Articles Posted in Appellate Standing

The State of Illinois filed a petition claiming parents neglected their child, N.C., and asking to have the State bcome N.C.’s guardian. Alfred had acknowledged he was N.C.’s father. But a DNA test proved otherwise, so the State asked the trial court to dismiss Alfred, which it did.

The trial court also found that N.C. was neglected, and that the mother was unfit. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services was appointed N.C.’s guardian.

The mother appealed the finding of neglect and the ruling that Alfred was not N.C.’s father. The state argued that the mother did not have standing in the appeal to dispute Alfred’s paternity.

The Third District Illinois Appellate Court sided with the mother. She had standing to dispute the ruling against Alfred because she was injured by the trial court’s ruling. Here’s how the appellate court explained it:

Standing requires some injury in fact to a legally recognized interest … “Any party to the case may seek appellate review from a final judgment which is adverse to his interest, and whether the party was actually aggrieved does not determine his right to appeal.” … Respondent [mother] and her child have a clear interest in Alfred’s status as the father because of the actual or potential economic and social support owed to the child from the legal father.

N.C.’s mother prevailed in this one; the appellate court reversed in her favor. Read the whole opinion, In re N.C., 2013 IL (3d) 120438, by clicking here.

Melissa Ramskugler had passed Wisconsin’s requirements to qualify as a police officer, but was still in the probationary period required by the Milwaukee Board of Fire & Police Commissioners. Knee injuries prevented her from finishing probation. She was fired because her medical condition prevented her from getting through probation.

Wisconsin statutes have mandatory procedures for terminating police officers. But the Board, taking the position that Ramskugler was not a “member of the force” because she had not completed probation, did not follow the state statutory procedures when it let Ramskugler go. So she and the Milwaukee Police Association sued the Board for depriving her of property without due process.

The Board asked for, and was given summary judgment by the trial court against Ramskugler. She and the Police Association appealed. While the appeal was pending in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Ramskugler settled her dispute with the Board. The Police Association wanted to continue the appeal despite the settlement. So the settlement allowed the Police Association to continue the appeal in hopes of getting a declaration that the Board did not have authority to ignore the procedures set out in the Wisconsin statutes.

Before reaching the merits of the Police Association’s claims, the appellate court addressed whether the Association had standing in view of Rumskugler’s settlement. That boiled down to a question of whether the settlement mooted the Association’s lawsuit.

The appellate court ruled that the Police Association’s claims were moot because: “If she [Rumskugler] were to file suit today, she would lack standing because she does not have a redressable claim – her Settlement Agreement waived any sort of relief this court could grant her. Without establishing standing in her own right, Ramskugler cannot be used by the MPA [Association] to satisfy the first requirement of associational standing.”

Nor did this case fall into the mootness exception for “challenges to policies with a ‘continuing and brooding presence.’” This is how the court explained it:

To qualify for that mootness exception, the ongoing policy must “by its continuing and brooding presence, cast[] … a substantial adverse effect on the interests of the petitioning parties” … Nothing of that sort exists here. As discussed, the MPA has not proffered any other member who is faced with Ramskugler’s predicament. Further still, the MPA has not referenced someone who was in that position previously, which implies that Ramskugler was merely trapped in a sparsely populated limbo. The MPA has not even pled a single injury-in-fact. As such, the MPA has given us no reason to find the continuing policy of a “brooding presence” over it, much less one with a “substantial adverse effect.”

The appellate court dismissed the Association’s appeal as being moot. The opinion contains instructive discussion about the relationship between standing and mootness, and about ripeness and mootness. Read the whole opinion, Milwaukee Police Association v. Board of Fire & Police Commissioners, No. 11-2314 (7th Cir. 2/26/13), by clicking here.

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.

David Hammer was executor of Ronald Weeks’s estate. Hammer hired Thomas Brucker as an attorney to assist in the administration of the estate. Hammer ($120,000) and Brucker ($170,000) paid themselves based on a percentage of the estate’s value.

Weeks left one-fourth of his estate to a New York-based charity. The charity disputed whether Hammer and Brucker could properly take a percentage of the estate for their fees. The Illinois Attorney General intervened in the case, and disputed Hammer’s and Brucker’s fees. The trial court agreed with the Attorney General, drastically lowered the fees, and ordered Hammer and Brucker to return the excess to the estate.

