February 24, 2014

Aldermen’s Appeal Of Victorious Referendum Moot

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.

Bookmark and Share

February 12, 2014

Second Order Allowing Interlocutory Appeal Fails To Save Appellate Jurisdiction

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.

Bookmark and Share

April 7, 2013

Appellate Court Refuses Jurisdiction Over Order Quashing Lis Pendens

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.

Bookmark and Share

March 16, 2013

No Appellate Jurisdiction For Homeowner’s Appeal Of Summary Judgment Foreclosure

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.

Bookmark and Share

February 20, 2013

Subpoena In Plot-To-Kill-Former-Wife Case Gets Full Appellate Review Despite No Opposing Brief

Carolyn Mahoney sued her former husband, Billy J. Cox, and his lawyer, Marc Gummerson, for plotting to kill her. Cox was in jail, so Mahoney served the Illinois Department of Corrections with a subpoena to find out information about the plot. The DOC asked the trial court to quash the subpoena because the documents Mahoney wanted contained the name of a confidential informant. The DOC argued the informant’s safety could be at risk if his identity were disclosed.

Trial court refused quash the subpoena, and instead compelled the DOC to produce the records. The DOC then asked for an immediate appeal of whether the informant’s identity was privileged under an Illinois statute.

The appeal was allowed, and a question about whether the statute made the informant’s identity confidential was certified. The DOC filed its brief, but neither Mahoney, Cox, nor Gummerson responded. So the issue was how the appellate court should treat an appeal that no one opposed.

The Second District Illinois Appellate Court acknowledged the usual methodology when an opposing brief is not filed: the court considers the merits of the appeal “if the issues and record are susceptible to easy decision, but that a court otherwise decide the case in favor of the appellant [party appealing] if the appellant establishes a prima facie [on its face; at first blush] case for reversal.”

But the appellate court ruled that the typical method would not work in this case because the court had to decide a certified question of law. Here’s how the court explained it:

“[I]n an appeal that considers certified questions … ruling in favor of the appellant who establishes a prima facie case would entail not ordering a case-specific outcome but, rather, articulating a legal proposition that may or may not be correct… [T]he failure to file an appellee’s brief does not establish or corroborate the answer to a certified question. A certified question is a question of law that is not susceptible to either a default or a prima facie showing of error. Therefore, we address certified questions on their merits, regardless of their simplicity. Our review is de novo [no trial court discretion] because we are presented solely with questions of law.”

Read the whole opinion, Mahoney v. Gummerson, 2012 IL App (2d) 120391 (11/20/12), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

January 15, 2013

Summary Judgment For Illinois Hospital On Actual Agency In Medical Malpratice Case Not A Final Order

Brandon Wilson required surgery for a fractured femur. He had a heart attack during surgery, which resulted in brain injury from lack of oxygen. Brandon sued Edward Hospital, where the surgery was done, and the doctors who treated him there.

To win against the hospital, Brandon had to show that the doctors were the hosptal’s actual or apparent agents. The hospital argued that the doctors were neither, and asked for summary judgment. The trial court gave the hospital judgment on the actual agent theory, but, ruling a question of fact existed, denied the hospital’s request on the apparent agency theory. Brandon then voluntarily dismissed his complaint.

One year later, Brandon re-filed, alleging the apparent agency theory against the hospital. The hospital asked the trial court to dismiss the re-filed complaint, arguing that it was barred by res judicata [second lawsuit alleging the same cause of action against the same parties not allowed]. The trial court refused to dismiss the re-filed complaint. But the court certified a question for immediate appeal – i.e., whether the re-filed complaint was a violation of the rule against claim-splittting and should be barred by res judicata.

The Second District Illinois Appellate Court felt the re-filed complaint was improper claim-splitting, so it reversed the trial court. Brandon then appealed to to the Illinois Supreme Court. The supreme court agreed that plaintiff could legitimately re-file the apparent agency theory. The re-filed complaint did not improperly split a claim because “actual agency” and “apparent agency” were not separate claims. There was only one claim, negligence. “Actual agency” and “apparent agency” were different elements of liability that could go toward proof of the single claim of negligence.

This case is important for the appellate practitioner because the supreme court ruled that the trial court order giving summary judgment to the hospital on “actual agency” was not a final order. If not final, then it would not be appealable even under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a). [Allowing instant appeal of certain final judgments before the whole case is finished.]

Read the whole opinion, Wilson v. Edward Hospital, 2012 IL 112898 (12/13/12), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

May 20, 2012

Father Successfully Appeals Termination Of Parental Rights

Ralph L’s baby, Haley, was born with a cocaine addiction. When Haley was released from the hospital, the State of Illinois took her into protective custody and placed her with foster parents. The State also filed a lawsuit asking that Haley be made a ward of the court. The State did not at that time ask the trial court to terminate Ralph’s parental rights.

The trial court soon made Haley a ward of the court. A goal was set to return Haley to Ralph in 12 months, if Ralph were able to meet certain conditions. Ralph did not meet two of the conditions: submission to random drug testing and completion of domestic violence and mental health assessments.

So the trial court allowed the State to file a petition to terminate Ralph’s parental rights. Four months later the State did so. But Ralph had not been given personal service of the State’s petition. The trial court proceeded with the termination hearing anyway, even though Ralph was not there and service had been accomplished only by publication. The State asked for, and received, an order of default against Ralph.

Ralph and a new lawyer appeared at the next hearing. Ralph was given leave to file a request to set aside the default. He did so under Illinois Civil Procedure Code section 2-1301. Later, Ralph filed another request to vacate the default, that one under code section 2-1401. The trial court ultimately denied Ralph’s request to vacate the default because he had insufficient evidence of a meritorious defense and of due diligence in pursing a defense. Ralph’s parental rights vis-à-vis Haley were terminated.

Ralph appealed, and the case worked its way to the Illinois Supreme Court. The supreme court ruled that 2-1301was the proper rule to use to vacate the default against Ralph, and that 2-1301 did not require a showing of a meritorious defense or of due diligence. So it was reversible error to require Ralph to show those conditions.

The Illinois Supreme Court explained the difference between an attempt to vacate an order of default under 2-1301 and a default judgment under 2-1401. Here is how the supreme court explained it:

The substantive standards applicable to these two statutes are different. Where a litigant seeks to set aside a default under section 2–1301(e), which governs before final judgment has been entered or within 30 days thereafter, the litigant need not necessarily show the existence of a meritorious defense and a reasonable excuse for not having timely asserted such defense … Rather, the overriding consideration is simply whether or not substantial justice is being done between the litigants and whether it is reasonable, under the circumstances, to compel the other party to go to trial on the merits …


By contrast, where a litigant seeks relief from a final order or judgment more than 30 days after its entry pursuant to section 2–1401(a), the burden he or she faces is substantially greater. A party seeking to set aside a final order or judgment under section 2–1401(a) is required to show by a preponderance of the evidence not only the existence of a meritorious claim or defense in the original action, but also due diligence in pursuing the claim or defense in the circuit court as well as due diligence in presenting the petition for relief under section 2–1401(a) … The only time a meritorious claim or defense or due diligence need not be established in a proceeding under section 2–1401(a) is when the order or judgment at issue is attacked as void …


When Ralph sought to set aside the finding of default in this case, he initially framed his request as a motion brought pursuant to section 2–1301(e) … He subsequently recast the request in the form of a petition under section 2–1401(a) … in response to the State's contention that Ralph's original motion was untimely and that the circuit court no longer had jurisdiction to consider. The assumption that section 2–1301(e) was no longer available and that section 2–1401(a) was the only procedural mechanism left to Ralph for challenging the entry of default against him subsequently took hold. It was accepted uncritically by both the circuit and appellate courts in this case and served as the predicate for the rulings which followed.


In fact, the State and the lower courts had things reversed. As a matter of law, the only statutory provision which could have been properly invoked by Ralph under the circumstances present here was the one he did invoke in his initial motion, section 2–1301(e). Relief under section 2–1401(a) was premature.


The reason for this is clear, though it went unrecognized in the proceedings below: the circuit court's April 14, 2009, ruling that Ralph had defaulted on the petition to terminate was not a final judgment or order. To be final, an order or judgment must terminate the litigation between the parties on the merits or dispose of the rights of the parties, either on the entire controversy or a separate part thereof … The April 14 order did not meet this test [because “orders terminating parental righs are nonfinal and interlocutory."]

The lesson for appellate practitioner is: 2-1301s are interlocutory and cannot be appealed immediately; 2-1401 judgments are final and appealable. In this case, the supreme court concluded that Ralph’s 2-1301 request to vacate the order of default should have been allowed. Read the whole case, In re Haley D., 2011 IL 110886, by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

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.

Bookmark and Share

September 23, 2011

Insured’s Second Appeal Dismissed For Lack Of Jurisdiction

This case involved John Crane, Inc.’s claim for insurance coverage, and the insurers’ counterclaim against Crane. The insurers persuaded the trial court to dismiss Crane’s complaint. Two days later, Crane appealed the dismissal.

Then CNA, one of the insurers, asked the trial court to vacate or modify the dismissal order and for leave to amend its counterclaim against Crane. The trial court ruled (1) against CNA and would not allow the judgment to be vacated or modified, (2) for CNA and allowed amendment of the counterclaim against Crane.

Two weeks later, the trial court entered a final judgment on all of the remaining claims except CNA’s counterclaim.

