Articles Posted in Inter-District Squabbles

Elizabeth Demaret got a better job in New Jersey, so she wanted to move there from Illinois with her children. She had sole custody of her four children. James, her ex-husband, had parenting time in accord with a parenting agreement that an Illinois trial court incorporated into the divorce judgment.

Elizabeth asked the trial court for permission to move the children to New Jersey. James fought the request because he felt his time with the children would suffer and diminish. He asked the trial court to award him attorney fees he would incur fighting Elizabeth’s removal request.

The trial court denied Elizabeth’s request to move the children to New Jersey. Elizabeth appealed, but James’s fee request still was pending in the trial court. James argued that was enough to deprive the appellate court of jurisdiction to consider the appeal ― that is, (1) no appellate jurisdiction because (2) the order denying Elizabeth’s request to move the children was not final and appealable because (3) James’s fee petition still was pending in the trial court.

Neil Ehlers worked as a salesman for Sunbelt Rentals, a seller and renter of industrial equipment. After about five years, Ehlers left Sunbelt and went to work for Midwest Aerials & Equipment, a company that competed with Sunbelt. Sunbelt sued Ehlers and Midwest to enforce restrictive covenants in Sunbelt’s employment agreement with Ehlers. Sunbelt got a preliminary injunction against Ehlers and Midwest, who then appealed.

One of the issues on appeal was whether the trial court properly followed the “legitimate business interest” test when it analyzed the propriety of the restrictive covenants. That test had been used by Illinois appellate courts for more than 30 years.

But the Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that it didn’t matter because the “legitimate business interest” test had been “spun out of whole cloth” and never had been adopted by the Illinois Supreme Court. The appellate court ruled it was not constrained to abide a standard set by other state appellate courts despite 30 years of acceptance and use. Here’s the court’s rationale:

The O’Briens were involved in a divorce case. John O’Brien questioned some of the actions of the trial judge and thought the judge was biased. John asked for substitution of the judge. John’s request was heard by a second judge, who denied it because of a lack of evidence of prejudice.

The case went back to the first judge, held a trial on the divorce petition. The court ruled that John should make child support and maintenance payments to Lisa. After an unsuccessful reconsideration motion, John appealed.

John wanted to contest the denial of his request for substitution. But John’s notice of appeal only stated he was appealing from the denial of his reconsideration motion “and all prior orders of court culminating therein.” The issue was whether that notice of appeal was sufficient to give the appellate court jurisdiction to consider John’s request for another judge.

Can the Second District Appellate Court review an order issued by the First District? Sure, if it’s an interlocutory order, not law of the case. Here’s what the Second District said about this:

“There is but one appellate court … Thus, a panel of the Second District of the Appellate Court revisiting, during the course of an ongoing appeal, an issue that a panel of the First District of the same court implicitly addressed in ruling on the motions to transfer is no different from a successor trial judge revisiting the interlocutory decision of the trial judge he succeeded. Consequently, we reject the foregoing arguments by Ameren, ComEd, and the ICC that the law-of-the-case doctrine precludes our dismissal of case Nos. 2–06–0149 and 4–06– 0118.”

The case is Commonwealth Edison Co. v. ICC, 2-06-149 (2006), and you can get it here.

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