Ill. Supreme Court reverses ruling in suit over amendment to state's Estate and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Act

By Asia Mayfield | Sep 25, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Legal Newsline) – The Illinois Supreme Court has reversed an appellate decision and affirmed the circuit court’s ruling in a lawsuit filed against the state attorney general and treasurer challenging an amendment to the Illinois Estate and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Act.

Justice Mary Jane Theis delivered the opinion on May 24. The court determined that complaint was prohibited because it sought a money judgment against state employees acting in their official role. The State Lawsuit Immunity Act protects the defendants in this case.

Plaintiff Paminder S. Parmer sued the defendants on behalf of himself and as the executor of the estate of Surinder K. Parmer. His suit challenged the constitutional basis of a recently adopted bill that widened the scope of the Illinois Estate and Generation-Skipping Transfer Act.  

The DuPage County Circuit Court dismissed the suit. The ruling was then reversed by the Appellate Court for the Second District.  

According to the ruling, when plaintiff’s mother, Dr. Surinder Parmer, died in 2011, her $5 million estate did not meet the taxation criteria defined by the Estate Tax Act. Surinder Parmer died on Jan. 9. Four days later, on Jan. 13, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the new bill into law. Under the new rules, Surinder Parmer’s estate became subject to an estate tax.  

According to the court: “Plaintiff claimed that retroactive application of the statutory amendment to the estates of persons who, like his mother, died after Dec. 31, 2010, but before Jan. 13, 2011, (the effective date of the amendment)… would violate the due process and takings clauses of the Illinois and United States Constitutions, as well as the ex post facto clause of the Illinois Constitution.” 

Defendants responded by filing a motion to dismiss, arguing that the circuit court lacked the proper jurisdiction. The defendants also noted that “Because the complaint seeks a money judgment against the state, it is barred under sovereign immunity principles embodied in the State Lawsuit Immunity Act... and the complaint must be filed in the Illinois Court of Claims.” 

The Supreme Court determined that the defendants’ actions fell entirely within the scope of their duties for the state. The State Lawsuit Immunity Act dictates that “State of Illinois shall not be made a defendant or party in any court,” except in certain specified situations.  

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