About two weeks after that, the appellate court dismissed Crane’s appeal for want of prosecution because the company did not file the record on appeal within the time allowed by the rules. Rather than file a petition for rehearing of the dismissal of the appeal, Crane filed a whole new appeal. Crane’s second appeal asked for the same relief as the first one.

Allianz Underwriters, another of Crane’s insurers, asked the appellate court to dismiss the second appeal. Allianz argued the appellate court had jurisdiction when it dismissed the first appeal; because Crane did not ask for a rehearing, that dismissal ended the proceeding. Crane argued the second appeal was proper because CNA’s motion to modify the judgment meant the “first appeal never became effective,” and there never was appellate jurisdiction over that appeal.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court agreed with Allianz. Crane’s first appeal became effective, the appellate court said, after the trial court ruled against CNA’s request to modify the judgment. Then the dismissal of the first appeal rendered the appellate court without jurisdiction to consider Crane’s second appeal. Here is how the appellate court explained the ruling:

John Crane’s first appeal was the effective appeal from both the November 13, 2009 [final judgment], and the March 10, 2009 [dismissal of Crane’s complaint] … and this court had jurisdiction when we dismissed its [Crane’s] first appeal … for want of prosecution … John Crane did not file a petition for rehearing within 21 days. When an appeal of a final order is dismissed for want to prosecution and no petition for rehearing is filed within 21 days, the dismissal becomes final and the appellate court loses jurisdiction to consider additional arguments stemming from the initial order.

The whole opinion, John Crane, Inc. v. Admiral Insurance, 2011 IL App (1st) 093240 (August 30, 2011), is available by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

August 26, 2011

Denial Of Medical Clinic’s Request To Talk To Non-Defendant Employees A Proper Interlocutory Appeal

Leon Aylward claimed his doctor, Michael Settecase, and the medical clinic that employed him, failed to timely diagnose Aylward’s lung cancer. After Aylward sued them for malpractice, the clinic asked the trial court for permission to talk to other clinic employees who had been involved with Aylward’s treatment, but had not been sued. The clinic argued it should be allowed to have private conversations with the employees because Aylward could sue them later, and as defendants the clinic’s lawyers could talk to them privately.

The trial court denied the request, but certified the question to allow an immediate appeal. The appellate court accepted the immediate appeal, but Aylward asked for it to be dismissed. He argued that it was not a proper interlocutory appeal because it called for an advisory opinion to a hypothetical question – i.e., it was hypothetical that the employees would be sued.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court disagreed because, “Answering this question will have an immediate effect upon the discovery process by determining whether MPG [clinic] is permitted to represent the MPG employees, and thus, its resolution may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.”

In the end, the appellate court ruled the clinic was not permitted to have private conversations with the employees. Read the whole opinion, Aylward v. Settecase, No. 1-10-1939 (4/29/11), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

May 29, 2011

Condo Owner’s Interlocutory Appeal Dismissed For Incomplete Rule 304(a) Finding

Marc and Mary Simon bought a condominium from Palmolive Tower Condominium before Palmolive finished constructing the building. The Simons were unhappy with Palmolive’s performance, and refused to release the money being held in escrow for Palmolive. So Palmolive sued the Simons, and the Simons counterclaimed for breach of contract and fraud.

Palmolive asked the trial court for judgment on the pleadings on its own multi-count complaint, and to dismiss the Simons’s counterclaim. The trial court dismissed the counterclaims, and stated its order was “a final and appealable order there being no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal.” Later the trial court gave judgment on the pleadings in favor of Palmolive on the first of several counts of its complaint. The remaining counts of Palmolive’s complaint were left standing. The court’s judgment said it was “final and appealable.”

The Simons appealed from both orders. The parties agreed the appellate court had jurisdiction over the order giving Palmolive judgment on the pleadings. But the court thought otherwise and dismissed that part of the Simons’s appeal. Here’s why.

Here, the defendants seek to appeal an order that resolved only one count of the plaintiff’s multi-count complaint and therefore unquestionably resolved fewer than all of the claims between the parties. Accordingly, under [Illinois Supreme Court] Rule 304(a) the order was not appealable unless it was accompanied by the circuit court’s express written finding that there was "no just reason for delaying either enforcement or appeal or both." For their stance that the circuit court’s April 10 order [giving Palmolive judgment on the pleadings on one of its claims] is appealable, the parties cite the court’s statement that the order was "final and appealable." That order, however, contains no reference either to Rule 304(a), to the justness of delaying enforcement or appealability, or to the propriety of immediate appeal.

The rationale underlying Rule 304(a) is that it allows appeals to be taken before the final disposition of a case where the circuit court considers an immediate appeal to be appropriate … Thus, Rule 304(a) allows a circuit court to limit piecemeal appeals yet still allow early appeals when, in its discretion, doing so "would have the effect of expediting the resolution of the controversy, would be fair to the parties, and would conserve judicial resources." … A circuit court’s declaration that an order is "final and appealable," without reference to the justness of delay, or even reference to immediate appealability, evinces no application of the discretion Rule 304(a) contemplates … Instead, absent some other indication from the record that the court intended to invoke Rule 304(a) … a circuit court’s declaration that an order is "final and appealable" amounts to nothing more than a non-binding interpretation.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court acknowledged that a Rule 304(a) finding does not have to exactly mirror the rule, but the circumstances do have to reflect the desirability of an interlocutory appeal. The lesson is: To assure your interlocutory order is appealable, and to avoid being a test case, make sure the Rule 304(a) finding states there is no just reason for delaying enforcement or appeal” of the order. Read the whole case, Palmolive Tower Condominiums v. Simon, Nos. 1-10-0427, 1348 (5/16/11).

Bookmark and Share

March 27, 2011

Fee Request More Than 30 Days After Final Order Doomed For Lack Of Jurisdiction

This posting is not strictly about appellate practice, but it’s worthwhile to read here because it answers the question of how long you have after a final order is entered to ask the trial court for attorney fees. And how long do you have to request fees after the trial court allows an interlocutory appeal? These are questions trial attorneys ask me a lot.

Timothy and Michael Herlehy felt they were shortchanged in their great-aunt’s trust. When she died, the Herlehys sued the trustee, First National Bank of LaGrange, and five charities that were residuary beneficiaries of the trust. The claim against LaGrange Bank was for breach of fiduciary duty in administering the trust. The Herlehys felt the charities received more money than they were entitled to, so the claim against the charities was for unjust enrichment.

The trial court dismissed the complaint against LaGrange Bank because it did not have a duty to change the trust in keeping with the Herlehys’ wishes. After it won, the bank asked for an award of its attorney fees, but the trial court denied that request because, it said, it did not have jurisdiction to consider the question.

The bank appealed the trial court’s ruling that it did not have jurisdiction to consider the bank’s request for its attorney fees. But the First District Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the ruling, agreeing that the fee request came too late. It was too late because it was filed more than 30 days after the dismissal became final and appealable.

The appellate court ruled that LaGrange’s fee request was not a post-trial motion, and was not collateral or incidental to the judgment, any one of which could be made more than 30 days after a final order. The appellate court ruled the bank’s judgment became final when the trial court made a finding under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a) [allowing an appeal before all claims against all parties are determined]. So the fee request should have been made within 30 days of the Rule 304(a) finding.

In any event, the bank’s and the charities’ judgments were affirmed. Click here to read the whole case, Herlehy v. Marie V. Bistersky Trust, Nos. 1-09-0038, 1-09-1892, 1-09-3295, 1-09-3431, 1-10-0070, 1-10-0071 (12/23/10).

Bookmark and Share

February 24, 2011

No Jurisdiction To Consider Appeal Of Order Excluding Lawyer From Custody Evaluation

David and Rojean Molloy were battling for custody of their two children.
The trial court appointed the Cook County, Illinois public guardian to represent the children. A custody evaluation by a social worker was scheduled under the Marriage Dissolution Act. Rojean, who did not have a lawyer, asked the trial court to prohibit David’s lawyer from attending the social worker’s evaluation session with David. The trial court agreed and barred David’s lawyer from attending.

David thought he should not be deprived of an attorney at the evaluation, so he filed a notice of interlocutory appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307. David argued that the order prohibiting his lawyer from attending the evaluation amounted to a preliminary injunction, so the appellate court had jurisdiction to consider the appeal.

But the public guardian asked the appellate court to dismiss David’s appeal. The guardian argued there was no Rule 307 injunction because the order “merely set conditions for the petitioner’s [David] … evaluation.”

The First District Illinois Appellate Court agreed with the guardian and dismissed David’s appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The court ruled that the order preventing David’s lawyer from attending the evaluation was ministerial, and therefore not an injunction that can be appealed before the end of the case. Here is the appellate court’s thinking:

“Not every nonfinal order of a court is appealable, even if it compels a party to do or not do a particular thing.” … Court orders that are ministerial or administrative cannot be the subject of an interlocutory appeal … An order is deemed ministerial or administrative if it regulates only procedural details of the litigation before the court … Such an order “do[es] not affect the relationship of the parties in their everyday activity apart from the litigation, and are therefore distinguishable from traditional forms of injunctive relief."

Here … we find the aim of the circuit [trial] court’s order to be ministerial; the order places a “condition” of the custody evaluation of the petitioner [David] as provided under section 604(b) of the [Marriage Dissolution] Act … [T]he order is not the equivalent of a preliminary injunction whose function is “to preserve the status quo resolution of the merits of the case."

