Reconsideration Motion Untimely So Illinois Supreme Court Dismisses Appeal

The Illinois Supreme Court recently reversed the appellate court and dismissed Jennifer Keener’s appeal. Jennifer sued the City of Herrin on behalf of Chelsea Keener’s estate. Chelsea had been taken into custody by Herrin police for unlawful consumption of alcohol. After the police let Chelsea leave, she was struck by an automobile and killed.

Herrin asked for, and received, a dismissal of Jennifer’s amended complaint. But the court clerk did not mail a copy of the dismissal order to Jennifer’s lawyer. Apparently unaware of the dismissal, seven months later, Jennifer’s lawyer filed a response to Herrin’s motion to dismiss.

Four months after that, the case was heard on Herrin’s request for a status conference. At the status conference, the trial court stated its intention to reconsider the dismissal “upon written motion to be submitted” by Jennifer. The trial court ultimately denied Jennifer’s motion to reconsider.

Herrin then objected to the trial court’s jurisdiction even to accept Jennifer’s request for reconsideration. Because Jennifer’s reconsideration request came more than 30 days after the case was dismissed, Herrin argued that the trial court no longer had the power to rule on the matter. But the trial court allowed its ruling to stand. Jennifer appealed within 30 days of the trial court’s ruling on Herrin’s objection.

The ruling in the supreme court turned on whether Jennifer’s request was a “motion for reconsideration” of the judgment (which must be filed within 30 days), or a petition under Illinois Civil Procedure Rule 2-1401 (relief from final orders and judgments after 30 days). The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Jennifer’s motion was for reconsideration of the judgment. The trial court did not have jurisdiction to rule because the motion was made more than 30 days after the dismissal. And because the reconsideration motion was not timely, it did not extend the time for Jennifer to appeal. She missed the 30-day deadline for filing a notice of appeal, so the supreme court dismissed the appeal.

This opinion reiterates the rule that attorneys have an obligation to monitor their cases. A court clerk’s failure to mail notice of a dismissal does not absolve an attorney from missing a deadline to ask for reconsideration or to appeal. Read our summary of the appellate court opinion, which we reported on last December, by clicking here. Get the whole Illinois Supreme Court opinion, Keener v. City of Herrin, No. 107658 (10/8/09), by clicking here.