March 31, 2012

Pending Appeal Of Judgment Not A Bar To Adjudication Of Attorney’s Lien; Insufficient Record Dooms Appeal

Richard Moenning was injured when he got off a passenger railroad car. He sued Union Pacifc Railroad Company, the operator of the train, for negligence and for willful and wanton misconduct. Union Pacific got a directed verdict on the willful and wanton claim. But a jury gave Moenning a favorable verdict on the negligence claim -- $250,000, which was reduced to $125,000 because Moenning was 50 percent at fault for his injury.

Moenning then asked for a new trial and for sanctions against Union Pacific for having denied it was negligent. The trial court denied both requests. Unhappy with the result, Moenning appealed the verdict and the denial of his post-trial requests.

Moenning’s lawyer in the trial court was Norman Lerum. Lerum had served an attorney’s lien for one-third of a settlement or judgment payable to Moenning. While Moenning’s appeal was pending, Lerum petitioned the trial court to adjudicate and enforce his lien.

Moenning objected to the lien. But the trial court granted Lerum’s petition. Moenning asked for reconsideration, but he did not ask for a hearing within the 90-day period required by the local rules. So the trial court denied Moenning’s request.

Moenning then appealed the trial court order that enforced Lerum’s lien. Each of his arguments was rejcted by the First District Illinois Appellate Court.

First, the trial court could adjudicate Lerum’s lien even though Moenning’s appeal from the judgment still was pending. The appellate court found the attorney’s lien was collateral to the judgment, so the trial court did not lose power to consider the lien despite the pending appeal from the judgment. Here’s how the appellate court analyzed the issue:

In this case, plaintiff [Moenning] had filed a notice of appeal from the judgment entered in his personal injury suit and the denial of his posttrial and sanctions motions. In his brief, plaintiff argued error as to the jury’s finding that he was 50% at fault and the directed verdict as to his wilful and wanton claim. The petition to adjudicate the attorney’s lien did not address these issues or challenge the judgment, which was subject to the earlier notice of appeal. The circuit court’s orders granting the petition to adjudicate the attorney’s lien and denying the motion to reconsider did not affect or alter the issues that were then on appeal.

Second, Moenning argued that the trial court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to enforce Lerum’s lien because it had not been properly perfected. But Moenning did not file a transcript of the hearing in the trial court or a bystander’s report of the proceeding. So the appellate court rejected Moenning’s argument because it was his responsibility to provide a sufficient record on appeal. The appellate court explained:

We do not have a record of the issues that were addressed or the arguments and evidence that were presented or considered by the trial court in granting the petition to adjudicate the lien and in making its finding that the lien was properly perfected. Under these circumstances, and based on the record on appeal, we cannot conclude that the trial court’s December 2, 2009 order [enforcing the lien] was in error.

Read the whole case, Moenning v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., 2012 IL App (1st) 101866, by clicking here.

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March 23, 2012

Two Tips – Author Guberman Gives Two Brief-Writing Tips And Links To More

These two tips are from Ross Guberman, the president of Legal Writing Pro and the author of Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation's Top Advocates. Ross also is an Appellatology panelist. His short bio is here.

These Two Tips, with examples, are drawn from the brief for the states signed by Paul Clement in the “Obamacare” case.

Tip One

Use more enumerated lists, and not just in your introductions and preliminary statements. For example:

The federal government attempts to sidestep the tax power problem it would create by insisting that the Court has “abandoned the view that bright-line distinctions exist between regulatory and revenue-raising taxes." … But that is doubly irrelevant. First, there is no analogous doctrine under which Congress treats penalties as taxes . . .

Tip Two

To add speed to your writing and to project confidence, change every "however," "nonetheless," or "nevertheless" to "but" or "yet.” For example:

The modern commerce power is a broad one, as there is little left of the "distinction between what is truly national and what is truly local" under the Court’s present-day notions of "commerce." … But even as the Court has expanded its conception of "commerce," it has not wavered from the notion that the power to "regulate" is the power to prescribe rules for commerce, and it has never suggested that power includes the power to compel the existence of commerce in the first place.

Ross put 140 comments on the Solicitor General's "Obamacare" brief. They’re all right here.

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March 19, 2012

Sierra Club Appeal Of Delisted Contaminant Dismissed For Lack Of Standing

The Peoria Disposal Co. had a permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to operate a storage and treatment site for hazardous waste. The company asked the Illinois Pollution Control Board to delist (exclude from regulation) electric arc furnace dust. After a public hearing, the Board ordered the furnace dust to be delisted.

The Sierra Club and the Peoria Families Against Toxic Waste asked the Illinois Appellate Court to reverse the Board’s order. The appellate court decided that the Sierra Club and the Peoria Families both had standing to ask for review of the Board’s order, and that the order should be affirmed.

