Articles Posted in Appellate Jurisdiction

More than 58 percent of the voters in Country Club Hills, Illinois passed a referendum that reduced the number of city aldermen from 10 to five. About three weeks later, a group of unhappy aldermen sued the county clerk. They asked the trial court for a preliminary injunction to void the referendum because, they argued, the clerk exceeded her authority by not including certain language on the ballot.

Two weeks later, the trial court denied the injunction request because the discontented aldermen still had time to file as independent candidates for one of the five alderman positions.

Instead, the aldermen appealed. They asked the appellate court to void the referendum result and to place the question, with the disputed language, on the next ballot. That election, at which the voters elected five aldermen, was held about four months later, while the appeal was still pending.

But the First District Illinois Appellate Court refused to hear the appeal because: (1) the election of the new aldermen to fill the five new positions already had been held, (2) rendering the appeal moot, and (3) an appellate ruling on the denial of the preliminary injunction would not trump the mootness doctrine. The public policy exception to the mootness doctrine did not apply because “an opinion from this court on the trial court’s denial of preliminary relief would not provide an authoritative determination of the issues at the heart lof this case … In the absence of a continuing legal controversy and finding no reason for the exception to the moootness doctrine to apply, we dismiss this appeal.”

Read the whole case, Davis v. City of Country Club Hills, 2013 IL App (1st) 123634, by clicking here.

After he was injured in an accident, Juan Zamora sued his employer, Newsboy Delivery Systems, and two individuals, Cherie and Richard Payne. Zamora claimed their negligence caused the accident.

The trial court dismissed Newsboy because Zamora’s claim against his employer was barred by the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Act. The dismissal order included a finding under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a) [no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal of the order]. Zamora asked the court to reconsider the dismissal. That request for reconsideration extended the time he had to appeal [30 days from the ruling on the reconsideration request]. Zamora’s request for reconsideration was denied.

The Paynes filed a third-party complaint for contribution against Newsboy. About two years later that complaint was dismissed. Zamora got a second Rule 304(a) finding, and after the rest of the claims were dismissed, Zamora appealed the two year-old order that dismissed his claim against Newsboy.

The Second District Illinois Appellate Court dismissed Zamora’s appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction because:

Once a court has made a Rule 304(a) finding, it is not necessary for the court to make another such finding when it denies a motion to reconsider … This is because the denial of a motion to reconsider is not a judgment and is not appealable in itself.

So Zamora had to appeal within 30 days of the denial of his reconsideration request. He blew that deadline, and the second Rule 304(a) finding was irrelevant.

Read the whole case, Zamora v Montiel, 2013 IL App (2d) 130579, by clicking here.

Witte Brothers is an intersate trucking company. After an audit, under protest, Witte paid Illinois for “pass-through” miles [distance driven in Illinois without picking up or delivering goods].

Witte sued Illinois for reimbursement of the taxes. The trial court ruled that the Illinois Income Tax Act did not allow the State to tax truckers pass-through miles. So Illinois appealed.

Among other things, Witte argued in the appellate court that taxing pass-through miles violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. But Witte did not raise this argument in the trial court, nor allege it as a separate count in its complaint. So the First District Illinois Appellate Court refused to consider the argument.

No need to worry if you’re concerned the State got beat out of tax revenue. The appellate court reversed, and ruled that pass-through miles are taxable. [“pass-through miles establish a physical and economic presence in Illinois which must be taxed …”]

This is the sort of ruling that annoys illinoisappellatelawyerblog.com. The appellate court would review the Commerce Clause argument de novo [no deference to the trial court]. If what the trial court says is inconsequential anyway, then the appellate court should not be allowed to avoid the issue because it was not raised in the trial court. So now we have precedent that blesses a tax that may violate the United States Constitution.

Read the whole case, Witte Brothers Exchange v. Department of Revenue, 2013 IL App (1st) 120850.

John Garrido lost an election to the Chicago City Council to John Arena. Garrido claimed he was defamed because Arena distributed campaign literature and advertisements that had “outright lies” about Garrido.

Garrido sued Arena, but the trial court dismissed the case based on the Illinois Citizen Participation Act. (The Act bars meritless lawsuits filed against citizens for their actions while exercising their First Amendment speech rights.) Within the next 30 days, Garrido asked the trial court to reconsider the dimissal. But Garrido’s request was brought under Illinois Code of Civil Procedure Section 2-1401, which is the section that applies to requests for reinstatement of cases dismissed more than 30 days before.

Garrido’s case had been dismissed for more than 30 days when he asked to amend his 2-1401 request to show it was intended to be brought under Section 2-1203, the correct statute, which does toll the time to appeal. The trial court allowed Garrido’s request to amend, but denied the request to reconsider the dismissal.

