Judgment Creditors Can’t Toll Time To Appeal By Asking For An Interlocutory Appeal

The D’Agostinos were embroiled in prolonged litigation with Lynch and his lawyers. After a summary judgment for more than $1.9 million in the D’Agostinos’s favor, they began supplemental proceedings to collect. More litigation ensued, including an appeal, concerning a contempt proceeding against Lynch.

After all of that was resolved, the D’Agostinos issued citations to Murphy and Bryan Cave, respectively a lawyer and a law firm who had represented Lynch. Their theory was that Lynch, to avoid paying the D’Agostinos, had given the lawyers money. Their motion to compel Murphy and Bryan Cave to turn over the money was denied on November 7, 2007.

Within 30 days, the D’Agostinos filed a “Motion to Amend Memorandum and Judgment.” That motion asked for a finding under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a) (permitting an immediate interlocutory appeal). That motion was granted on December 12, 2007. And within 30 days, the D’Agostinos appealed the denial of the original turnover motion.

Murphy and Bryan Cave moved to dismiss the appeal. They argued that the November 7 order was final in “a section 2-1402 proceeding [citation proceeding by a judgment creditor] and that, therefore, under Rule 304(b)(4), it was immediately appealable without a special finding [under Rule 304(a)]” Because the appeal was filed more than 30 days after the November 7 order, the lawyers argued, the appellate court did not have jurisdiction over the case.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court agreed. “Here, the order in question foreclosed the D’Agostinos from collecting the funds in question from Murphy and Bryan Cave. Therefore, it was final and immediately appealable under Rule 304(b)(4). Because the D’Agostinos failed to file a notice of appeal from the November 7, 2007 order within 30 days, this court is without jurisdiction to review the order.”

The D’Agostinos argued that their motion to amend was a proper attack on the judgment, and thus extended the time to file their appeal. But the appellate court disagreed.

In order for a postjudgment motion to have the effect of tolling the time in which to appeal the judgment, that motion must be “directed against the judgment.” … A motion is said to be directed against the judgment when it attacks the judgment in one of the statutorily authorized ways, which include by requesting rehearing, retrial, modification, or vacation of the judgment … The party may also request “other relief” so long as that motion requests a change in the reasons underlying the judgment along the lines of the enumerated forms of relief … Here, the D’Agostino’s “Motion to Amend Memorandum Decision and Judgment” does not attack the judgment or its underlying rationale but, rather, accepts it and requests a Rule 304(a) finding. However, a Rule 304(a) finding was not necessary because of Rule 304(b)(4). … Therefore, it did not have the effect of tolling the time in which to appeal.

Read the whole case, D’Agostino v. Lymch, No. 1-08-0140 (5/7/08), by clicking here.