People ex rel. Mayfield v. City of Springfield, 35135

Citation16 Ill.2d 609,158 N.E.2d 582
Decision Date22 May 1959
Docket NumberNo. 35135,35135
PartiesPEOPLE ex rel. George E. MAYFIELD et al., Appellants, v. CITY OF SPRINGFIELD et al., Appellees.
CourtSupreme Court of Illinois

Londrigan & Londrigan, Springfield, for appellants.

William P. Sheehan, City Atty., and Richard R. Grummon, Springfield, for appellees.

DAVIS, Justice.

This is an appeal by the members of the board of trustees of the police pension fund of the city of Springfield, plaintiffs, from the judgment of the circuit court of Sangamon County which dismissed their petition for writ of mandamus. In this petition plaintiffs sought to compel the city, its mayor, commissioners and treasurer, defendants, to pay into the police pension fund, commencing March 1, 1958, the following: (1) 10 per cent of all money collected from persons charged with violating traffic ordinances of the city and paid by such persons to avoid prosecution, (2) 10 per cent of all revenue collected from permits authorizing persons to engage in any activity which is illegal without payment of a fee, and (3) 10 per cent of all revenue collected by means of parking meters for the privilege of parking in designated spaces upon the public streets in the city for limited periods of time.

The facts were undisputed and judgment was entered on the pleadings, which consisted of the amended petition for writ of mandamus, defendants' answer, and plaintiff's motion to strike the answer and for judgment upon the pleadings. The trial judge certified that the validity of a municipal ordinance is involved and that the public interest required a direct appeal to this court.

The subject matter of this case was before us in Horney v. City of Springfield, 12 Ill.2d 427, 147 N.E.2d 58, where we held that the plaintiffs were not entitled to an accounting of such funds for past years since they had acquiesced in the procedure followed by the city in levying the maximum tax rate for the years in question and had neglected to assert their claims. Consequently, we did not reach the issues here presented. The plaintiffs have now complied with the pertinent statutes and have demanded that the city pay to them 10 per cent of the moneys above enumerated and defendants have refused to do so.

The material provisions of section 1 of the Police Pension Fund Act are: '* * * All moneys derived from the taxes levied hereunder and the following moneys shall be set apart by the treasurer of such city, village or incorporated town to constitute the police pension fund: * * * 3.10% of all fines collected for violation of city ordinances. * * * 7.10% of all revenue collected from licenses by such city, village or incorporated town not heretofore mentioned in this Act.' Ill.Rev.Stat.1957, chap. 24, par. 892.

Section 11 of the act grants to the board of trustees the exclusive control and management of the police pension fund and provides that all moneys due thereto shall be placed by the treasurer of such city, village or town, to the credit of the fund, subject to the order of the board. Section 12 provides that the city treasurer and other city officials who have had the custody or possession of any such pension funds shall make a sworn statement to the board of trustees of such fund, and to the mayor and council of such city, of all moneys received and paid out on account of the pension fund during the year, and of the amount of such funds then on hand and owing to such fund. Ill.Rev.Stat.1927, chap. 24, pars. 902 and 903.

The challenged section of the municipal ordinance is:

'Sec. 30.167. Same-Receipts for payments; disposition of moneys received.

'Any police officer or city employee designated by the chief of police or commissioner of accounts and finances who shall receive the payment of any sum of money by a violator charged with violating this chapter shall issue to such person a receipt therefor, bearing his signature and the date of payment. A duplicate receipt, together with the money paid to such officer or other designated person, shall be delivered to the city treasurer and shall be by him credited to the corporate fund of the city.'

Plaintiffs contend that '10% of all fines collected for violation of city ordinances,' embraces all sums of money collected by the city from persons charged therewith, and that defendants cannot evade this statutory mandate by enacting an ordinance which permits violators to voluntarily pay a fine to designated city officials rather than through the judicial process.

Defendants urge that the words 'fine' and 'penalty' are not synonymous; that 'fine' has a generally accepted and well defined legal meaning, which is a pecuniary punishment imposed by a lawful tribunal upon a person convicted of a crime or misdemeanor, whether in a criminal or civil action; and that the words, '10% of all fines,' do not include, nor was there any legislative intent to include voluntary payments made by a person to defendant city for an alleged violation of a city ordinance. Thus, they urge that a money penalty voluntarily paid to a city employee without judicial process for overparking, late payment of a water bill or return of an overdue library book is not a 'fine' within the meaning of the act and plaintiffs are not entitled to 10 per cent of these moneys for the pension fund.