Hammer and Brucker appealed. But their notice of appeal stated that the Estate of Weeks was the party appealing, not Hammer and not Brucker. The Attorney General argued that the appellate court did not have jurisdiction to consider the appeal because the wrong party was identified as the appellant. The Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that the mistake on the notice of appeal was technical, and did not defeat appellate jurisdiction. Here’s how the appellate court explained the ruling.

Jurisdiction in this court is conferred by a notice of appeal … Illinois Supreme Court Rule 303 … sets forth specific formatting and filing requirements of the notice of appeal. Among other things, a notice of appeal must name the parties and designate them “in the same manner as in the circuit court and add[ ] the further designation ‘appellant’ or ‘appellee’ ” … and must “contain the signature and address of each appellant or appellant’s attorney” … However, “Illinois courts have repeatedly refused to dismiss an appeal because of a technical deficiency in the notice of appeal so long as the notice fulfills its basic purpose of informing the victorious party that the loser desires a review of the matter by a higher court.”

Petitioners’ failure to name themselves as appellants in the notice of appeal, while technically deficient, did not deprive intervenor of the notice to which she was entitled. Intervenor [Attorney General] does not allege she was prejudiced in any way by petitioners’ naming the estate rather than themselves as appellants.

Hammer and Brucker won the jurisdiction battle, but lost the war. The appellate court affirmed the ruling requiring Hammer and Brucker to give back the excessive part of their fees. Read the whole opinion, In re Estate of Weeks, No. 4-10-0338 (5/20/11), by clicking here.

A police labor union wanted to be the exclusive representative of “all aviation security sergeants employed by the City of Chicago.” Chicago objected, so the union filed a petition in the Illinois Labor Relations Board. The Board granted the union’s petition. But the union was not completely satisfied because the Board ruled that the sergeants were not “peace officers,” a legal designation under the Illinois Labor Relations Act that affects the sergeants’ bargaining status.

Both Chicago and the union appealed ― Chicago to get the “exclusive representation” ruling reversed; the union to get the sergeants-are-not-peace-officers ruling reversed.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the “exclusive representation” ruling, but dismissed the union’s “peace officer” appeal. The appellate court ruled that the union could not appeal because it won the right to be the exclusive representative, which is what it asked for in its petition. The union’s disagreement with some of the Board’s peripheral rulings was not a basis to appeal. Here is how the appellate court explained it:

Only “any person aggrieved” by a final order of the Board may petition for review of a Board decision … A party who has obtained all that has been asked for in the underlying proceeding has no standing to appeal … Although ICOP [union] may not agree with the Board’s “peace officer” finding, ICOP did receive the relief it requested from the Bard: certification of a stand-alone bargaining unit for the sergeants. We have affirmed this decision. Accordingly, ICOP’s “win” before the Board stands. Because ICOP received the relief it requested, its appeal must be dismissed … We note that, although we may generally affirm on any basis in the record, a defendant need not file a cross-appeal to urge an alternative reason for affirming … And, because we do affirm the Board, we need not review the alternate basis for relief ICOP resented to the Board.

The lesson is: If the issue is important enough to appeal, make sure to include it in your request for relief in the lower court or agency. Read the whole opinion, Illinois Council of Police v. Illinois Labor Relations Board, Nos. 1-09-1859, 1860 (9/30/10), by clicking here.

The Dunns sued Lawrence Patterson, their lawyer, claiming estate documents Patterson drafted contained certain provisions that were void because they were against public policy. After the Dunns won a declaratory judgment in the trial court, Patterson appealed.

The Dunns argued that Patterson did not have standing to appeal the declaratory judgment. The Third District Illinois Appellate Court made short work of the argument. The court politely found “this contention to be inconsistent with the fact that plaintiffs named Patterson as the defendant in this suit and obtained a judgment against him.” The appellate court stated the “entry of a judgment itself constitutes legally cognizable damages,” which was sufficient to establish standing.

