“Necessary Step” Exception Overcomes Deficient Notice Of Appeal

Two residents of the Elgin [Illinois] Mental Health Center, both committed to the unit for the criminally insane, challenged certain policies at the Center that limited or prohibited their access to their property and money. The residents asked for summary judgment. But their motion raised events that were not alleged in their complaint, and some that involved a patient who was not a plaintiff in the case. The Center filed its own motion for summary judgment, and also asked the trial court to strike the parts of the residents’ motion that raised the new allegations.

The trial court granted summary judgment to the Center, and granted the Center’s motion to strike the allegations that were raised for the first time in the residents’ motion for summary judgment. The court also denied the residents’ summary judgment request.

The residents appealed. But their notice of appeal did not state they were appealing the order granting the Center’s motion to strike the new allegations in the residents’ summary judgment motion. So the First District Illinois Appellate Court initially considered whether it had jurisdiction to hear an appeal of that order.

The appellate court acknowledged the basic proposition in Illinois Supreme Court Rule 303(b)(2) that states “unequivocally that a proper notice of appeal ‘shall specify the judgment or part thereof or other orders appealed from and the relief sought from the reviewing court.’” An improper notice of appeal would deprive the appellate court of jurisdiction.

But the court ruled there was an “exception for rulings that were necessary steps to the judgment named in the notice.” In this case, the court found that the order striking the new allegations was a “necessary step” in reaching the Center’s summary judgment. So the court accepted jurisdiction over the appeal. Here is the court’s ruling.

The [necessary step] exception applies to this case. In its summary judgment ruling, the trial court held that there was no issue of material fact for trial. Striking some of the issues raised in plaintiffs’ … motion for summary judgment was a necessary step to finding that there was no issue of material fact.

The residents’ victory on jurisdiction was fleeting. The appellate court ultimately ruled that the trial court was correct to strike the new allegations in the residents’ motion. Read the whole opinion, Filiung v. Adams, No. 1-07-2787 (12/1/08), by clicking here.