Read the whole opinion, In re Marriage of Molloy, 1-10-1224 (2/10/11), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

November 28, 2010

No Jurisdiction For Interlocutory Appeal In SLAPP Lawsuit

Robert Stein and Clinton Krislov both are attorneys. Stein sued Krislov and his lawfirm for libel. The alleged libelous statements were made in a letter Krislov wrote to a federal judge who was presiding over a class action case. Krislov’s letter stated that Stein misrepresented to the court his experience as class counsel.

Krislov asked the trial court to dismiss Stein’s libel case. Among other things, Krislov asserted immunity from Stein’s lawsuit based on the Citizen Partcipation Act. The Act gives immunity to a person who was sued as a result of exercising his rights to free speech and to participation in government.

The trial court denied Krislov’s request to dismiss. Krislov appealed under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307(a)(1) (appeal as of right from an interlocutory injunction) and the Act. The First District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to consider Krislov’s appeal. The appellate court stated (1) the denial of Krislov’s request to dismiss did not qualify for appeal under Rule 307; (2) the Act could not provide appellate jurisdiction where the Illinois Supreme Court had not.

This is how the appellate court explained it:

Defendants {Krislov] contend this court has jurisdiction to review this appeal as an interlocutory appeal based on Rule 307(a)(1) and the language of section 20(a) of the Act.

When determining whether a trial court’s action constitutes an appealable injunctive order, the substance of the action, not the form, is relevant.

We recognize that the meaning of “injunction” should be construed broadly … however, the motion to dismiss in this case does not constitute an injunction. Defendants were not required to do anything or forced to refrain from anything as a result of the trial court’s order denying their motion to dismiss. Defendants were not restrained in their speech where the trial court issued no directive regarding defendants’ ability to speak about the case. In its order, the trial court simply concluded that the Act did not apply to the case at bar because of the newly created immunity could not be applied retroactively. Defendants retain the ability to defend Krislov’s actions in the underlying lawsuit where they can assert the same arguments in defense of Krislov’s letter despite the lack of immunity from the Act.”


The appellate court also rejected Krislov’s argument that the Act itself provided appellate jurisdiction.

We previously determined that the denial of the motion to dismiss in this case was not a final judgment and not injunctive in nature. Though we recognize that statutes are presumed constitutional, if the legislature was attempting to provide appellate jurisdiction from a nonfinal order not falling within the dictates of Rule 307, a constitutional conflict would exist … “If a supreme court rule does not grant the right to appeal from a nonfinal judgment, then there is no right to an interlocutory appeal and the appellate court does not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal … Thus, a statute that claims to give the right to an interlocutory appeal not covered by supreme court rules or to give the appellate court jurisdiction over that appeal would violate article VI, section 6, of the constitution. Such a statute also would violate the separation-of-powers clause of the article II, section 1, of the constitution … Appellate jurisdiction is, therefore, not conferred by section 20(a) of the Act.”

Read the whole case, Stein v. Krislov, 1-09-3478 (11/8/10), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

August 22, 2010

Grandparents’ Appeal Of Dismissal Of Adoption Petition And Severance Order Lacks Jurisdiction. Appeal From Order Striking Response To Foster Parents’ Adoption Petition Allowed

After SG’s parents lost their parental rights, the Hixsons (grandparents) petitioned to adopt the child. Five days later, in a separate case, the Bakers (foster parents) also petitioned to adopt SG. The Bakers also asked the trial court to consolidate the two cases. Over objection by the Hixsons, the cases were consolidated.

Two weeks later, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services entered the consolidated case and consented to the Bakers attempt to adopt SG. DCFS also asked the trial court to dismiss the Hixsons’ adoption petition. The trial court did so in late September 2009.

The Hixsons wanted to appeal the dismissal of their adoption petition. In early November 2009 the trial court issued a Rule 304(a) finding (no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal of an order that disposes of fewer than all parties and all issues). The Bakers also asked to sever the two cases they previously asked to consolidate.

On December 1st, the trial court entered a judgment severing the two adoption cases and striking the Hixsons’ response to the Bakers’ adoption petition. The judgment also contained a Rule 304(a) finding.

The next day, the Hixsons appealed: (1) the September dismissal of their adoption petition; (2) the December ruling that severed the adoption petitions and struck their response to the Bakers’ petition. The initial fight on appeal was whether the appellate court had jurisdiction. The Hixsons argued they could appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a). The Bakers and DCFS said Rule 304(a) was irrelevant.

Appeal of the September dismissal order.

The Hixsons appealed within 30 days of the Rule 304(a) finding, but more than 30 days after the actual dismissal. So if the dismissal required the Rule 304(a) finding to be appealable, then their appeal was timely. If the September dismissal order was appealable without the 304(a) finding, then the appeal was late and the appellate court did not have jurisdiction.

The answer depended upon whether the two adoption petitions had separate identities despite having been consolidated. The Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that the petitions had separate identities, meaning the September order was final and immediately (within 30 days) appealable. Here’s what the court said:

The record suggests that, even after consolidation, the two cases continued to have separate identities in the trial court. Besides the filing of all documents in one case, the record contains little evidence the trial court treated the two cases as one single suit …Thus, a Rule 304(a) finding was not required, and the Hixsons had to file their notice of appeal by October 29, 2009. Since they did not, we must dismiss that portion of the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Appeal of the December orders severing the petitions and striking the Hixsons’ response.

The Hixsons’ appeal of the order severing the adoption petitions was made under Rule 304(a). But the appellate court dismissed this appeal too because the order severing the petitions was not a final judgment. “The trial court's ruling on the motion to sever did not fix the rights of any parties or terminate any part of the litigation. The granting of the motion to sever was an interlocutory order that did not become final and appealable by the court's Rule 304(a) finding. Thus, we dismiss the appeal as to the trial court's ruling on the motion to sever.”

The appellate court ruled that it had jurisdiction over order striking the Hixsons’ response to the Bakers’ petition. The court said the response to the Bakers’ petition was similar to a petition to intervene in the Bakers’ case, so striking the response was a final order, and thus appealable with the Rule 304(a) finding.

Read the whole case, In re the Adoption of SG, No. 4-09-0912 (5/3/10), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

July 27, 2010

Claim Of Privilege In Discovery Dispute Reviewed De Novo

Discovery orders in Illinois generally are not immediately appealable. But a party can get an immediate appeal by refusing to comply with the order and then being held in contempt of court for doing so. The contempt order is immediately appealable.

The Second District Illinois Appellate Court recently stated this rule and identified the standard of review when a party refuses to comply with discovery based on privilege. “Berkman's appeal of the contempt order requires us to review the underlying discovery order … On appeal, Berkman challenges the trial court's determination that neither the attorney-client privilege nor the fifth amendment privilege shielded the requested documents from discovery. Although discovery orders are generally reviewed for abuse of discretion, we review the trial court's determination of whether a privilege applies de novo …”

The whole case, Mueller Industries v. Berkman, No. 2-09-0134 (3/23/10), is available here.

Bookmark and Share

January 16, 2010

Jurisdiction Okay Despite Candidate’s Appeal Under Wrong Rule

Mary Ann Aiello passed away with more than 29 months left in her term on the Winnebago, Illinois County Board. Theodore Biondo was appointed to fill the vacancy. By the time Biondo’s appointment went through there was less than 28 months left in Aiello’s term.

Under the Illinois Election Code, a person appointed to fill a vacancy completes the term if less than 28 months remain. If more than 28 months remain in the term, then the person appointed stays in office only until the next election. The next election was in 2008, but the Aiello term did not expire until late 2010. The question was when the clock started ticking – when Aiello passed away or when Biondo was appointed.

The Democratic Party submitted Carolyn Gardner as a candidate to run for the Aiello vacancy in the November 2008 election. Believing Biondo could complete Aiello’s term, and that there should not be an election for the seat until 2010, the Republican Party did not submit a candidate for the office. Nor did Biondo apply to run.

Margie Mullins, the County Clerk, sided with Biondo and refused to place Gardner on the ballot. So Gardner sued for a writ of mandamus to direct Mullins to do so.

The trial court agreed with Gardner and directed Mullins to put Gardner on the ballot. Biondi then entered the lawsuit and asked the trial court to direct that his name be placed on the ballot. But the trial court disagreed with Biondo, who then asked the court to reconsider and for a temporary restraining order to prevent the election for Aiello’s seat. The trial court denied both of Biondo’s requests.

Biondo appealed under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307 [allowing interlocutory appeals of orders refusing restraining orders as of right]. Gardner asked the appellate court to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. One day before the election, the appellate court ruled in favor of Biondo, and stated his name should be on the election ballot. But by then it was too late to change the ballot. The election proceeded with Gardner as the only name of the ballot for the Aiello seat.

Gardner then appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. Her first argument was that Biondo’s appeal should have been thrown out for lack of jurisdiction. The supreme court agreed that Rule 307 was not the correct rule for Biondo to appeal under. Rule 307 applies only to interlocutory orders. But “Biondo filed a motion for a temporary restraining order after final judgment on the case had been entered [i.e., the order that was entered before Biondo intervened in the case]. Contrary to Biondo's argument, the filing of a motion to reconsider has no effect on the finality of an otherwise final judgment … Because final judgment had been entered, Biondo's appeal under Rule 307 was inappropriate as it was not interlocutory in nature.”