I can’t say it is a singular example, but I do not recall reading about a plaintiff arguing that a party he sued did not have standing. Patterson got a reversal of the judgment, too. Read the whole case, Dunn v. Patterson, Nos. 3-07-0881, 3-08-0350 (11/18/09), by clicking here.

Richard Henry, then 89 years old, signed a will in 2004 that overrode all of his previous wills and codicils. The 2004 will left a substantial part of Henry’s estate to Peter Wemple and Mick Zawierucha. Henry’s prior will did not. Wemple was named executor of the 2004 will; Zawierucha was Henry’s caretaker.

About two years later, an Illinois trial court ruled that Henry was disabled, and J.P Morgan Chase Bank was named executor of Henry’s estate. The bank claimed that the 2004 will was procured through Zawierucha’s undue influence, so it asked the trial court for permission to change the terms of the document to reflect Henry’s last-known wishes.

Wemple and Zawierucha objected, but the trial court granted the bank’s request. Wemple and Zawierucha appealed. The bank then asked the appellate court to dismiss the appeal because, it argued, neither Wemple nor Zawierucha had standing to bring the appeal.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court agreed with the bank and dismissed the appeal. Wemple and Zawierucha did not have standing because, as yet, they did not have a legally protectable interest in the 2004 will. This is how the appellate court explained the ruling.

[A] will confers no rights upon a legatee until the death of the testator …

Consequently, the dispository provisions of the 2004 will cannot provide standing for appellants: since appellants enjoyed no vested rights under the 2004 will, they cannot claim any injury in fact from the granting of the estate’s petition. Our adjudication of this appeal would not result in an “immediate and definitive determination” of appellants’ [Wemple and Zawierucha] rights, as is required for standing …

The appellate court stated that Wemple’s and Zawierucha’s recourse would be to file a will contest at the proper time. Read the whole opinion, In re Estate of Henry, Nos. 1-08-3398, 1-08-3479 (10/16/09), by clicking here.

This lawsuit grows from a political fight in Knox County, Illinois. After he took office as Knox County State’s Attorney, John Pepmeyer began an investigation into “improprieties” by current and former county employees of the county state’s attorney’s and sheriff’s offices. Two Assistant State’s Attorneys, Dean Stone and Michael Kraycinovich, were targets of Pepmeyer’s investigation. Stone and Kraycinovich in turn started their own investigation of Pepmeyer concerning allegations that he was guilty of sexual harassment.

Stone and Kraycinovich asked the trial court for appointment of a special counsel for their investigation into Pepmeyer. Pepmeyer asked the court for a special prosecutor for his investigation into Stone and Kraycinovich. The trial court appointed the Illinois Attorney General as special prosecutor of both investigations.

The trial court later modified the appointments. The Attorney General was left to investigate Pepmeyer. A former State’s Attorney for another county, William Poncin, was named special prosecutor to investigate “other Knox County public officials,” including Stone and Kraycinovich.

Pepmeyer appealed. He claimed that Poncin’s powers were too broad and infringed on Pepmeyer’ authority. While the appeal was pending, the Attorney General found there was no basis to investigate Pepmeyer − so the trial court terminated the Attorney General’s appointment.

Further complicating the case, Pepmeyer and Poncin brought the State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor into the act. All three reached an agreement to divide their investigatory powers. Pepmeyer and Poncin then asked the appellate court for a “conditional remand” to direct the trial court to issue an order in accord with the agreement among Pepmeyer, Poncin, and the Appellate Prosecutor.

Stone and Kraycinovich objected to Pepmeyer’s and Poncin’s request. In response, Pepmeyer argued that Stone and Kraycinovich did not have standing in the appellate court to raise an objection or to participate in the appeal. Pepmeyer’s theory was that Stone and Kraycinovich lost standing when the trial court terminated the Attorney General’s appointment to investigate Pepmeyer.

The Third District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that Stone and Kraycinovich did not have standing in the appellate court “because they have failed to show an injury to a legally cognizable interest.” Nor did they have a sufficient “direct, immediate, and substantial interest in the subject matter” to give them standing as non-parties under the Illinois Supreme Court Rules.

The appellate court also denied Pepmeyer’s request for conditional remand “because a remand to the circuit court with directions to enter the proposed order would amount to an exercise of supervisory authority, which the appellate court lacks.”