Garrido appealed. Arena argued there was no appellate jurisdiction. He asked the appellate court to dismiss the appeal because the only request for reconsideration that was made within 30 days of the dismissal was under section 2-1401, which does not toll the 30-day deadline to appeal. But the First District Illinois Appellate Court denied Arena’s request to dismiss the appeal because:

[Arena] misconstrue[d] both the nature of plaintiff’s [Garrido’s] postjudgment filings and the standard by which the circuit [trial] court must evaluate postjudgment motions … [T]he new [2-1203] motion merely corrected the relevant statutory citations in the first [2-1401] motion. More importantly, even had plaintiff not filed an amended motion, the circuit court would in any event have been required to evaluate plaintiff’s original October 7 [2-1401] motion under the correct statute [2-1203] … The only important fact for the purpose of our jurisdiction is that plaintiff filed a postjudgment motion within 30 days of the judgment, which tolled the time for filing a notice of appeal …

For purposes of tolling the time to appeal, it did not matter that Garrido asked the court to reconsider the dismissal under authority of the wrong statute. So Garrido lost the election, but won the fight over appellate jurisdiction. He also prevailed on the substance of the appeal. The appellate court reversed the dismissal of his lawsuit.

Read the whole case, Garrido v. Arena, 2013 IL App (1st) 120466 (6/18/13), by clicking here.

Railroad employee Anthony Williams was injured at work. He sued BNSF Railway, his employer, and got a judgment for $2.6 million.

Claiming there were more than 40 errors at the trial, BNSF asked the trial court to decrease or throw out the verdict. The company also asked for a setoff “in the amount of taxes payable as a result of lost wages awarded to Williams.”

The trial court denied BNSF’s request to throw out the verdict, but reserved a ruling on the “tax issue.” A written order order was not issued; nor did the court request one; nor apparently did the parties offer to submit one.

About six weeks later BNSF made an emergency request to the trial court to file additional authority to support the earlier request to decrease [for the amount BNSF paid for Williams’s disability] or to throw out the verdict.

When the parties returned to court about four weeks after that, the trial court denied BNSF’s requests to change or dismiss the verdict, or for a setoff for the taxes payable.

BNSF appealed the denial trial court rulings – the one denying the 40-plus claims of error and the one denying the decrease or setoff. Its Notice of Appeal was filed within 30 days of the trial court’s last order, but more than 70 days after the oral ruling that denied BNSF’s 40-plus-errors request. Williams asked the appellate court to dismiss the entire appeal. Williams argued the appellate court did not have jurisdiction because BNSF appealed too late.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court agreed with Williams. The appeal from the 40-plus-errors order had to be filed within 30 days from the oral ruling. And because BNSF’s request for a setoff did not attack the judgment —“a request for a setoff seeks to satisfy, not modify, the judgment” — it did not toll the time to appeal.

Nor did BNSF’s emergency request make a difference. The trial court lost jurisdiction over the verdict-decrease issue 30 days after the initial oral ruling, and could not give itself jurisdiction again by reiterating its earlier order.

The appellate court also ruled that the lack of a written order following the trial court’s first ruling did not help BNSF. “Given that the trial court never required the submission of a written order regarding the denial of BNSF’s posttrial motion, the oral ruling on that motion was therefore final on April 18, 2012,
the date it was entered into the record.”

In the end, the appellate court dismissed the entire appeal. Read the whole opinion, Williams v. BNSF Railway Co., 2013 IL App (1st) 121901 (9/25/13), by clicking here.

The Appellate Lawyer Representatives’ Ninth Circuit Practice Guide is available for the downloading from the Ninth Circuit’s web site. It’s a how-to for preparing and filing a brief in the federal appellate court out yonder in California. But it’s chock full of good tips no matter what jurisdiction you find yourself in.

You’ll want to look at the Top Technical Flaws In Briefs. Some of these are more than just technical. Don’t make one of these head-shaking mistakes.

Get the whole guide by clicking here.

Nadeem Nizamuddin was expelled from school. He asked for and received a temporary restraining order against Community Education in Excellence, the operator of the private school, staying the expulsion at least until after a preliminary injunction hearing.

Excellence appealed the restraining order. But its appeal was dismissed for failure to comply with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307(d), which states the requirements for establishing appellate jurisdiction over an appeal of a temporary restraining order.

Here is what the Second District Illinois Appellate Court said Excellence did wrong.