But Biondo’s error was not fatal to the appeal. The judgment Biondo contested, the supreme court stated, was final and appealable, so even though he used the wrong rule, there was appellate jurisdiction. Here’s how the Illinois Supreme Court explained it.


The appellate court has jurisdiction to hear appeals of final judgments … Because this appeal is from a final judgment, Biondo's appeal would have been proper if brought pursuant to Rule 301, as an appeal as of right … Further, instead of filing for a temporary restraining order, Biondo could have properly moved to stay the circuit court's judgment pending appeal pursuant to Rule 305 … Though the appellate court would have been well within its authority to dismiss Biondo's appeal for failing to cite the appropriate rule, his error was not sufficient to divest the appellate court of jurisdiction where the court otherwise had jurisdiction.

So Biondo got his day in court. But to no avail, because the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the time begins to run when the vacancy occurs, not when it is filled. Read the whole opinion, Gardner v. Mullins, No. 107707 (9/24/09), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

December 20, 2009

No Appellate Jurisdiction Over Trustee’s Appeal Filed Before Final Distribution Of Assets

After Eleanor Miller died, Melodee Miller-Hanson became the successor trustee of Eleanor’s trust. Melodee got into a dispute with the other beneficiaries of the trust, and they ended up suing each other. The beneficiaries wanted Melodee removed as trustee; Melodee wanted the beneficiaries disinherited.

Melodee’s counterclaim was dismissed. And with “a few specific exceptions that were to be assessed against Melodee’s final distribution share,” the trial court ruled against the beneficiaries in their claim against Melodee. Melodee later asked the court to grant her litigation expenses, which the court largely denied.

Under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(b)(1) [allowing an interlocutory appeal from a judgment or order entered in the administration of an estate, guardianship, or similar proceeding which finally determines a right or status of a party], Melodee appealed a number the trial court’s rulings in connection with her requests for fees and costs. But she filed her notice of appeal before the court ruled on a final distribution of the assets of the trust.

Arguing that the appeal was premature, the beneficiaries asked the Second District Illinois Appellate Court to dismiss the appeal. The appellate court agreed that Melodee’s appeal did not invoke appellate jurisdiction: there was no final order from which to appeal because the rights of the parties had not been established. Here is the court’s explanation:

… [T]he rights of the parties to the distribution of the trust assets had not been established by order of the court. While Melodee’s trustee fees had been set by the court, none of the beneficiaries, including Melodee, knew in what proportions the remaining trust assets would be divided … Clearly, no party’s rights regarding the trust were finalized …

To allow Melodee’s appeal at this point is to encourage piecemeal appeals; if we were to address this appeal and affirm the judgment, the execution [of the judgment] would not be the only thing remaining to be done … There was no final judgment from which to appeal, and no provision of Supreme Court Rule 304 applies. Therefore, we grant the plaintiff beneficiaries’ motion to dismiss …


The appellate court also ruled that Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(b)(1) did not apply to this case because the trial court’s “limited activity falls well short of the type of oversight involved in comprehensive proceedings like estate or guardianship proceedings.” Read the whole case, In re The Living Trusts of George C. Miller and Eleanor Miller, 2-07-0773 (12/14/09), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

December 12, 2009

Notice Of Appeal More Than 30 Days After 304(a) Finding Still Vests Appellate Jurisdiction

This insurance coverage case has a unique twist on when an interlocutory order under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a) may be appealed.

John J. Rickhoff Sheet Metal Co. filed a third-party complaint against Meridian Mutual Insurance Co and the Horton Group, Inc. Meridian and Horton asked the trial court to dismiss Rickhoff’s third-party complaint, which the court did.

Rickhoff then asked the court to reconsider the dismissals. The trial court denied Rickhoff’s request as to Meridian, and entered Rule 304(a) language [no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal] permitting an interlocutory appeal within 30 days. The trial court took the reconsideration request as to the Horton dismissal under advisement. More than 30 days later, the court also denied that request to reconsider, and made a similar Rule 304(a) finding.

Rickhoff appealed both dismissals within 30 days after the trial court denied the Horton reconsideration request. By that time, more than 30 passed from the time the court made its Rule 304(a) finding as to Meridian. So Meridian asked the appellate court to dismiss Rickhoff’s appeal because it was filed too late, depriving the appellate court of jurisdiction.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court disagreed with Meridian. The court said it had jurisdiction because Rickhoff’s whole third-party action was a “single piece of the action,” so it was okay to wait to appeal Meridian’s dismissal until after the ruling on Horton’s. Here’s how the appellate court viewed it:


In determining the effect of Rule 304(a) findings, our supreme court has made clear that its interpretations have been governed by its policy disfavoring piecemeal appeals … Further, our examination of the record in the case at bar discloses that the intent of the court and the parties was to treat the third-party action as a single piece of the action, albeit separate from the primary action commenced by State Farm, as to both third-party defendants. The court resolved both third-party defendants' motions to dismiss in a single order, and Rickhoff filed a single motion to reconsider as to both third-party defendants. Moreover, the allegations regarding the third-party complaint as well as the grounds for its dismissal against both third-party defendants involved the conduct of both third-party defendants. The record thus discloses that the trial court exercised its discretion to determine whether to sever the third-party complaint from the initial complaint filed by State Farm … We therefore find that the Rule 304(a) finding entered by the circuit court on December 14, 2007, should be strictly construed as to apply only to sever the third-party action from the primary action filed by State Farm …

As a result, Rickhoff's notice of appeal, which was filed less than 30 days after the order disposing of the portions of Rickhoff's motion to reconsider that related to Horton, was timely as to both Meridian and Horton. Thus, jurisdiction exists over Rickhoff's appeal of the dismissal of its third-party complaint against Meridian.

This opinion also lists six factors the court should consider in deciding whether to grant an interlocutory appeal. (“a paramount consideration is efficient judicial administration”). The whole thing, State Farm Fire & Casualty v. John J. Rickhoff Sheet Metal, No. 1-08-1933 (8/19/09), is available by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

December 7, 2009

Failure To Designate Amount Of Attorney Fee Award Deprives Appellate Jurisdiction For Interlocutory Appeal

The City of West Chicago passed a zoning ordinance that banned certain billboards. Lamar Whiteco Outdoor Corporation sued the city, claiming the ordinance was unconstitutional. Lamar and the city eventually settled: an injunction was entered prohibiting the city from enforcing the ordinance against Lamar, and Lamar withdrew the lawsuit.

Lamar then filed a petition for its attorney fees. The trial court ruled that Lamar was entitled to the fees. But the court did not state how much money Lamar should get. The city asked the court to reconsider the ruling. The court refused to reconsider, and also ordered under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a) [no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal of final judgments as to one or more but fewer than all of the parties or claims] that its order allowing the attorney fees was a final and appealable interlocutory order.

The city appealed. But Lamar argued the appellate court did not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal. Lamar maintained that Rule 304(a) did not give the appellate court a basis to consider the appeal.

The Second District Illinois Appellate Court agreed with Lamar and dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The appellate court ruled that an order is not appealable under Rule 304(a) just because a trial court says so. There still must be a final judgment. This is how the appellate court explained it:

The inclusion of a Rule 304(a) finding in an order does not transform a nonfinal order into a final and appealable order … Rule 304(a) language applies only to cases involving multiple claims, multiple parties, or both, and in those cases, it can be used to sever a final order as to one claim or party from other claims or parties … The trial court’s use of Rule 304(a) language in an order does not affect its finality … Here, the parties settled all claims except the one for attorney fees and costs, and the City does not appeal any matter but the one that remains undetermined. The City does not wish to appeal any final order by severing it from the still pending claim for attorney fees and costs, and therefore, the Rule 304(a) finding is completely superfluous.

The whole opinion, Lamar Whiteco Outdoor Corp. v. City of West Chicago, No 2-08-0020 (10/8/09), is available here.

Bookmark and Share

November 21, 2009

Unconstitutional For Illinois SLAPPs Act To Grant Appellate Jurisdiction Over Interlocutory Order

Louis Mund sued the Browns and the Furkins for abuse of process, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Browns and the Furkins asked the trial court to dismiss the case. They argued that the Illinois Citizen Participation Act (statute that “aims to protect defendants from ‘Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation’ (SLAPPs), which harass citizens for exercising constitutional rights, such as the right to petition the government.”) The trial court denied the request to dismiss the case, so the Browns and the Furkins appealed.

The Browns and the Furkins argued that the Citizen Participation Act expressly allowed an appeal “from a trial court order denying” a motion to dismiss. But the Fifth District Illinois Appellate Court refused to recognize that part of the statute, and dismissed the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The appellate court ruled that the legislative attempt to make the order immediately appealable conflicted with the Illinois Constitution in two respects:

• First, the constitution allows only final orders to be appealed, and permits only the Illinois Supreme Court to make rules for appeal of interlocutory orders.
• Second, the legislature violated the separation-of-powers clause of the constitution by attempting to exercise a power reserved to the supreme court.

Here is the court’s explanation:

If … we were to interpret the language of the [Citizen Participation] Act as the defendants request … we would encounter a constitutional conflict. The Illinois Constitution … grants the right to appeal from a final judgment only … However, it gives the right to make rules governing interlocutory appeals exclusively to the supreme court … Thus, a statute that claims to give a right to an interlocutory appeal not covered by supreme court rules or to give the appellate court jurisdiction over that appeal would violate article VI, section 6, of the constitution. Such a statute also would violate the separation-of-powers clause in article II, section 1, of the constitution … [No branch of the government may exercise powers reserved to another branch.]