The parties litigant are in similar disagreement over the meaning of 'revenue collected from licenses' and whether such collections include revenue from permits. Comparatively, the statutory language is old and the ordinances and procedures giving rise to the litigation are new. This presents the problem of applying the aged language of the act to the new and everchanging conditions of society. While the parties ascribe a different concept or meaning to the words 'fines,' 'penalties,' 'licenses,' and 'permits,' this is more than a controversy over semantics. The function of the judicial process is to dig beneath words and concepts, and, through logic, history, custom, utility, and the standards of right conduct, or one or more of such forces, determine the nature and substance of litigation and the shape and progress of the law. See Selected Writings of Benjamin Cardozo, Nature of the Judicial Process.

One of the questions presented is whether the amounts paid, by persons notified of an alleged traffic violation, constitute 'fines' within the meaning of that term as used in section 1 of the Police Pension Fund Act. In 15 Am.Jur., sec. 541, at page 182, it is stated: 'The true signification of the word 'fine' when used in a statute must depend somewhat on the context, and the meaning should be gathered from the intention if that can be fairly ascertained from the language used. In general, a fine is a sum of money exacted of a person guilty of an offense as a pecuniary punishment, the amount of which may be fixed by law or left to the discretion of the court. In certain connections the word 'fine' has been held to be synonymous with 'penalty'; but by the great majority of decisions it has been confined to its ordinary meaning.'

In People v. Nedrow, 122 Ill. 363, 13 N.E. 533, we held that the words 'fines and forfeitures' as used in the Fees and Salaries Act were broad enough to include the penalties referred to in the Pharmacy Act. However, the questions involved were not such as to cause this court to examine the definition of the term 'fine' as theretofore generally stated and accepted.

Many jurisdictions have defined the term as pecuniary punishment imposed by a lawful tribunal upon a person convicted of a crime or misdemeanor. United States v. Safeway Stores, 10 Cir., 140 F.2d 834; Commonwealth v. French, 130 Ky. 744, 114 S.W. 255; Murphy v. State, 119 Or. 658, 250 P. 834, 49 A.L.R. 384; Holliman v. Cole, 168 Okl. 473, 34 P.2d 597; In re Chester School District's Audit, 301 Pa. 203, 151 A. 801; State v. Missouri Pacific Railway Co., 64 Neb. 679, 90 N.W. 877; Sinner v. State, 128 Neb. 759, 260 N.W. 275; State v. Providence Gas Co., 27 R.I. 142, 61 A. 44; Southern Express Co. v. Commonwealth ex rel. Walker, 92 Va. 59, 22 S.E. 809, 41 L.R.A. 436.

Other cases, with slightly varying language, have defined 'fine' as a sum of money exacted as a pecuniary punishment from a person guilty of an offense. Hanks v. Shreveport Yellow Cabs, La.App., 187 So. 817; Bergman v. State, 187 Wash. 622, 60 P.2d 699, 106 A.L.R. 1007; State v. Addington, 140 N.C. 683, 57 S.E. 398; Village of Lancaster v. Richardson, 4 Lans., N.Y., 136; Vogel v. Corp. Commission of Oklahoma, 190 Okl. 156, 121 P.2d 586. These latter decisions, in defining 'fine,' have not limited the term to punishment imposed by a lawful tribunal. However, they use the words 'guilty of' or 'convicted of' which indicate that a fine is a penalty paid, after conviction, in response to a determination of guilt. Courts have consistently adopted this restricted meaning of the term 'fine.'

Plaintiffs have cited School District of McCook, In the County of Red Willow v. City of McCook, 163 Neb. 817, 81 N.W.2d 224, 227, to sustain their position. In that case the school district sought to recover voluntary payments made by a person at the police station for an alleged violation of the city traffic ordinance. Under the provision of the Nebraska constitution, art. 7, § 5, 'all fines, penalties and license moneys arising under the rules, by-laws, or ordinances of cities' shall be paid over to the school district. In view of the inclusiveness of the constitutional provision this case is not helpful in our decision of the case at bar. For similar reasons, the statutes before the courts and the decisions in McHugh v. Placid Oil Co., 206 La. 511, 19 So.2d 221, and United States v. Atlantic Fruit Co., 2 Cir., 206 F. 440, are not in point.

It is a primary rule of statutory construction that the intention of the legislature should be ascertained and given effect. Belfield v. Coop, 8 Ill.2d 293, 134 N.E.2d 249, 58 A.L.R.2d 1008; Burke v. Industrial Commissio...

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