• Filed its petition and its Notice of Appeal in the wrong court. Excellence filed in the circuit court, which in a typical case is correct. But appeals from TROs have an expedited schedule, so Rule 307 requires the petition and the Notice of Appeal to be filed in the appellate court.

• Mailed the petition and the Notice of Appeal to the appellate court on the filing deadline. Ordinarily that’s okay; the “mailbox rule” governs typical appeals and makes the date of filing the same as the date of mailing. But the “mailbox rule” did not apply to this appeal from a TRO, and the appellate court did not receive the documents until after the filing deadline. So the appellate court said Excellence’s documents were too late to establish appellate jurisdiction.

• Served Nadeem by regular mail. But Rule 307 says service on the opposing party has to be by personal delivery or fax. So Excellence’s proof of service, which showed service by mail, was insufficient.

• Prejudiced Nadeem’s lawyer because he had only one day to file a response to Excellence’s petition. Had he been served personally or by fax, he would have had double the time to prepare a response.

Click here for the whole opinion, Nizamuddin v. Community Education In Excellence, 2013 IL App (2d) 131230 (12/23/13).

Myqerem Shatku sued Wal-Mart Stores for negligence. The trial court granted her motion to voluntarily dismiss the case in October 2010. A little more than a year later, Myqerem asked the trial court for permission to re-file her complaint.Wal-Mart responded by asking the court to dismiss Myqerem’s request. The trial court granted Wal-Mart’s request.

Myqerem asked the trial court to reconsider the order that dismissed her request to re-file the case. She served her motion to reconsider on Wal-Mart by fax. But her notice of service did not say anything about when she filed her request in court. The court’s records showed her written request was stamped received after the 30-day deadline.

Even though the request to reconsider was filed after the deadline, Wal-Mart opposed the request on the merits, and did not argue that Myqerem’s request was too late. The trial court denied Myqerem’s reconsideration request, and also did not address the untimeliness of her request.

So Myqerem appealed. Wal-Mart argued Myqerem’s appeal was too late because: (1st) her request to reconsider was filed after the 30-day deadline, and (2nd) because it was late, the reconsideration request did not toll the time to appeal, and (3rd) the appeal was too late to give the appellate court jurisdiction becasuse it was filed long after the case had been dismissed. Myqerem argued that her request should be considered filed on the day she served it by fax on Wal-Mart, which would have put her just under the deadline and made her reconsideration request, and thus her appeal, timely.

But the Second District Illinois Appellate Court agreed with Wal-Mart. Here is how the appellate court explained it:

Plaintiff [Myqerem] asserts that she filed the motion by fax on January 23, 2011. At least three things are wrong with that assertion. First, plaintiff provides no support for her implication that the clerk may accept documents for filing by fax. We find nothing in state or local rules to support that claim; Illinois Supreme Court Rules 11 and 12 … provide for service by fax, but not for filing. Second, Rule 12 further provides that service by fax is effective the day after transmission, so that, even if the rule applied to filing, the filing would have been a day late …Third, and in any event, the transmission sheet on which plaintiff relies is not part of the record, and so we must discount it.

Myqerem also argued that the trial court was revested with jurisdiction because Wal-Mart opposed the reconsideration request on its merits and did not raise the lateness of the request in the trial court. The appellate court rejected that argument, too. “[W]hen a party opposes a motion to reconsider, a simple failure to note the untimeliness of the motion is not inconsistent with the merits of the judgment and does not cause jurisdiction to revest in the trial court.”

Finally, Myqerem argued that if her reconsideration request were late, the trial court should have considered it to be a petition under rules that allow a party to re-open a judmgment that is more than 30 days old. But the appellate court also rejected that position because Myqerem had neither requested the court to do so nor demonstrated that her request fell within the boundaries of a request to re-open a judgment.

Read the whole case, Shatku v. Wal-Mart Stores, 2013 IL App (2d) 120412 (5/10/13), by clicking here.

The Westin North Shore is a hotel in the northern suburbs of Chicago. The hotel was used as collateral for a multimillion dollar loan to the hotel owner. Five Mile Capital Westin had a subordinate interest in the loan. After the owner defaulted on his payments, Berkadia National Mortgage was named as special servicer of the hotel.

Berkadia got an offer to buy the hotel. But because the market for hotel properties fell, the offer did not cover the amount of the loan. If Berkadia accepted the offer, Five Mile Capital would be left with big losses.

So Five Mile Capital sued Berkadia, and asked the trial court for an injunction to stop the sale. Five Mile also recorded a lis pendens [formal notice that property title is disputed] on the property. Berkadia asked the trial court to dismiss the complaint and to lift the lis pendens. The trial court refused to dismiss the complaint, but did quash the lis pendens. The trial court also treated plaintiff’s position as a request for a preliminary injunction against the sale of the property. Then the trial court denied the preliminary injunction.