Read the whole case, Mund v. Brown, No. 5-08-0178 (8/21/09), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

November 9, 2009

Permanent Disgorgement And Removal From Company Board Not Appealable Interlocutory Orders

Rick Santella fought with family members over control of Food Groupie, Inc., a closely held family corporation. Santella, and Mary and William Kolton were co-owners of the company. Santella sued the Koltons after they gave themselves bonuses and commissions, and stated their intention to close Food Groupie and to open a similar business in which Santella would not be involved.

Santella’s lawsuit asked for return of the bonus ($ 144,019) to Food Groupie, and removal of the Koltons as directors and officers of the company. After the trial court granted both of Santella’s requests, the Koltons appealed under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307(a)(1) (interlocutory appeal allowed from a trial court order “granting, modifying, refusing, dissolving, or refusing to dissolve or modify an injunction.”)

Santella asked the First District Illinois Appellate Court to dismiss the appeal. He argued, and the appellate court agreed, that removing the Koltons as directors and officers did not require them to do anything, so those orders were not injunctions that could be appealed under Rule 307(a)(1).

But ordering the Koltons to return the money they took as commissions and bonuses was an injunction because the Koltons were required to do something − give back the money. However, the analysis did not end there. The appellate court ruled that the “give back” order was permanent, not interlocutory. And because Rule 307(a)(1) only governs interlocutory orders, the Koltons’s appeal had to be dismissed. The appellate court identified three reasons the order was permanent:

The court's order requiring defendants to pay $144,019 back to the corporation was a permanent order not subject to review under Rule 307(a)(1). The permanency of the order is evidenced by the fact that it altered the status quo, concluded the rights of the parties, and was not limited in duration.

So in the end, the Koltons’s entire interlocutory appeal was dismissed. The whole opinion, Santella v. Kolton, No. 1-08-1329, 1357, 1847 (7/31/09), is available here.

Bookmark and Share

November 3, 2009

Conditional Order Renders Appeal In Attorney Fee Dispute Moot

Clyde Engle was locked in a battle over payment of attorney fees to Foley and Lardner. Foley represented Engle in federal court litigation involving an insurance liquidation. Engle’s unpaid bill was for more than $1.8 million.

Engle agreed to pay Foley over time, and pledged his interest in bank stock as security. Foley thus took possession of some of the stock. Then Engle sued Foley and asked for a preliminary injunction preventing Foley from selling the stock. The trial court first denied Engle’s request. About two weeks later, the trial court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Foley from selling the stock for seven days. The court stated it would issue a preliminary injunction to that end if Engle would post a bond for the amount he owed as surety. That same day, Engle appealed the original denial of a preliminary injunction.

But Engle did not post the bond. Foley argued, and the First District Illinois Appellate Court agreed, that Engle’s appeal was moot because the trial court gave him the opportunity to get what he asked for − an injunction preventing Foley from selling the bank stock. “Having secured what they [Engle and his wife] basically sought, their appeal must be dismissed.”

Engle argued that the trial court lost jurisdiction before entering the second order because he filed his notice of appeal first. But the appellate court rejected that argument because the order was not time-stamped, and Engle could not prove he filed before the trial court ruled. “It is quite conceivable that the court entered this order before Engle and Siobhan [wife] filed their notices of appeal. Engle never cited to anything in the record, such as a transcript or other material that would prove up his claim; thus, without more, we cannot accept it.”

Read the whole opinion, Engle v. Foley and Lardner, Nos. 1-08-2761, 1-08-2762 (7/10/09), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

September 7, 2009

Forum Non Conveniens Dismissal Not A Final Order; Appealable By Petition, Not Notice Of Appeal

Dennis and Kimberly Quaids’ newborn twins were hospitalized at Cedars-Sanai Hospital in Los Angeles, California for a staph infection. The babies were given Heparin instead of Hep-Lock, as was prescribed by the physician. The Quaids settled a claim against the hospital before a lawsuit was filed. They sued Baxter Healthcare Corporation, the manufacturer of both medications. The Quaids’ chief claim was that the labeling for both medications was too much alike for hospital personnel to distinguish between them.

The Quaids, residents of California, filed the lawsuit in Cook County, Illinois. Baxter asked the Cook County trial court to dismiss the case on the basis of forum non conveniens − i.e., that California was a more convenient location for this case.

The Cook County trial court agreed that California was the more convenient forum and dismissed the Illinois case. The Quaids filed a petition for leave to appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 306(a)(2), which specifically permits a party to do so. But Baxter argued that the trial court’s dismissal was a final order. Thus, the only way the Quaids could have invoked appellate jurisdiction was to have filed a notice of appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 301. [An appeal is initiated by filing a notice of appeal.]

The First District Illinois Appellate Court rejected Baxter’s arguments, mainly for theses reasons:

• The appellate court first pointed to the “plain language” of Rule 306, which allows a party to file a petition for leave to appeal “from an order … allowing or denying a motion to dismiss on the grounds of forum non conveniens …”
• The appellate also stated that the dismissal order was not final, so a Rule 301 appeal would not have been proper. The order was not final because the forum non conveniens statute came with conditions, which if not met would have required the Illinois trial court to reinstate the case.
• The appellate court also ruled that the amendment to Rule 306 in 1993 [expanding the rule to cover orders “allowing or denying” a forum non conveniens motion from only orders denying those motions], together with the plain language of the rule, indicated the Illinois Supreme Court’s intention to establish “that filing a petition for leave to appeal is the proper procedure for seeking review of a forum non conveniens dismissal.”

The appellate court did allow the appeal, but in the end affirmed the dismissal because California was the better jurisdiction for this case. Read the whole case, Quaid v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., No. 1-08-2727 (6/17/09), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

August 4, 2009

Order On Partial Fee Petition Not Appealable. Merits Panel Dismissal Trumps Motion Panel.

Michael Gagliardo died in a racing-car accident. Paulette (sister) and Margaret (wife) administered Michael’s estate. They hired Quinlan & Carroll to investigate whether the estate could sue for wrongful death. Paulette later hired Duane Morris, another law firm, to open an estate in court. Duane Morris was on the job only for a few months, after which Paulette hired Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw.

Paulette asked the trial court to determine how much attorney fees were owed to which law firms. Quinlan, an “interested party” to the estate proceeding, asked for a substitution of judge to determine its right to fees. Quinlan’s request was granted.

Duane Morris filed its fee petition covering the entire time it represented the estate. Mayer Brown filed its fee petition for a part of the time it represented the estate. The trial court granted some of the law firms’ claims for fees.

Unhappy with the ruling, Margaret appealed. But Mayer Brown asked the court to dismiss the appeal because the order from which the Margaret appealed was not final and appealable, and the trial court did not rule that the order could be appealed. The First District Illinois Appellate Court agreed with Mayer Brown. Here is the court’s reasoning:

As noted earlier, it is undisputed that Mayer Brown continued to represent the estate after March 21, 2006, the last date on its fee petition. For this reason, the fee petition was interlocutory in part. Mayer Brown would be filing one or more fee petitions in the future. The 2006 order did not contain the language required by Supreme Court Rule 304(a): "[the trial court must make] an express written finding that there is no just reason for delaying either enforcement or appeal or both." … Nor is the order appealable under Rule 304(b)(1) … as a judgment entered in the administration of an estate that does not require the special language. An order entered in an estate administration without Rule 304(a) language is not appealable where, as here, the judgment entered was for fewer than all of the claims for relief sought by the claimant.

Here, although the order was a final disposition of the fees claimed by Duane Morris, it was an interim order for fees claimed by Mayer Brown. An interim order for attorney fees is not a final or appealable order.

Margaret asked for a rehearing. She argued that the appellate could not dismiss the appeal because a previous panel of appellate judges denied the same request by Mayer Brown to dismiss. But the second appellate panel rejected that argument, saying its opinion trumped the original panel’s:

A motion panel's denial of a motion to dismiss before briefing and argument is not final and may be revised at any time before the disposition of the appeal … The panel that hears the appeal has an independent duty to determine whether it has jurisdiction and to dismiss the appeal if it does not … The motion panel's denial of the earlier motion to dismiss has no bearing on our review.

The lesson is: Don’t give up on a motion to dismiss an appeal, even if it was denied by a motion panel. Appellants have to worry about a motion panel’s dismissal of an appeal, but an appellee gets a second bite at the apple by the merits panel. Read the whole opinion, Estate of Gagliardo, No. 1-06-1714 (6/5/09), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

June 21, 2009

Public Defender Cannot Appeal Partial Dismissal But Wins Certified Interlocutory Appeal

Edwin Burnette, the Public Defender of Cook County, sued Todd Stroger, President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Burnette was angry because Stroger selected personnel in the Public Defender’s Office to be laid off and imposed unpaid furlough days on other employees in the office. Burnette claimed he was not consulted in the process.

Relying on the Illinois Public Defender Act [actually Sections 3-4000 through 3-4011 of the Counties Code, 55 ILCS 5/3-4008.1 – 4011], Burnette’s lawsuit contested Stroger’s authority to take those actions. Stroger in turn asked the trial court to dismiss the case. He argued he acted within his authority and Burnette did not have standing to sue. Stroger’s request was granted and denied in part.

