Real Estate Broker’s Appeal Dismissed For Lack Of Compliance With Local E-Filing Rules

While their divorce case was pending, Robert and Cindy Andrews signed a listing agreement to sell their house. The real estate broker, VC&M, found a buyer. But the Andrewses rejected the offer, which was for less than their asking price. Instead, Cindy decided to stay in the house, so she agreed to purchase Robert’s half. As part of their marital settlement agreement, Robert transferred his interest to Cindy.

VC&M wanted a commission for introducing the prospective buyer, but the Andrewses refused to pay. So VC&M sued for breach of contract. The Andrewses asked the trial court to dismiss the complaint. VC&M filed an opposition memorandum electronically. Before VC&M’s e-filing, the parties had not stipulated to allow e-filings.

The trial court agreed that VC&M did not state a claim, so the complaint was dismissed. Thirty days later, in another electronic filing, VC&M asked the trial court to reconsider the dismissal. Another month later, VC&M filed a paper copy of its reconsideration request. Another month after that, VC&M e-filed a notice of appeal.

The Andrewses asked the appellate court to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. They argued that the court could not consider the appeal because VC&M had not complied with the local appellate rules for e-filing. The Second District Illinois Appellate Court agreed, and dismissed VC&M’s appeal. This is how the appellate court explained it:

The trial court dismissed with prejudice the amended complaint on February 23, 2011. The record shows that plaintiff [VC&M] e-filed a motion to reconsider the dismissal 30 days later on March 25, 2011. However, as the case was not properly designated an e-filing case, the e-filing of the motion to reconsider violated Local Rule 5.03 and was a nullity. Pursuant to [Illinois Supreme Court] Rule 303, the time to file a postjudgment motion or a notice of appeal elapsed on March 25, 2011 … The hard copy of the motion to reconsider did not extend the deadline for filing a notice of appeal. Because the action was not properly designated for e-filing from the beginning, the e-filed postjudgment motion was meaningless and the hard-copy postjudgment motion was filed late.

LocalRule 5.03(d) further dictates that, even in a case properly designated for e-filing, all appellate documents shall be filed in the “conventional manner.” … The conventional manner of filing in the circuit court is in the form of paper documents submitted to the clerk of the court as is done in cases that are not e-filing cases …

Despite Local Rule 5.03’s express prohibition of e-filing appellate documents, plaintiff e-filed the notice of appeal. Plaintiff never filed a paper copy of the notice of appeal. Several months have elapsed since the trial court dismissed the amended complaint and denied the motion to reconsider, the appeal must be dismissed because the e-filed notice of appeal violated Local Rule 5.03 and was also untimely under Rule 303.

This court considered a notice of appeal as an appellate document that has to be filed in the “conventional” manner. A notice of appeal is filed in the trial court. So why not allow it to be filed it electronically? (For that matter, what is the justification for not allowing “post-judgment enforcement proceeding documents and notices” to be e-filed?) The rules should make it easier, and thus less costly to litigants, to file papers with the court. The extra layers of regulation in these local e-filing rules serve just the opposite purpose.

Read the whole opinion, VC&M, Ltd. v. Andrews, 2012 IL App (2d) 110523 (4/16/12), by clicking here.