Illinois Supreme Court Reiterates Standard Of Review For Motions To Vacate, Identifies An Exception.

On complicated facts involving pension funds and bankruptcy, the Illinois Supreme Court was confronted with the proper standard of review on a Section 2-1401 motion to vacate a judgment. Here are the rules that emerged:

• “… [T]he disposition of a petition seeking relief from judgment under section 2-1401 … will be disturbed on review only if the trial court abused its discretion.”
• When a 2-1401(f) (void judgment) petition to vacate is “dependent on the legal effect of a violation of one of this court’s own rules,” then a de novo standard of review applies.

The court rejected the idea that the abuse of discretion standard is “rubber-stamping the lower courts’ rulings.” The supreme court ruled that the appellate court “must consider both the legal adequacy of the way the trial court reached its result as well as whether the result is within the bounds of reason.” I read this as a call for greater intellectual honesty by trial courts in the exercise of discretion and of appellate courts reviewing trial courts’ discretionary actions.

Only four justices decided this case — Thomas, Freeman, and Burke took no part. This case, Paul v. Gerald Adelman & Associates, 223 Ill.2d 85, No. 100383 (10/19/06), also contains interesting discussion about the invited-error doctrine, and you can get all of it here.