The ''Exhaustion of Remedies'' Doctrine Requirements Example Case

In Castaneda v. Illinois Human Rights Comm'n, 132 Ill. 2d 304, 547 N.E.2d 437, 138 Ill. Dec. 270 (1989), the plaintiff filed an employment discrimination charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Castaneda, 132 Ill. 2d at 307. Thereafter, the Department of Human Rights filed a complaint against the defendant employer, alleging violations of the plaintiffs civil rights. Castaneda, 132 Ill. 2d at 307. Following a full hearing, an administrative law judge (ALJ) found no discrimination against the plaintiff and recommended dismissal of the complaint. Castaneda, 132 Ill. 2d at 307. A three-member panel of the Illinois Human Rights Commission adopted the recommendations of the ALJ and dismissed the complaint. Castaneda, 132 Ill. 2d at 307. Although the Illinois Human Rights Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 68, par. 1-101 et seq.) included a provision that gave the plaintiff the right to request a rehearing before the full Commission, the plaintiff did not request such a rehearing. Castaneda, 132 Ill. 2d at 310-11. Rather, the plaintiff appealed the dismissal to the appellate court, which in turn sua sponte dismissed the appeal, finding "that petitioner failed to exhaust his administrative remedies by not requesting a rehearing of the panel decision by the entire Illinois Human Rights Commission." Castaneda v. Human Rights Comm'n, 175 Ill. App. 3d 1085, 1088, 530 N.E.2d 1005, 125 Ill. Dec. 596 (1988). The rehearing provision in the Human Rights Act specifically provided: " Rehearing. (1) Within 30 days after service of the Commission's order, a party may file an application for rehearing before the full Commission. (2) Applications for rehearing shall be viewed with disfavor, and may be granted, by vote of 6 Commission members, only upon a clear demonstration that a matter raises legal issues of significant impact or that three-member panel decisions are in conflict.'" Castaneda, 132 Ill. 2d at 310-11, quoting Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 68, pars. 8-107(F)(1),(F)(2). The plaintiff and Commission (the appellants) in Castaneda appealed the appellate court's dismissal to the supreme court, contending that "the mere availability of a rehearing procedure does not necessarily mean a party must use such a procedure." Castaneda, 132 Ill. 2d at 313. To support this characterization of the exhaustion doctrine, the appellants relied on section 3-101 of the Administrative Review Law (Review Law), which states in relevant part: " In all cases in which a statute or a rule of the administrative agency requires or permits an application for a rehearing or other method of administrative review to be filed within a specified time (as distinguished from a statute which permits the application for rehearing or administrative review to be filed at any time before judgment by the administrative agency against the applicant or within a specified time after entry of such judgment), and an application for such rehearing or review is made, no administrative decision of such agency shall be final as to the party applying therefor until such hearing or review is had or denied.'" Castaneda, 132 Ill. 2d at 313, quoting Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 110, par. 3-101. The appellants in Castaneda argued that the language in section 3-101 distinguishing between agencies which require applications for rehearing and those which merely permit them supported their view that a party need not request a rehearing when the regulation or statute in question merely permits but does not require such a request. Castaneda, 132 Ill. 2d at 313. The appellants argued that because the rehearing provision in the Human Rights Act was discretionary, the appellate court improperly concluded that the plaintiff had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Castaneda, 132 Ill. 2d at 313. The supreme court in Castaneda rejected the appellants' argument and concluded that "the principles underlying the exhaustion of remedies doctrine require a party to seek an administrative remedy where one is still available and where seeking such a remedy will not lead to damage or unfairness to that party." Castaneda, 132 Ill. 2d at 323. In support of this conclusion, the supreme court cited section 3-102 of the Review Law, which states that if" an administrative decision has become final because of the failure to file any document in the nature of objections, protests, petition for hearing or application for administrative review within the time allowed such decision shall not be subject to judicial review.'" Castaneda, 132 Ill.2d at 320, quoting Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 110, par. 3-102. The supreme court found that section 3-102 clarified ambiguity in section 3-101, that sections 3-101 and 3-102 of the ARL reflected a legislative intent to codify the exhaustion of remedies doctrine, and that the "underlying principle" of section 3-102 was that "aggrieved parties who fail to exercise all procedural remedies available to them in the allotted time relinquish any opportunity for judicial review." Castaneda, 132 Ill. 2d at 320.