Read the entire case, In re Appointment of Special Prosecutor, No. 3-07-0553 (1/29/09), by clicking here.

Z.L., a minor who had been adopted as an infant, had reactive attachment disorder. The disorder apparently did not manifest until a few years after his adoption, when Z.L. became disruptive in the household.

The State filed a petition to adjudicate wardship, with the intent to place Z.L. in a foster home. Although they were designated as respondents to the the State’s petition, Z.L.’s parents agreed with the State and the petition. Only Z.L.’s Guardian Ad Litem opposed the State’s petition.

The trial court ruled that good cause did not exist to grant the State’s petition. Z.L.’s parents appealed the trial court’s decision. The State did not appeal, although it did file a brief supporting Z.L.’s parents. And while the GAL was named as an appellee, the GAL did not file an opposing brief.

The first question for the appellate court was whether Z.L.’s parents were proper parties to bring the appeal. The Fourth District Illinois Court of Appeals ruled that Z.L.’s parents could appeal, even though technically they were respondents to the petition in the trial court. “While the trial court’s ruling meant Jeff and Emily retained their parental rights, the ruling in this case was adverse to their interests insomuch as they were seeking the trial court’s permission to voluntarily relinquish those rights. Because the parents were parties to the proceedings in the trial court, had a substantial interest in the outcome of those proceedings, and that outcome was adverse to their interests, they have the right to pursue this appeal.”

The next issue was whether the parents should win by default because the GAL, the only party who opposed placing Z.L. in a foster home, did not file a brief. The Fourth District Appellate Court ruled that the absence of the GAL’s brief did not give Z.L.’s parents an “automatic” win. The court is not “compelled to serve as an advocate for an appellee,” nor “required to search the record for the purpose of sustaining the judgment of the trial court.”

But the court stated that it “may decide the merits of appellant’s arguments on appeal where the record is simple, the claimed errors are such that they may be decided based on appellant’s brief, and the record supports our finding in favor of appellant.” In this case, “Because respondents’ and the State’s briefs sufficiently present the issue for review, we will decide the merits of this appeal from the facts and legal arguments before us without the aid of a brief from the GAL.”

Ultimately, the appellate court ruled that Z.L.’s parents had good cause to be relieved of parental responsibilities. The whole case, In re Z.L., No. 4-06-0998 (2/15/08), is available by clicking here.

This wrongful death and survival action was filed on behalf of the estate of Rashidi Walker. Rashidi died during football practice at Northwestern University. His mother, Linda, and his father, George Wheeler, Jr., were coadministrators of Rashidi’s estate.

After lengthy litigation, the trial court approved a settlement of $16 million. Linda appealed the settlement approval. Although she sued only as administrator of Rashidi’s estate, she appealed as administrator and individually as an heir of the estate. Northwestern and George Jr. objected to Linda’s standing to appeal as an individual.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court sided with George Jr. and Northwestern. The court ruled that Linda did not have standing to appeal as an individual. Only the administrators of the estate were allowed to sue in the first place. The appellate court stated: “[I]f they [Linda and two other members of Rashidi’s estate who appealed as individuals] in their individual capacities were not parties to the underlying cause, they in their individual capacities cannot be parties to the instant appeal. Therefore, we find that they do not have standing and we dismiss their appeals.”

Northwestern also argued that Linda waived her right to appeal as coadministrator when she asked the trial court, as an alternative to setting aside the settlement, to compel payment of the settlement plus interest. But the appellate court disagreed, and stated that Linda was properly acting on behalf of the estate, and thus could appeal. “In her coadministrative capacity, Linda, through her motion, was exercising her fiduciary duties to insure that Rashidi’s estate would be protected pending her attempts at appeal, i.e., that Northwestern would be made to pay the money it owed as agreed in the settlement and as ordered by the court and that interest would accrue thereon for the Estate’s beneficiaries were she to be unsuccessful in future challenges to the validity of the settlement.”

The whole case, Will v. Northwestern University, Nos. 1-06-1566, 1-06-1642, 1-06-1643 (12/14/07), is available by clicking here.