The Sierra Club and the Peoria Families then appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. But the supreme court did not consider whether the order was correct. Instead, the court dismissed the appeal because neither the Sierra Club nor the Peoria Families had standing to ask for review.

The supreme court’s decision was based chiefly on two reasons:
• The statute that allows appeals of Board orders lists three kinds of parties who are allowed to appeal. Neither the Sierra Club nor the Peoria Families fell into the categories – they were not parties in the Board hearing; they had not filed a complaint to the Board; they had not given public comments to the Board.
• The Board’s order was not a “rule or regulation.” If it were either, the Sierra Club or the Families could have appealed. Peoria Disposal got an “adjusted standard,” not a rule or a regulation. “[T]he adjusted standard is not itself the regulation promulgated by the Board; rather, it is an individualized exception to that regulation.”

So the delisting stood, and there weren't any parties contest it under Illinois law. Read the whole case, Sierra Club v. Illinois Pollution Control Board, 2011 IL 11088,by clicking here.

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March 13, 2012

How The Illinois Appellate Court Reviews Personal Jurisdiction

Here is a nice, concise statement of how the Illinois Appellate Court reviews the personal jurisdiction of the trial court.

When the trial court decides a jurisdictional question solely on the basis of documentary evidence and without an evidentiary hearing, as it did here, then the question is reviewed de novo on appeal. Rosier v. Cascade Mountain, Inc., 367 Ill.App.3d 559, 561, 305 Ill.Dec. 352, 855 N.E.2d 243 (2006). On appeal, any conflicts in the pleadings and affidavits must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. MacNeil v. Trambert, 401 Ill.App.3d 1077, 1080, 342 Ill.Dec. 314, 932 N.E.2d 441 (2010). “However, well-alleged facts within affidavits presented by the defendant must be taken as true notwithstanding the existence of contrary averments in the plaintiff's pleadings unless the defendant's affidavits are contradicted by affidavits presented by the plaintiff, in which case the facts in the plaintiff's affidavits prevail.” Keller v. Henderson, 359 Ill.App.3d 605, 611, 296 Ill.Dec. 125, 834 N.E.2d 930 (2005). If we determine that plaintiff has made a prima facie case for jurisdiction, we must then determine if there exist any material evidentiary conflicts. Id. If a material evidentiary conflict exists, we must remand the cause for an evidentiary hearing. Id.

Click here for the whole case, Soria v. Chrysler Canada, 2011 IL App (2d) 10123.

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March 11, 2012

City’s Appeal Of Nixed Land Deal With Religious School Untimely And Moot

A group of citizens sued the City of South Bend, Indiana to prevent the city from giving land to a Catholic high school. The citizens claimed that giving the high school land was a gift of property to a religious institution, and violated the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment’s establishment clause. The federal trial court ordered a preliminary injunction against transferring the property.

Rather than appeal, the City asked the trial court to modify the injunction to allow the City to sell the property to the school at an appraised value. The trial court denied the City’s request, ruling that the property should be sold to the highest bidder.

The City did not appeal that ruling either. Instead, it asked for another modification to open up bidding on the property. The court allowed that request. The school ended up purchasing the property as high bidder, and the trial court dissolved the injunction.

Then the City appealed, but not from the final judgment that dissolved the injunction. The City appealed only from the interlocutory orders that disallowed the original gift and the sale at the appraised value.

The Seventh Circuit Appellate Court dismissed the appeal for two reasons: (1) it was untimely, and (2) it was moot.

The appeal was untimely because an appeal from the final judgment did not extend the time the City had to appeal from the injunction order or the denial of the request to modify. Here’s how the court explained it:

Although the City is thus challenging two appealable orders—the initial injunction and the denial of the first modification that it sought (the modification that if granted would have permitted sale to the high school at the appraised value of the land)—the challenge is untimely. Had the City challenged the district court’s final order, the order dissolving the injunction, it could also have challenged any interim rulings that had not become moot … But the final order—the dissolution of the injunction—was sought by the City. A party cannot appeal a judgment that it won, unless it seeks a modification of the judgment … which the City does not. The only orders the City could have appealed from it failed to appeal from in time.

The appellate court also ruled that the appeal was moot. The court rejected the City’s argument that the issue in the case was capable of repetition but evaded review. The City argued that the trial court’s ruling could affect other similar land deals. But the court ruled “to allow this as a ground for permitting moot cases to be appealed would bring an unmanageable host of such cases into the appellate courts. A court would have to wrestle in every
case with uncertain questions about whether an injunction that had not been appealed had had or would have a future impact that should justify allowing an appeal even though it had become moot.”

Read the whole case, Wirtz v. City of South Bend, No. 11-3811 (7th Cir. 2/7/12), by clicking here.

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