Unsuccessful Candidate’s Reconsideration Request Under Wrong Statute Tolls Time To Appeal Defamation Dismissal

John Garrido lost an election to the Chicago City Council to John Arena. Garrido claimed he was defamed because Arena distributed campaign literature and advertisements that had “outright lies” about Garrido.

Garrido sued Arena, but the trial court dismissed the case based on the Illinois Citizen Participation Act. (The Act bars meritless lawsuits filed against citizens for their actions while exercising their First Amendment speech rights.) Within the next 30 days, Garrido asked the trial court to reconsider the dimissal. But Garrido’s request was brought under Illinois Code of Civil Procedure Section 2-1401, which is the section that applies to requests for reinstatement of cases dismissed more than 30 days before.

Garrido’s case had been dismissed for more than 30 days when he asked to amend his 2-1401 request to show it was intended to be brought under Section 2-1203, the correct statute, which does toll the time to appeal. The trial court allowed Garrido’s request to amend, but denied the request to reconsider the dismissal.

Garrido appealed. Arena argued there was no appellate jurisdiction. He asked the appellate court to dismiss the appeal because the only request for reconsideration that was made within 30 days of the dismissal was under section 2-1401, which does not toll the 30-day deadline to appeal. But the First District Illinois Appellate Court denied Arena’s request to dismiss the appeal because:

[Arena] misconstrue[d] both the nature of plaintiff’s [Garrido’s] postjudgment filings and the standard by which the circuit [trial] court must evaluate postjudgment motions … [T]he new [2-1203] motion merely corrected the relevant statutory citations in the first [2-1401] motion. More importantly, even had plaintiff not filed an amended motion, the circuit court would in any event have been required to evaluate plaintiff’s original October 7 [2-1401] motion under the correct statute [2-1203] … The only important fact for the purpose of our jurisdiction is that plaintiff filed a postjudgment motion within 30 days of the judgment, which tolled the time for filing a notice of appeal …

For purposes of tolling the time to appeal, it did not matter that Garrido asked the court to reconsider the dismissal under authority of the wrong statute. So Garrido lost the election, but won the fight over appellate jurisdiction. He also prevailed on the substance of the appeal. The appellate court reversed the dismissal of his lawsuit.

Read the whole case, Garrido v. Arena, 2013 IL App (1st) 120466 (6/18/13), by clicking here.