law was designed to guard "the public's right to a protected potable water supply,
free of contamination resulting from inadequate installation procedures." In the
court's view, this interest was adequately served by Cassidy's use of licensed
plumbers to install RPZ valves on his lawn sprinkler systems. Once an RPZ has been
properly installed, the court held, it constitutes "an absolute deterrent to the
contamination of potable water within the system." Accordingly, the court believed
that requiring Cassidy to also use licensed plumbers, rather than laborers, to install
the pipes and sprinkler heads could do nothing to advance the purposes of the Illinois
Plumbing License Law and lacked any rational basis. The court therefore ruled that
the statute was unconstitutional as applied to Cassidy and his company.
The State has now appealed. Because the circuit court found that the statute,
as applied to Cassidy and his company, is unconstitutional, the State's appeal lies
directly to this court under our Rule 302(a) (134 Ill. 2d R. 302(a)). Fletcher v.
Williams, 179 Ill. 2d 225, 228 (1997).
We review de novo the circuit court's decision with respect to a statute's
constitutionality. Brown's Furniture, Inc. v. Wagner, 171 Ill. 2d 410, 420 (1996). The
party challenging the validity of a statute bears the burden of clearly establishing any
constitutional invalidity. A statute is presumed to be constitutional, and when
construing a statute, a court should uphold the statute's validity if reasonably
possible. People v. Jeffries, 164 Ill. 2d 104, 111 (1995).
Cassidy contends that the statute violates substantive due process guarantees
under the federal and state constitutions. U.S. Const., amend. XIV; Ill. Const. 1970,
art. I, sec. 2. He further argues that the statute contravenes our state constitution's
prohibition against special legislation. Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, sec. 13.
Although expressed in slightly different language, the standard used to
determine whether a statute violates substantive due process is identical to the
standard for assessing whether a statute denies equal protection. People v. R.G., 131 Ill. 2d 328, 362 (1989). Where, as here, the legislation does not affect a suspect class
or fundamental right and does not differentiate based on illegitimacy or gender, it is
subject to a rational basis test. Committee for Educational Rights v. Edgar, 174 Ill. 2d 1, 33 (1996). Such legislation will survive a substantive due process challenge so
long as it is reasonably designed to remedy the evils the legislature has determined
to be a threat to the public health, safety, and general welfare. People v. Bradley, 79 Ill. 2d 410, 417 (1980). The statute need not be the best means of accomplishing the
legislature's objectives. See Shelton v. Industrial Comm'n, 267 Ill. App. 3d 211, 218
(1994). As long as the statute is rationally related to a legitimate state interest, it will
be upheld. People v. Kimbrough, 163 Ill. 2d 231, 237 (1994).
Whether a statute is wise or whether it is the best means to achieve the
desired result are matters left to the legislature, and not the courts. People v.
Shephard, 152 Ill. 2d 489, 503 (1992). The judgments made by the legislature in
crafting a statute are not subject to courtroom fact finding and may be based on
rational speculation unsupported by evidence or empirical data. Cutinello v. Whitley,
161 Ill. 2d 409, 421-22 (1994). Under the rational basis test, the court may
hypothesize reasons for the legislation, even if the reasoning advanced did not
motivate the legislative action. See Illinois Health Care Ass'n v. Illinois Department
of Public Health, 879 F.2d 286, 289 (7th Cir. 1989). If there is any conceivable basis
for finding a rational relationship, the law will be upheld. People v. Hamm, 149 Ill. 2d 201, 216 (1992).
As previously indicated, Cassidy contends that the Illinois Plumbing License
Law, as applied to him, also violates the special legislation clause of the Illinois
Constitution. That provision states:
"The General Assembly shall pass no special or local law when a
general law is or can be made applicable. Whether a general law is or can be
made applicable shall be a matter for judicial determination." Ill. Const. 1970,
art. IV, sec. 13.
The special legislation clause expressly prohibits the General Assembly from
conferring a special benefit or exclusive privilege on a person or a group of persons
to the exclusion of others similarly situated. The purpose of this clause is to prevent
arbitrary legislative classifications that discriminate in favor of a select group without
a sound, reasonable basis. As with substantive due process, a special legislation
challenge is generally judged under the same standards applicable to an equal
protection challenge. Accordingly, the issue here, as with Cassidy's due process
claim, is whether the Illinois Plumbing License Law satisfies the rational basis test.
Best v. Taylor Machine Works, 179 Ill. 2d 367, 393 (1997).
The Illinois Plumbing License Law is premised on the principle "that the
regulation of plumbing and the plumbing trade is necessary for the protection of the
public health, convenience, and welfare." 225 ILCS 320/1 (West 1996). Cassidy does
not question this principle, nor does he deny that requiring the use of a licensed
plumber to install the RPZ valve on a lawn sprinkler system is rationally related to
the state's interest in protecting the public. The dispute in this case centers solely on
Cassidy's failure to also use licensed plumbers for the installation of the sprinkler
systems' pipes and sprinkler heads. Cassidy argues that because a properly installed
RPZ valve effectively eliminates the risk that the potable water supply will be
contaminated, requiring that licensed plumbers also be used to install the pipes and
sprinkler heads does nothing to advance the purpose of the statute.
The problem with Cassidy's argument is twofold. First, it erroneously
assumes that the presence of an RPZ valve renders deficiencies in the piping system
irrelevant from a public health standpoint. While it is undisputed that an RPZ valve
is effective in preventing contamination of a homeowner's water supply, it is also
true that such valves can fail or be bypassed or disabled. Answers to interrogatories
filed by the State indicate that where the backflow device is inoperable, the way in
which the pipes have been installed can serve as a "secondary safeguard for water
quality." In addition, if pipes are not properly installed, leaks can pose a threat to the
groundwater table. The design and workmanship of the piping system may therefore
have important public health consequences. The legislature could certainly have
concluded that such work should not be entrusted to those who do not possess the
skill, experience and scientific knowledge required of licensed plumbers.
