Appellate Court Confirms Termination of Benefits of Officer Convicted of a Felony While Receiving Disability PensionJanuary 14th, 2016
Majid v. Retirement Bd. of the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of the City of Chicago, 2015 IL App (1st) 132182
The First District Appellate Court recently issued a decision, which affirmed the pension board’s determination to terminate disability benefits of an officer convicted of a felony.
The Retirement Board of the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of the City of Chicago (“Board”) reached a decision to terminate the disability benefits of Officer Nail Majid following his conviction on charges arising out of impersonating a Drug Enforcement Agency agent and possession of an unregistered firearm in Ohio. Majid served as a Chicago police officer for four years before he was injured and awarded a line of duty disability pension. Majid ultimately pleaded guilty and was convicted of possession of an unregistered firearm, and was sentenced to three (3) years’ probation.
Upon learning of the conviction, the Board suspended Majid’s disability benefits and gave notice of a hearing on the matter. Following the hearing, at which Majid testified he had been convicted of a felony, the Board issued a written order denying Majid’s application for reinstatement of disability benefits, pursuant to 40 ILCS 5/5-227. The Board found there were only two issues to be determined: (1) whether Majid was convicted of a felony; and (2) whether he was receiving a disability benefit at the time of his indictment and conviction.
Section 5-227 of the Pension Code states in relevant part in the second paragraph: “None of the benefits provided for in this article shall be paid to any person who is convicted of any felony while in receipt of disability benefits.” 40 ILCS 5/5-227. “The unambiguous language of the second paragraph of section 5-227 required that the officer receive disability benefits at the time of his felony conviction before his benefits could be forfeited.” 2015 IL App (1st) 132182, ¶25.
In appealing, Majid argued there must be a nexus between the felony committed and service as a police officer. The Appellate Court disagreed, holding the court “will not ‘read in’” the nexus requirement that would render the second paragraph of Section 5-227 superfluous.” 2015 IL App (1st) 132182, ¶24. The Court unequivocally stated, nowhere in analyzing this section, “did we state or imply that the nexus requirement applied to forfeiture of benefits under the second paragraph of section 5-227.” Id. at ¶26.
The Appellate Court also found there were no violation of Majid’s procedural due process rights in the Board’s determining his disability benefits should be terminated. Majid claimed he did not receive a “meaningful” hearing. The Court
disagreed, noting Majid was given the opportunity and did indeed testify at the hearing, that he had been convicted of a felony while he was receiving a disability benefit. “Those were the only two elements require for the termination of his disability benefit…Majid’s argument that he did not receive a meaningful hearing was not supported by the record.” Id. at ¶35, 41.
The Appellate Court also found Majid’s claim the decision violated his equal protection rights to be baseless. Majid claimed a violation of equal protection for the legislature to not require any nexus between the felony and police service to terminate disability pension benefits while requiring a nexus to terminate retirement pension benefits. The Appellate Court held it was not a violation of equal protection for the legislature to treat police officers convicted of a felony while receiving disability pension benefits differently from those officers who receive retirement benefits and are convicted of a felony.