Burnette did two things: (1) He sought to amend his complaint to work around the aspects the trial court dismissed; (2) He asked for an interlocutory appeal. [Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308(a) allows interlocutory appeals when “the trial court … finds that the order involves a question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion and that an immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation … The Appellate Court may thereupon in its discretion allow an appeal from the order.”]

The trial court certified four questions for the appellate court, all concerning whether Burnette had standing to sue in the first place. Burnette also appealed from the order that dismissed part of his lawsuit.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court accepted the four certified questions for review, but declined to rule on whether the order granting dismissal was proper. Here’s why: “First, the parties in their appellate briefs did not brief the propriety of the trial judge's order. Second, plaintiffs are seeking to amend their complaint to eliminate the parts that were dismissed by the trial court.”

In the end, the appellate court ruled that Burnette did have standing to sue, and that Stroger did not have authority to designate individuals for layoff or furlough. Read the whole case, Burnette v. Stroger, No. 1-08-2908 (3/30/09), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

March 29, 2009

Stay Of Insurance Declaratory Judgment Action Is Like An Injunction And Invokes Interlocutory Appellate Jurisdiction

WW Westwood Center sued Canel & Associates for legal malpractice. Canel tendered the defense of the lawsuit to it malpractice insurer, TIG Insurance Company. The tender inspired cross-claims by TIG and Canel for a declaratory judgment – TIG asked for a ruling that it did not have to defend or indemnify Canel; Canel asserted just the opposite.

TIG brought Westwood into the lawsuit, and proceeded to serve discovery on Westwood. Westwood responded by asking the trial court to stay the declaratory judgment lawsuits pending a determination of its malpractice case against Canel.

Canel opposed Westwood’s request for a stay. Because TIG was not paying Canel’s defense costs in the malpractice case, Canel wanted the trial court to rule quickly (and in Canel’s favor) in the declaratory judgment case.

But the trial court granted Westwood’s request for the stay of the declaratory judgment actions. Not wanting to wait until final resolution of all the cases, Canel immediately appealed the order granting the stay. The initial question for the First District Illinois Appellate Court was whether it had jurisdiction to hear the appeal.

Canel appealed under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307(a), which allows interlocutory (immediate) appeals from orders in connection with injunctions. So the question was whether staying the declaratory judgment actions was enough like an injunction order to invoke the appellate court’s jurisdiction.

The appellate court ruled that it did have jurisdiction because the “substance of the order, which prohibited the parties from proceeding with litigation …of TIG’s declaratory judgment action against Canel Associates, was, in effect, injunctive in nature so as to render it reviewable under Rule 307(a)(1).”

The appellate court also affirmed the stay. Read the whole case, TIG Insurance v. Canel, No. 1-08-1251 (3/24/09), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

March 9, 2009

Default Order Not Final And Appealable

In this multi-count business dispute, Fidelity National Title Insurance sued a number of parties. The trial court granted summary judgment to defendants on all but one count of the complaint. A breach of contract claim still remained against Old Intercounty.

About three weeks later, the trial court ruled that Old Intercounty was in default on that contract claim. But the court did not enter a default judgment at that time. Nor did the court issue language under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a) that would have permitted an appeal before a final judgment as to all issues against all parties. At Fidelity’s request, the trial court issued Rule 304(a) language as to the summary judgments a week and a half later.

Fidelity National appealed the summary judgments within 30 days of the time the trial court issued Rule 304(a) language. But Fidelity’s Notice of Appeal was filed more than 30 days after the trial court granted the summary judgments.

The defendants asked the appellate court to dismiss Fidelity’s appeal. They argued that the appellate court did not have jurisdiction to decide the case because Fidelity did not appeal within 30 days of the summary judgments.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court disagreed. The appellate court ruled that Fidelity’s 30-day window began when the trial court issued its 304(a) language, not when the summary judgments were entered. Here’s what the court said:

In this case, the circuit court's order granting summary judgment in favor of defendants did not dispose of the entire controversy between the parties because it left outstanding the breach of contract claim against Old Intercounty. Although the court subsequently declared Old Intercounty in default, it did not enter a default judgment. An order of default is not a final judgment or an interlocutory order appealable as of right because it does not dispose of the case and determine the rights of the parties … Rather, an order of default is simply an interlocutory order that precludes the defaulting party from making any additional defenses to liability but in itself determines no rights or remedies … It is the entry of a default judgment, which the court did not enter in this case, that terminates the litigation and decides the dispute.

Therefore, in this case, without the entry of a judgment against Old Intercounty disposing of count IX of the complaint, all previous orders, including the order granting summary judgment, were interlocutory and could not be appealed without a finding by the court, pursuant to Rule 304(a), that there was no just reason to delay appeal. 210 Ill.2d R. 304(a). … Fidelity's notice of appeal was filed on July 5, 2006, within 30 days of the court's Rule 304(a) finding, and was therefore timely and properly invoked the jurisdiction of this court. According, we have jurisdiction to consider Fidelity's appeal.

Read the whole opinion, Fidelity National Title Ins. Co. v. Westhaven Properties Partnership, No. 1-06-1895 (10/26/07) (only recently posted), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

August 29, 2008

Seventh Circuit Dismisses Government Appeal Of Qualified Immunity Defense

Ahmad Khorrami claimed he was wrongfully detained and mistreated by the federal government in an investigation stemming from the 9/11 terrorist attack. Khorrami sued Michael Rolince, an FBI agent on whose affidavit Khorrami allegedly was detained, and the government. The lawsuit alleged multiple causes of action, including one against Rolince — Khorrami claimed Rolince’s affidavit was false — for violation of Fifth Amendment due process rights.

The government moved to dismiss the complaint (1) for failure to state a claim and (2) arguing that Rolince had qualified immunity for his affidavit. The trial court granted all aspects of the motion, except that it declined to rule on the government’s claim for qualified immunity. The government brought an interlocutory appeal, arguing there was qualified immunity and that the whole case should have been dismissed.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal. Because the immunity defense was postponed for later ruling by trial court, and not specifically ruled upon, there was not an order rejecting the immunity defense, which was a requirement for appeal. In addition, this was not a de facto denial of the immunity defense caused by a delay in ruling. The order setting aside the immunity ruling did not have a direct or irreparable impact on the merits of the case.

Get the whole case, Khorrami v. Rolince, No. 07-2755 (8/27/08), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

August 27, 2008

Certified Question Improper Under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308, But Appellate Court Takes Interlocutory Appeal Anyway

Jerry Walker suffered a personal injury when she fell while cruising on a Carnival Cruise Line ship. She sued Carnival in Illinois, but her ticket stated that disputes must be litigated in Miami, Florida. Carnival sought dismissal of Jerry’s lawsuit, arguing that Illinois was not the proper forum. The Illinois trial court ruled that the forum-selection provision on Jerry’s ticket was unenforceable, and denied Carnival’s motion.

Because an order denying a motion to dismiss is not final and appealable, Carnival asked for permission to appeal. The trial court allowed the interlocutory appeal, and, pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308, certified the following question for the appellate court to answer: “Whether the trial court erred in its application of law pertaining to its denial of Carnival's … motion to dismiss …”

Rule 308 interlocutory appeals are allowed when the trial court certifies “a question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion and where an immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.” The First District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that the question certified by the trial court was not a proper Rule 308 question.

Here, the first certified question, as framed by the circuit court, although properly couched in Rule 308 language, essentially asks this court to review the underlying order, finding the forum-selection clause unenforceable. This request is merely seeking a review of the trial court's application of the law to a given set of facts rather than a properly written certified question which articulates a specific question of law.

Citing the “interest of judicial economy and reaching an equitable result,” the appellate court decided to take the appeal despite the improper certified question. In the end, the court ruled that Carnival’s forum-selection provision was enforceable. Read the whole case, Walker v. Carnival Cruise Lines, No. 1-07-3538 (5/21/08) by clicking here. (Free subscription through Lexis One required.)

Bookmark and Share

June 30, 2008

No Abuse Of Discretion In Finding Law Firm Waived Right To Arbitration

Jeffrey Woods and three associated parties had a dispute with the Patterson Law firm. The law firm claimed Woods et al. owed $47,000 for legal fees; Woods claimed the law firm committed legal malpractice. The law firm sued for the fees, but voluntarily dismissed its case. Woods then sued for malpractice.

In the malpractice case, the law firm raised an affirmative defense that its agreement with Woods required arbitration of “[a]ny controversy, dispute or claim arising out of or relating to our fees, charges, performance of legal services …” But the firm also made two motions to dismiss the case, filed a demand for a bill of particulars, served interrogatories on plaintiff, and issued a subpoena for documents to a third-party.

After all that, the firm asked the court to compel arbitration of the dispute. The trial court ruled that the law firm waived its right to compel arbitration because it participated so heavily in Woods’s lawsuit. The law firm appealed the denial of its attempt to compel the arbitration.

The appeal was pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307(a), which permits interlocutory appeals as of right from an order granting, modifying, refusing, dissolving, or refusing to dissolve or modify an injunction. The First District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that “a motion to compel arbitration is analogous to a motion for injunctive relief," and that the standard of review is “abuse of discretion.”

The appeal evoked three separate opinions from the three-judge panel. Two of the opinions agreed with the trial court so the waiver ruling was affirmed. One judge dissented.