The second problem with Cassidy's argument is that it fails to recognize that
avoiding contamination of the potable water supply is not the sole purpose of the
Illinois Plumbing License Law. As previously indicated, the statute is, by its own
terms, intended to serve the broader objective of protecting "the public health,
convenience, and welfare." 225 ILCS 320/1 (West 1996). Requiring the use of
licensed plumbers serves this broader objective by affording greater protection to
When a consumer installs a lawn sprinkler system at his own home or a home
he leases, he proceeds at his own risk. When he hires a company to do the
installation for him, on the other hand, he must rely on the expertise of others.
Because of the extensive training and experience necessary to become a licensed
plumber, the legislature could reasonably have believed that requiring the use of such
plumbers would result in higher quality installations less prone to leaks and other
problems. The importance of such protection is manifest considering that a defective
or improperly installed lawn sprinkler system can damage a consumer's lawn or the
foundation of his home.
Cassidy argues that licensed plumbers may not receive specific instruction on
lawn sprinkler systems as part of their training and apprenticeship. Although he is
correct, all plumbers do learn the skills, theories, and general principles involved in
the installation of such systems. With an unlicensed laborer, by contrast, consumers
have no assurance of even the most rudimentary plumbing skills.
Another benefit of the licensure requirement is that it provides consumers
with significantly greater recourse in the event of a problem. If a lawn sprinkler is
designed or installed improperly, civil remedies are available regardless of whether
the installer was licensed or not. Criminal fines may also be imposed. 225 ILCS
320/29 (West 1996). Where the installer is licensed, however, there are important
additional administrative remedies. If work is performed negligently or incompetently
or if the installer willfully violates "any law of this State or any rule, regulation or
code promulgated thereunder regulating plumbing," that individual is subject to
having his or her licensed suspended or revoked. 225 ILCS 320/20(1)(b), (1)(c)
(West 1996). Where the installer has no financial resources, this may be the only real
punishment available and the only effective mechanism for protecting the public from
incompetent or unscrupulous installers.
In making this observation, we do not mean to cast any aspersions on Cassidy
or his company. No claim has been made that the systems he installs are defective
or dangerous in any way. The only problem with them is that Cassidy does not use
licensed plumbers to install the pipes and sprinkler heads as the law requires. The
licensure requirement may be imperfect; it may not guarantee that consumers will
always receive the safest or best-built lawn sprinkler systems possible. For the
reasons we have just discussed, however, it is rationally related to a legitimate state
goal, and that is all the federal and state constitutions require.
For the foregoing reasons, we reverse the judgment of the circuit court
declaring the Illinois Plumbing License Law unconstitutional as applied to Cassidy
and granting summary judgment in his favor. We remand the cause for further
proceedings consistent with our opinion.

Reversed and remanded.

JUSTICE HEIPLE, dissenting:
Defendant Daniel Cassidy has since 1986 been engaged in the occupation of
installing lawn sprinkling systems. The Illinois Department of Public Health now
seeks to enjoin him from pursuing his occupation because the Illinois Plumbing
License Law (225 ILCS 320/0.01 (West 1992)) requires that only licensed plumbers
install such systems. Because I agree with the trial court's conclusion that this
requirement is unconstitutional, I respectfully dissent from this court's opinion
reversing the trial judge.
In Scully v. Hallihan, 365 Ill. 185 (1936), this court held unconstitutional a
statute which provided that only licensed plumbers could lay and connect tile,
concrete, and other nonmetallic piping for drainage systems and sewers, an activity
known as "drain-laying." The court noted that little of the traditional skills or training
of a plumber was required to perform drain-laying safely and effectively. Scully, 365 Ill. at 192. We therefore held the statutory requirement to be an unreasonable
exercise of the state's police power and a violation of a citizen's "inalienable right
to follow any legitimate trade, occupation or business which he sees fit." Scully, 365 Ill. at 191.
This same rationale applies to the instant case. As defendant notes, installing
a lawn sprinkling system requires few of the skills for which plumbers are trained
and licensed. The job is not much more difficult than running a hose across a lawn
after connecting it to a faucet. There is thus no reasonable justification for requiring
sprinkler installers such as defendant to undergo the extensive training and
certification process required of plumbers.
The State argues that contamination of potable water may occur through
"backflow" at the site of a sprinkling system's connection to the main water source.
Defendant does not contest, however, the State's authority to regulate this legitimate
health concern through its existing requirement that a plumber install an approved
backflow prevention device at the sprinkling system's origination point. See 77 Ill.
Adm. Code sec. 890.1140 (1996). Defendant argues only that there is no rational
reason to require that plumbers perform the separate task of laying the sprinkling
system itself.
The State also argues that employing licensed plumbers to perform the entire
operation may help prevent leaks in the sprinkling system, and will make it easier
for customers to seek recourse against plumbers who have installed a sprinkling
system unsatisfactorily, since the state maintains current addresses of all licensees.
These groping speculations are insufficient, however, to justify depriving an
individual of his livelihood when no clear threat to the public welfare is evident. "No
citizen should be legislated out of his trade and have it awarded to another craft
under the garb of a health measure where [the statute] is not definitely related to
such measure." Scully, 365 Ill. at 192.
For these reasons, I would affirm the circuit court's judgment.