Case Details


Attorney General's Common Law Authority To Control Litigation Affirmed, Cannot Be Limited By Statute

Filing State



Appellate Court of Illinois, 1st District




State ex rel. Beeler, Schad and Diamond, P.C. v. Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp, 369 Ill. App. 3d 507; 860 N.E.2d 423 (Ill. App. 2006)


Attorney General has power to dismiss qui tam action in which state has joined, because of the broad common law powers of the office. Legislation can add to the Attorney General’s powers, but cannot reduce the Attorney General’s common law authority in controlling litigation.

Case Description

A whistleblower filed a qui tam suit under the Illinois False Claims Act alleging failure of a business with both “brick and mortar” and Internet operations to pay appropriate use taxes to the state of Illinois. The state joined the case, and after two years, moved for non-suit and voluntary dismissal, arguing that there was not a sufficient nexus between the company and Illinois to satisfy the Commerce Clause. The trial court dismissed and the plaintiff appealed on the grounds that the Attorney General had not advanced sufficient reasons for the dismissal and that the dismissal was arbitrary and capricious. The Illinois Court of Appeals held that Illinois decisions indicate that if the state joins, the relator is no more than an additional plaintiff, and the course of the litigation must be directed by the Attorney General, as chief legal officer of the state. In holding that the executive branch should decide whether to proceed with a qui tam action, the court stated, “Only the Attorney General is empowered to represent the state in litigation in which it is the real party in interest. . . . . Legislation can add to the powers of the Attorney General but it cannot reduce the Attorney General’s common law authority to direct the legal affairs of the state. If the court had required judicial review of the Attorney General’s decision to dismiss an action, “we give the court veto power over the state’s decision to dismiss, essentially usurping the Attorney General’s power to direct the legal affairs of the state and putting that power into the hands of the court.”