The primary opinion discussed some of the policy considerations involved in waiver of a claim to arbitrate: “Illinois courts disfavor a finding of waiver … However, the right to compel arbitration of a dispute can be waived as with any other contractual right … Illinois courts will find waiver of a party's right to compel arbitration when a party's conduct is inconsistent with an arbitration clause, thus indicating an abandonment of the right to arbitration … Additionally, a party waives its right to arbitrate by submitting arbitrable issues to a court for decision … Illinois courts also consider the delay in a party's assertion of its right to arbitrate and any prejudice the delay caused the plaintiff …”

This opinion stated that overlooking waiver might result in heavier costs for the parties to resolve the dispute; parties would be motivated to take discovery in the lawsuit, to which they might not be entitled in the arbitration, then demand arbitration. All of that would defeat an important purpose of arbitration – saving the costs of litigation.

The dissent saw the more important policy as encouraging arbitration. The dissent also was concerned that “the plaintiffs are trying to slip out of their contractual duty to arbitrate. We should not let it happen. I believe the trial court abused its discretion when it denied the defendants' motion to compel arbitration.”

Read the whole opinion, Woods v. Patterson Law Firm, No. 1-08-0066 (3/31/08), by clicking here. (The Public Law Library; free account required.)

Bookmark and Share

March 5, 2008

Illinois Supreme Court Rules De Novo Standard Of Review Applies To Permissive Review Of Conflict Of Law Question

Michelle Townsend brought a product liability case Sears Roebuck on behalf of her minor son Jacob. Jacob was badly injured when he was run over by a lawn tractor operated in his yard. Sears allegedly designed and manufactured the tractor.

The accident happened in Michigan, where Michelle and Jacob resided. But Sears was domiciled in Illinois and made certain design and marketing decisions in Illinois. The parties fought over whether Illinois or Michigan law applied.

The trial court ruled that Illinois law applied. Pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308, the trial court certified the question of the proper choice of law for immediate interlocutory appeal. The appellate court accepted the appeal, and affirmed the decision to apply Illinois law.

Sears appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which reversed and ruled that Michigan law should be applied to liability and damages issues.

The parties disputed the proper standard of review. Sears argued for de novo review, the usual standard for certified questions of law. But Michelle claimed that the choice of law issue presented questions of law and fact. She asserted therefore that a more deferential standard of review — manifest weight of the evidence — should be applied to a choice of law determination.

The Illinois Supreme Court agreed with Sears, and applied the de novo standard of review. “The circuit court did not hold an evidentiary hearing, weigh the testimony or assess the credibility of witnesses; the record consists solely of documents. Where the circuit court does not hear testimony and bases its decision on documentary evidence, the rationale underlying a deferential standard of review is inapplicable and review is de novo … In any event, while the methodology of the Second Restatement of Conflict of Laws may raise factual issues, the task of evaluating and balancing the choice-of-law principles embodied in the Second Restatement, as they apply to the facts, is a matter of law rather than fact and one that is more properly left to the judge … Because these issues ‘involve the selection, interpretation, and application of legal precepts,’ review is de novo…”

Read the whole case, Townsend v. Sears, Roebuck and Co., No. 103858 (11/29/07), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

December 12, 2007

Fifth District Illinois Appellate Court Without Jurisdiction To Allow Permissive Appeal Of Forum Motion

Janet Chochorowski rented a power tiller from a Home Depot in Missouri. She claimed she did not want to purchase a damage waiver, but that she was charged for it anyway. She turned her grievance into a class action lawsuit in Illinois.

Janet’s breach of contract and unjust enrichment claims were dismissed. That left her with a single claim under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. Home Depot moved to dismiss the complaint on the basis of forum non conveniens. The trial court denied the motion, but on a permissive interlocutory appeal, the appellate court reversed. Chochorowski asked for and was granted a rehearing.

On rehearing, the appellate court considered whether it had jurisdiction to review Home Depot’s forum non conveniens motion made pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 306(a)(4) (allowing a permissive appeal “from the denial of a motion for transfer of venue to a court within another county in the state.") The Fifth District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that Home Depot sought to have the case re-filed in Missouri, not transferred to another Illinois county. Thus, the court ruled that it did not have “authority to grant leave to appeal from the nonfinal order disposing of that issue.” That part of Home Depot’s appeal was dismissed.

Read the whole case, Chochorowski v. Home Depot U.S.A., No. 5-06-0308 (9/21/07), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

December 4, 2007

Illinois Supreme Court Vacates Appellate Ruling On Interlocutory Order.

In a battle between insurance company titans, State Farm sued Illinois Farmers for a declaration that the “step down” provisions in the Farmers’ automobile policies were unenforceable because they were against public policy. (“Step down” provisions allow the insurer to reduce policy limits when the driver of the insured vehicle is neither a family member nor a listed driver.) Farmers moved to dismiss the complaint, claiming the step down provisions were clear and unambiguous. State Farm moved for partial summary judgment, claiming that the step down provisions were against public policy.

The trial court denied Farmers’ motion to dismiss, and granted State Farm’s motion for partial summary judgment. So the judgment that was entered only concerned the public policy issue. The trial court also entered Rule 304(a) language, allowing an interlocutory appeal.

Farmers appealed the public policy ruling. In its brief, Farmers also advanced its ambiguity argument. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that the step down provisions were not contrary to public policy. Over objection by State Farm, the appellate court ruled that the ambiguity argument was properly before the court. The appellate court ruled that the Farmers policy was not ambiguous.

State Farm then appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed the public policy ruling. But the court vacated the ambiguity ruling because denying a motion to dismiss does not render a final judgment. “It is well established that the jurisdiction of appellate
courts is limited to reviewing appeals from final judgments, subject to
statutory or supreme court rule exceptions … none of which are present in
this case. It is also well settled in this state that a trial court’s denial of
a motion to dismiss is an interlocutory order that is not final and
appealable … Because the appellate court lacked jurisdiction to review the
ambiguity and direct action issues, those portions of the appellate
court’s decision are vacated.”

You can read the whole case, State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Illinois Farmers Ins. Co., No. 103816 (9/20/07), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

November 1, 2007

Special Concurrence In IRMO Duggan Argues (1) No Retroactive Application For Amended Supreme Court Rule And (2) Postdissolution Petitions Are New Actions

Recapping the previous two blog entries, a majority of the Illinois Second District Appellate Court held: (1) An amendment to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 303(a) applied retroactively so that a premature Notice of Appeal preserved appellate jurisdiction. (See entry 10/29/07, two below.) (2) Separate postdissolution petitions in a divorce case present new claims, but not new actions, so a Rule 304(a) order must be issued to appeal a ruling on fewer than all of the issues. (See entry 10/30/07, directly below.)

The opinion was not without criticism. A special concurrence drew exactly opposite conclusions.

On the question of the retroactive application of the amendment to Rule 303(a), the Concurrence stated that Tamara had a vested right in the trial court’s judgment. That mitigated against a retroactive application of the amendment. To the contrary, the majority applied the amendment retroactively to this case, which allowed Darrell to appeal.

Without applying the amendment to this case, Darrell’s Notice of Appeal would have been premature and insufficient to establish appellate jurisdiction. The Concurrence stated: “Because the parties had a vested right in the final judgment the amendment to Rule 303 cannot operate retroactively to bestow us with jurisdiction to interfere with that right.”

The Concurrence also argued that Tamara’s petition for increased child support was a separate action, not just a separate claim within the same action, from Darrell’s request for a change in visitation. The Concurrence is immersed in lengthy case law analysis that is difficult to write about concisely in this space. Suffice it to say that the Concurrence reached an opinion 180 degrees different from the majority based on the very same case law.

To read the Concurrence, and the rest of the opinion in IRMO Duggan, No. 2-06-0061 (10/16/07), click here.

Bookmark and Share

October 30, 2007

Postdissolution Petitions Present New Claims, But Not New Actions

We continue with IRMO Duggan. (For Part One, with an explanation of the case facts, see blog entry of 10/29/07, directly below.) The next question the court took on was whether Tamara’s support petition and Darrell’s petition to set a visitation schedule presented (1) new claims in the same action, or (2) new and separate actions. Recall that Darrell appealed the child support order while his petition to set a visitation schedule still was pending. And the trial court did not issue a Rule 304(a) order (no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal of the judgment).

If the petitions presented new actions, as Darrell argued, then he could appeal the support order even if there was no ruling on the visitation petition. Indeed, he would have to. But Tamara argued that the petitions were different claims in the same action. If Tamara were right, then a Rule 304(a) order would be necessary to provide the basis for jurisdiction for Darrell to appeal the child support judgment while the visitation petition still was pending. (Rule 304(a) language is necessary to appeal a final order of fewer than all pending claims.)

The appellate court ruled that the petitions were “appropriately treated as new claims within the dissolution action. This approach enables the trial court to better serve the needs of families caught up in the often-painful aftermath of divorce by considering all of the relevant pre- and postdissolution proceedings together, rather than in isolation, and is consistent with the previous decisions of Illinois courts.”

So why did the court engage in so lengthy an analysis of this question, or even decide it at all? After all, Darrell was on the losing side here, but his appeal was saved by the retroactive application of the amendment to Rule 303(a), which allows a prematurely filed Notice of Appeal to establish appellate jurisdiction. (See blog entry for 10/29/07, directly below, for a fuller explanation.) Perhaps the court was not confident the retroactivity ruling would survive Illinois Supreme Court review. So providing an answer to the “one claim or new actions” question would obviate more briefing in the appellate court in the event of a reversal in the Illinois Supreme Court on the retroactivity question.

