“We are not final because we are infallible,
but we are infallible because we are final.”[i]
This Commentary excerpts relevant arguments from the court’s opinion in Poris v. Lake Holiday[ii] relating to police powers and false imprisonment. I find it necessary to use excerpts so you, the reader, can follow the issues and analysis as they actually occurred before the court. I believe this is the best way to understand public policy and how the laws are interpreted by the HOA attorneys and courts. Please read through this lengthy commentary, and discuss with others.
FIRST, let’s look at the analysis of the appellate court’s finding that the stopping of the member for an HOA rule violation was unlawful. The appellate court held,
“Specifically, plaintiff [homeowner] argued that: the Association was not authorized by law to stop vehicles and detain drivers;
“[S]ecurity guards occupy the same status as private citizens.
“[HOA] security officers were attempting to assert police powers that they had neither the right nor the power to assert. [my emphasis].
“Because [the HOA] restrained plaintiff for violating an Association rule, not a criminal law, plaintiff established the elements necessary for his false imprisonment claim.”
It is important to understand the detailed reasoning as to why the HOA had no powers to arrest was given:
“The appellate court concluded that security officers are without legal authority to stop and detain drivers for violating Association rules, because those rules are enacted by the Association, not the General Assembly, and therefore do not constitute an ’offense’ . . . .”
NOW, let’s see how the 7 wise men of the Illinois Supreme Court saw the law.
“Plaintiff contends that only the Illinois legislature has the authority to create a private or public police department. . . . Plaintiff and the appellate court err in viewing this issue as one involving private citizens improperly attempting to assert police powers. . . . The appellate court failed to consider the Association’s enforcement of its rules and regulations in the context of its authority as a voluntary association to enact and enforce those rules and regulations.
“[Since] courts generally will not interfere with the internal affairs of a voluntary association absent mistake, fraud, collusion or arbitrariness. . . . plaintiff generally complains that the Association was unlawfully exercising police powers and authority . . . . However, plaintiff does not, and cannot, argue that the Association and its security officer did not act consistently with its bylaws, or its rules and regulations . . . . ¶
”Plaintiff also argues that the Association is exceeding the legislative powers granted to not for profit homeowner’s associations in enacting and enforcing its traffic rules. . . . each corporation shall “have and exercise all powers necessary or convenient to effect any or all of the purposes for which the corporation is formed.” [IL statute]. . . . Regulating and enforcing traffic rules is reasonably necessary to maintain the Lake Holiday roadways.
“The Association rules and regulations were enforced only on Association property, and citations for violations of the rules and regulations were only issued to Association members. Consequently, the Association was not unlawfully exercising police powers that it did not possess, but rather was acting within its authority as a voluntary association to adopt and enforce its own rules and regulations.
“We can discern no logic in allowing a private homeowners association to construct and maintain private roadways, but not allowing the association to implement and enforce traffic laws on those roadways.”
And finally, false imprisonment.
“[T]he appellate court erred in analyzing [the HOA’s] stop of plaintiff in terms of a private citizen effecting a citizen’s arrest, rather than analyzing the stop as pursuant to Association rules and regulations. . . . These facts would lead a person . . . to believe or entertain a strong and honest suspicion that plaintiff was guilty of violating Association rules. Consequently, [the HOA] had probable cause to believe that an offense was committed by plaintiff, which is an absolute bar to plaintiff’s claim for false imprisonment. [my emphasis].”
In Poris we have another instance of a state supreme court holding private contracts superior to the Constitution (See NJ supreme court opinion in Twin Rivers[iii]). Apparently, the only thing that the Constitution has to say is an absolute “no contract interference.” Note how the court adopted a narrow reading of the laws as it parsed and examined the precise wording of the laws, not stepping back in its alleged legal wisdom seeing only the trees and not the ugly forest.
The court cleverly ignored the question of detaining non-members, and the question of public streets.
Think of the implication that a non-profit, any non-profit, can enforce its rules even by detain and arresting its member. And think of the impact on the US Supreme Court question, and Arizona laws (SB 1070), dealing with similar issues of detention, probable cause, and reasonable suspicion by police officers to demand “your papers” to uncover illegal immigrants.
I can summarize the Illinois opinion with the simple statement by William Pitt, part of which appears on the façade of the Arizona Supreme Court building:
Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it: and this I know, my lords, that where law ends, tyranny begins!”[iv]
For more on corporatism, see In a democracy approaching corporatism, HOAs are iconic
[i] Justice Robert Jackson, Brown v. Allen, 334 US 443 (1953). (Robert H. Jackson was also US Attorney General and chief US prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials).
[ii]Poris v. Lake Holiday, 2013 IL 113907 (Jan. 25, 2012). (It should be noted that I cannot find any record of the amicus curiae for the HOA, an Illinois Association of Lake Communities).
[iii]Committee for a Better Twin Rivers v. Twin Rivers, 929 A.2d 1060 (NJ 2007).
[iv] This statement was made by Lord Chatham (William Pitt) to the British House of Lords in January 1770.