Rules After Remand; Jurisdiction Over Fee Petition After Appeal Notice Is Filed

Two important rulings arise from this landlord-tenant dispute.

After remand from the appellate court — which did not include instructions for how to proceed — the tenant asked the trial court for leave to amend its complaint to add a new item of damages. The trial court denied the tenant’s request because, it said, it did not have jurisdiction to do so.

Must the appellate court give specific directions to the trial court in an order of remand? The First District Illinois Appellate Court said “No.” Then what is the trial court’s authority and obligation after the appellate court sends the case back to the trial court? Here’s how the appellate court answered the question, complete with the standard of review:

Following a remand, the circuit court is obligated to exercise its discretion within the bounds of the remand … Whether it has done so is a question of law, and a reviewing court decides that legal question de novo …

A reviewing court is not required to provide specific directions in an order reversing a judgment and remanding a cause … In such a case, the circuit court is required to examine the reviewing court’s decision and to proceed in a manner that conforms with the views expressed therein. … Where a cause has been remanded without particular instructions, the circuit court is not precluded from allowing the plaintiff to amend or supplement his pleadings, as long as the amendment is not inconsistent with the legal principles expressed by the reviewing court …

In this case, our prior decision did not include specific instructions, nor did it indicate that the cause was remanded for the limited purpose of resolving the two identified factual questions. Rather, we held that judgment on count IV could not be granted as a matter of law while those questions remained unanswered … A plaintiff is permitted to amend its pleadings to specifically state a damage claim, provided the amendment was not proscribed by the reviewing court’s decision … This court’s general remand order did not restrict the court’s jurisdiction to allow amendment of the pleadings, and Suburban’s proposed amendment seeking recovery of rent was not inconsistent with the our prior ruling. Therefore, we find that the circuit court erred in determining that it lacked jurisdiction to permit Suburban’s proposed second amended complaint.

The second issue was whether the trial court had jurisdiction over a fee petition that was filed within 30 days of the final judgment, but after the notice of appeal was filed. The trial court ruled it did not have jurisdiction to hear the fee petition because the tenant already appealed. But the appellate court disagreed. Here is the appellate court’s thinking:

A circuit court retains jurisdiction for 30 days after its entry of a final order or judgment … A circuit court has jurisdiction to entertain a petition for fees filed within 30 days of the entry of a final judgment without regard to a previously filed notice of appeal … In addition, a circuit court has jurisdiction to address a timely-filed fee petition regardless of whether the fee request is considered to be part of the original action or collateral to the original claim … The filing of a postjudgment petition for fees renders a prior notice of appeal premature …

In this case, Associated’s [Landlord] petition for fees was timely filed within 30 days of the entry of summary judgment in its favor. The filing of Associated’s fee petition rendered Suburban’s [Tenant] December 17, 2007, notice of appeal premature. Therefore, Suburban’s first notice of appeal did not deprive the circuit court of jurisdiction to rule on the petition for fees …

Read the whole case, Suburban Rebuilders v. Associated Tile Dealers Warehouse, No. 1-07-3531 (2/10/09), by clicking here.