Next we’ll look at the special concurrence, which takes issue with the majority on the appellate jurisdiction issues. You can get the whole opinion, IRMO Duggan, No. 2-06-0061 (10/16/07), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

October 22, 2007

7th Circuit Dismisses Appeal Of Remand After District Court Denies Immunity Request

James Foster claimed he was beaten by Corpsman Kirk Hill at a Naval Training Center. Foster sued Hill in the Illinois state court. Invoking the Westfall Act (United States shall be substituted as a party when a federal employee is sued in tort for actions in course of employment, if the Attorney General agrees), Hill petitioned for the United States to take his place as a party. When the Attorney General declined, Hill petitioned the state court to find that his actions were within the scope of his employment.

The United States then filed a petition for removal, as the Westfall Act permits. The federal district court agreed that Hill was not acting within the scope of his employment duties. The federal court thus dismissed Hill’s petition for substitution and, as required by the Westfall Act, remanded the case to state court. However, the district court’s opinion did not specifically state the basis for remand.

Hill appealed the district court’s ruling. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The general basis for the dismissal was 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d), which states that a remand order to the state court, based upon lack of subject matter jurisdiction, is not reviewable on appeal. In the absence of a statement stating the basis for remand, the appellate court ruled that it would presume lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The appellate court identified the problems caused by its ruling: “… [A] federal employee [Hill] will now resume defending litigation even though there is a chance that the Westfall Act purports to grant him immunity from suit. If we were permitted to consider that claim of immunity, the question could be settled once and for all. But whether this defendant should be immune from suit is a question that Congress and our circuit precedent prevent us from even considering. Meanwhile, the plaintiff has waited five years for a legal remedy, which today is no closer than it was in 2005 when the case was first removed to the district court.…”

You can read the whole opinion, Foster v. Hill, 497 F.3d 695, No. 06-2651 (8/13/07), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

October 8, 2007

First District Illinois Appellate Denies Guardian Right To Test Trial Court’s Authority To Temporarily Release Guardianship Power

Glen Dresher appealed from a court’s decision to temporarily release him from co-guardianship of his adult, disabled son. The guardian ad litem for the son moved to dismiss the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The appellate court agreed with the guardian and dismissed the appeal.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that there was not a final order from which to appeal. “… [T]he sole issue pending before the court was Glen’s status as guardian, and that status was only temporarily revoked until a final adjudication could be made after a hearing on the citation to remove him.”

In addition, the trial court had ruled, under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a), that there was no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal of its order. That mechanism frequently is used in Illinois to permit an interlocutory appeal of an order that disposes of a claim or a party, but not the entire case. But the appellate court stated that the use of Rule 304(a) language here was improper. “Although the [trial] court stated in one of its orders that there was ‘no just cause or reason to delay enforcement or appeal,’ the addition of that language did not alter the fact that the court’s orders were not final as to any claim or party and were, thus, not subject to Rule 304(a).”

The appellate court also rejected Glen’s appeal under Rule 306(a)(5) (permitting a party to petition for an interlocutory appeal of from order affecting the care and custody of unemancipated minors). There was no dispute that Glen’s son was of adult age.

But Glen argued that his son should be “considered an ‘unemancipated minor’ because ‘prior to the age of 18 years he became disabled and [was] required to be put in a care facility in Wisconsin where he remains to this date.” Glen concluded that his son never became emancipated. Rejecting this argument as “unsupportable,” the appeallate court stated: “At best, Glen’s contentions involve the definition of the term ‘unemancipated’ but ignore the further requirement of Rule 306(a)(5) that the person who is unemancipated also be a minor.

All of this leaves a party who is “temporarily” relieved of guardianship without recourse in the appellate court. That’s an interesting twist in light of Glen’s substantive argument that the Probate Act does not give the trial court authority to order temporary release of guardianship. By this case, there is no way to test the trial court’s authority.

You can read the whole case, In re Guardianship of J.D., 1-06-3069 (9/28/07), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

September 4, 2007

Failure By Trial Court Clerk To Mail Order Does Not Relieve 30-Day Deadline To Appeal

Teresa De Bouse brought a class action case against Bayer AG, claiming that Bayer misrepresented Baycol, a pharmaceutical that Bayer marketed to consumers. Teresa’s class certification motion was granted in the trial court. But the trial court clerk neglected to mail the order to the parties. Bayer’s lawyers did not learn about the order granting certification until long past the 30-day deadline to petition for appeal of class certification rulings in Illinois Supreme Court Rule 306(a)(8).

To give Bayer the opportunity to appeal the certification ruling, the trial court vacated its original order nunc pro tunc and reentered it. That action by the trial court came more than 30 days after the original ruling.

Bayer appealed the certification order. The Fifth District Illinois Appellate Court dismissed the appeal of the class certification ruling, and rejected each of Bayer’s arguments:

• Coming more than 30 days after its original ruling, the “… trial court lacked authority to vacate and reenter the same order … in order to excuse compliance with the filing requirements of Rule 306.”
• The appellate court also ruled that the nunc pro tunc order was improper because it was not entered to “conform the order to the ruling actually rendered … Its only purpose was to restart the 30-day appeals clock.”
• The trial court clerk’s neglect in mailing the certification order to Bayer, despite a local rule requiring the clerk to do so, did not provide the trial court with authority to allow additional time to seek an appeal. “… [L]ocal rules may not be construed to modify, limit, abrogate, or otherwise conflict with the Illinois Supreme Court rules and the existing laws of Illinois.”
• The appellate court did not believe Bayer’s claims of detrimental reliance on the trial court clerk. The court stated that Bayer had “ample opportunities” to inspect the court record and to inquire about the status of the certification motion.

The daunting lesson here is: You are responsible for learning when rulings are issued. The failure of the court clerk to mail a ruling to you does not give you a basis to extend a deadline to appeal, a friendly and sympathetic judge notwithstanding. Read the whole case, De Bouse v. Bayer AG, No. 5-06-0077 (6/13/07), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

August 25, 2007

Motion To Reconsider Does Not Toll 30-Day Deadline To Petition For Interlocutory Appeal

Defendant Mortgage Exchange allegedly sent unauthorized faxes to solicit business. Plaintiff CE Design, apparently annoyed at receiving the faxes, sued under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. CE attempted to make the case a class action, but its motion to certify a class was denied.

CE moved for reconsideration of the order denying class certification within 30 days. That motion was denied more than three months later. CE then petitioned for leave to appeal pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 306, which allows discretionary interlocutory appeals of denials of class certification motions.

Mortgage Exchange moved to dismiss the petition, arguing that the petition was filed more than 30 days after the order denying class certification, thus depriving the appellate court of jurisdiction. CE argued that its motion for reconsideration tolled the time to petition for an appeal.

The Illinois Second District Court of Appeals granted the motion to dismiss. The general rule is: “[M]otions to reconsider that are directed at interlocutory orders identified by certain subsections of Rule 306(a) do not toll the running of the 30-day deadline to petition for leave to appeal those orders.” The appellate court declined to make an exception for orders concerning class certification.

Read the whole case, CE Design v. Mortgage Exchange, No. 2-07-0318 (7/22/07), by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share

August 16, 2007

Fourth District Illinois Appellate Rules Abuse Of Discretion To Order Interlocutory Appeal

Kenneth Stark and Vesta Stark, both elderly, were married. Vesta suffered from Alzheimers disease. Kenneth died and left substantial money to the Southern Illinois University Foundation and the Shriner’s Hospital for Children. The will left nothing to Vesta, but did contain a statement that “adequate and suitable” provisions were made for Vesta from resources outside of the assets identified in the will. And the facts did show that Vesta was well taken care of.

Vesta gave power of attorney to her son, Mark. On Vesta’s behalf, Mark filed a renunciation of Kenneth’s will. By renouncing the will, Vesta stood to take a one-half share of Kenneth’s estate, more than $2.3 million.

SIU and Shriner’s petitioned to vacate the renunciation. The parties moved for partial summary judgment. SIU and Shriner’s argued that Mark did not act “for the benefit of” Vesta in renouncing the will, as is required by the Illinois Power of Attorney Act. Mark argued the opposite.

Mark’s summary judgment motion was granted “on the assumption that the power of attorney was valid.” The trial court reserved for further proceedings the question of whether Vesta was competent when she gave power of attorney to Mark. The trial court also ruled that there was no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal of the summary judgment rulings, thus allowing for an interlocutory appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a).

The parties did not question appellate jurisdiction, but the appellate court raised the question of the propriety of the interlocutory appeal on its own. The opinion analyzes when there really is “no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal” of an interlocutory order.

In this case, the appellate court stated it was an abuse of discretion for the trial court to allow an interlocutory appeal. The court stated that the will renunciation was conditioned on the existence of a properly executed power of attorney, and the propriety of the power of attorney was conditioned upon Vesta’s competence when she signed. “Were the power of attorney to be held invalid, the question of whether a renunciation would have been for the benefit of Vesta would be moot, making a resolution on the merits of this instant appeal purely advisory.”

You can read the whole opinion, In re Estate of Stark, 4-06-0778 (6/21/07),by clicking here.

Bookmark and Share