Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 won the opening skirmish in the school’s lawsuit against the village of Brookfield on Monday afternoon when Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary L. Mikva largely rejected the village’s motion to dismiss the case by refusing to dismiss two of the three counts in the lawsuit.
Mikva made her decision after an approximately 30 minutes of oral arguments in a nearly empty Courtroom 2508 of the Richard J. Daley Center in downtown Chicago.
Richard Ramello, the attorney representing the village of Brookfield, argued that RBHS’ lawsuit should be dismissed as a matter of law. He stated there was no need to examine why the village board denied the school district’s request for a special use permit and a zoning variance so that it could build a new parking lot and tennis courts just north of Hollywood School on land owned by District 208.
In April, the Brookfield Village Board voted 5 to 1 against granting the special use permit and variance that the high school sought after the village’s Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously had voted to recommend granting the permit and the variance.
District 208 lawyers argued that the village board’s decision was arbitrary and capacious and that the village should be prohibited from stopping RBHS from building the parking lot and tennis court.
Ramello argued that what led up to the decision by the village board was irrelevant and that the village board could do whatever it wanted to do.
“What leads up to [the village board’s vote] is completely immaterial,” Ramello argued.
But Judge Mikva didn’t buy his argument.
“I do think it is relevant to how we got to this decision,” Mikva said. “You didn’t give me any indication of how we got here. … Your analysis, I’m not buying. The question is whether this was an arbitrary and capricious act.”
Apart from a statement by Village President Kit Ketchmark prior to the April vote, village board members said little and didn’t offer reasons for why they voted the way they did.
“We don’t know the basis for any of the denials,” Mikva said.
The judge did throw out one count of the lawsuit on technical grounds, because District 208 did not formally ask for a text amendment to the zoning code to allow it to build screens higher than normally allowed for the proposed new tennis courts, but the judge gave the school district 60 days to amend its complaint to address that mistake.
The case will now move on to discovery and probably depositions. After discovery is completed, one or both of the parties will probably make a motion for summary judgment.
That would not likely occur until spring, said District 208 school board member Ed Jepson, who attended the hearing. Jepson is a graduate of the Harvard Law School and is a partner of the large Chicago law firm Vedder Price.
Ramello said that he was disappointed by the judge’s decision.
“I disagree with the part of the judge’s ruling that denied our motion, but respect her right to make the decision,” Ramello said after the ruling.
Nicki Bazer, the lawyer for RBHS, didn’t have much to say about the decision.
“We look forward to the resolution of this matter,” Bazer said.
So does Judge Mikva.
After handing down her ruling she encouraged the parties to work together to settle the matter and not go to trial.
“It’ll be fun,” Mikva said of the case continuing. “It will be interesting, but I’d still rather you work it out.”