Five Mile appealed the denial of the preliminary injunction and the order quashing the lis pendens. Five Mile went to the appellate court under the rule allowing appeals of preliminary injunctions even before there is a ruling on the entire case. [Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307 allows appeals of certain interlocutory orders, including denials of preliminary injunctions.] So the first question was: Did the appellate court have jurisdiction to review the order that quashed the lis pendens? It would, if the order to quash were a preliminary injunction; it would not if the order to quash were a more typical interlocutory order.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court ruled it did not have jurisdiction to review the order to quash before the entire case was final because quashing a lis pendens is not a preliminary injunction. Here’s how the appellate court explained it.

As with an order quashing a discovery subpoena, an order quashing a lis pendens is simply an administrative order that deals with how the case proceeds before the court, and it can be issued by any court without resorting to its equitable powers. It then follows that, similarly to a discovery order, an order quashing a lis pendens is not an interlocutory order that is appealable under Rule 307(a)(1). We accordingly lack jurisdiction over that portion of the circuit court’s order.

In the end, the trial court’s ruling denying the preliminary injunction [not preventing the sale] was affirmed. Read the whole opinion, Five Mile Capital Westin v. Bekadia Commercial Mortgage, 2012 IL App (1st) 122812 (12/24/12), by clicking here.

Barbara Kemp’s mortgage was held by EMC Mortgage Corporation. EMC filed a foreclosure action against Barbara because she defaulted on her payments. Eventually, EMC asked for and got a summary judgment foreclosure. Kemp then asked for reconsideration of the summary judgment and for a stay of the judicial sale of the property. Both were denied.

On the day the judicial sale was scheduled, Kemp made an emergency request to vacate the judgment of foreclosure and then to dismiss EMC’s complaint. Kemp’s request to vacate the judgment was made under Illinois Civil Procedure Act Rule 2-1401 [allowing final judgments to be vacated if there is new evidence and a meritorious defense]. The trial court also stayed the judicial sale of the property for 45 days. The court added Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a) language to its order [allowing immediate appeal of final judgments that do not dispose of the entire case].

Kemp appealed two of the trial court’s orders: the order denying her motion for reconsideration, and the order denying her motion to vacate. The Second District Illinois Appellate Court dismissed Kemp’s appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The Illinois Supreme Court did the same for two reasons.

Reason I. The orders denying the reconsideration request, and denying the Rule 2-1401 request to vacate the foreclosure judgment were not final and appealable because the trial court had not approved the sale of the property nor directed distribution of it. Here’s what the Illinois Supreme Court said:

It is well settled that a judgment ordering the foreclosure of mortgage is not final and appealable until the trial court enters an order approving the sale and directing the distribution … The reason such a judgment is not final and appealable is because it does not dispose of all issues between the parties and it does not terminate the litigation … Specifically, although a judgment of foreclosure is final as to the matters it adjudicates, a judgment foreclosing a mortgage, or a lien, determines fewer than all the rights and liabilities in issue because the trial court has still to enter a subsequent order approving the foreclosure sale and directing distribution … Accordingly, it is the order confirming the sale, rather than the judgment of foreclosure, that operates as the final and appealable order in a foreclosure case.

Reason 2. “A second problem with Kemp’s appeal lies with the fact that, while a judgment of foreclosure is a final order, without Rule 304(a) language added to it, the judgment is not appealable … Kemp did not seek to make the judgment of foreclosure appealable under Rule 304(a).”

Kemp argued that the orders denying her request for reconsideration of the summary judgment and her emergency request to vacate the judgment of foreclosure were appealable because the trial court included Rule 304(a) language in those orders. But the Illinois Supreme Court rejected that argument because “the inclusion of a special finding [Rule 304(a) language] in the trial court’s order cannot confer appellate jurisdiction if the order is in fact not final.”

Finally, Kemp argued in favor of appellate jurisdiction because the orders she attacked were, she said, void. The Illinois Supreme Court called that argument “meritless.” “This legal proposition [void order rule] … does not act to confer appellate jurisdiction on a reviewing court if such jurisdiction is otherwise absent … Rather, the rule allows a party the ability to always raise the issue of whether an order is void in an appeal where appellate jurisdiction exists and the case is properly before the court of review … As we have pointed out, there is no supreme court rule that permits the appeal of the nonfinal orders that Kemp has appealed in this case.”

Read the whole opinion, EMC Mortgage Corp. v. Kemp, 2012 IL 11341 (12/28/12), by clicking here.