Articles Posted in Mootness

The Eckersalls’ divorce included a fight over custody of their children. The couple agreed on a visitation schedule, but not on the terms and conditions of visitation. So the trial court entered a standard “Custody/Visitation Injunction Order” that in essence prevented either spouse from addressing the divorce case with the children.

Catherine Eckersall appealed the order because she felt it interfered with her parenting rights. The First District Illinois Appellate Court dismissed the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The court ruled that the custody/visitation injunction order was not really an injunction and could not be appealed before the end of the lawsuit. After that appeal was dismissed, the trial court finalized the Eckersalls’ divorce.

But Catherine was still upset about the custody/visitation order. She appealed the appellate court’s dismissal to the Illinois Supreme Court. The supreme court took the case, but in the end ruled that the custody/visitation order was moot because it was superseded by the trial court’s final divorce order.

Chester Bross Construction Company was the low bidder on a number of Illinois Department of Transportation projects. But instead of awarding Bross the work, the Department suspended Bross from competing for any Department contracts for two years. The suspension was based on a dispute over whether Bross complied with a required internship program.

Bross asked the trial court to review the Department’s two-year suspension order. Bross appealed after the trial court sustained the suspension.

The two-year suspension expired while the case still was pending in the appellate court. So the first question the Fourth District Illinois Court of Appeals had to answer was whether Bross’s appeal was moot. [ “An issue is moot if no actual controversy exists or where events occur which make it impossible for the court to grant effectual relief.”]

More than 58 percent of the voters in Country Club Hills, Illinois passed a referendum that reduced the number of city aldermen from 10 to five. About three weeks later, a group of unhappy aldermen sued the county clerk. They asked the trial court for a preliminary injunction to void the referendum because, they argued, the clerk exceeded her authority by not including certain language on the ballot.

Two weeks later, the trial court denied the injunction request because the discontented aldermen still had time to file as independent candidates for one of the five alderman positions.

Instead, the aldermen appealed. They asked the appellate court to void the referendum result and to place the question, with the disputed language, on the next ballot. That election, at which the voters elected five aldermen, was held about four months later, while the appeal was still pending.

Melissa Ramskugler had passed Wisconsin’s requirements to qualify as a police officer, but was still in the probationary period required by the Milwaukee Board of Fire & Police Commissioners. Knee injuries prevented her from finishing probation. She was fired because her medical condition prevented her from getting through probation.

Wisconsin statutes have mandatory procedures for terminating police officers. But the Board, taking the position that Ramskugler was not a “member of the force” because she had not completed probation, did not follow the state statutory procedures when it let Ramskugler go. So she and the Milwaukee Police Association sued the Board for depriving her of property without due process.

The Board asked for, and was given summary judgment by the trial court against Ramskugler. She and the Police Association appealed. While the appeal was pending in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Ramskugler settled her dispute with the Board. The Police Association wanted to continue the appeal despite the settlement. So the settlement allowed the Police Association to continue the appeal in hopes of getting a declaration that the Board did not have authority to ignore the procedures set out in the Wisconsin statutes.

Michael Hooker suffered a debilitating injury while working for the Chicago Fire Department. After he died two years later, his widow, Elaine, applied to the Retirement Board of the Firemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund for widow’s benefits. She was awarded a minimum annuity, but she felt the Board did not include all of the money she was entitled to when calculating the amount of the annuity.

The original case went to the appellate court and then back to the trial court. Elaine filed an amended complaint that asked for recalculation of the annuity based upon an Illinois statute that became law after she filed the first complaint. She argued she was entitled to certain retroactive benefits.

The trial court gave summary judgment to the Board on its method of calculating the annuity. Elaine appealed. She died after the appeal was filed, but her estate carried on the appeal.

A group of citizens sued the City of South Bend, Indiana to prevent the city from giving land to a Catholic high school. The citizens claimed that giving the high school land was a gift of property to a religious institution, and violated the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment’s establishment clause. The federal trial court ordered a preliminary injunction against transferring the property.

Rather than appeal, the City asked the trial court to modify the injunction to allow the City to sell the property to the school at an appraised value. The trial court denied the City’s request, ruling that the property should be sold to the highest bidder.

The City did not appeal that ruling either. Instead, it asked for another modification to open up bidding on the property. The court allowed that request. The school ended up purchasing the property as high bidder, and the trial court dissolved the injunction.

Joe Rivera tried to run for an elected position as alderman in Chicago. But the Chicago Electoral Board upheld an objection to Rivera’s petition, preventing him from appearing on the election ballot.

Rivera then filed a petition in the trial court for review of the Board’s decision. Rather than serving the petition on the individual Board members or the Objectors, Rivera served their lawyers. The Objectors and the Board asked the trial court to dismiss Rivera’s petition because, they argued, the Illinois Election Code required Rivera to serve them personally, not through their attorneys.

The trial court agreed, and dismissed Rivera’s petition. Rivera appealed, but the election had passed by the time the appellate court considered the case. So the first question was whether the appeal was moot because it was impossible for the appellate court to reinstate Rivera to the election ballot.

Nicholas L. had been living at the Elmhurst Memorial Hospital for about a month when the State of Illinois filed a petition to administer electroconvulsive therapy and psychotropic medication. The trial court heard testimony on the State’s petition, then ruled in favor of the State.

Nicholas appealed, arguing that the State did not comply with the Mental Health and Disabilities Code because it did not give Nicholas written notification of alternative treatments. The State first argued the appeal was moot because the trial court’s order allowing the State’s petition already had expired. Nicholas argued the appellate court should consider the case anyway because the public-interest exception to the mootness doctrine applied. Because the question in the case involved the State’s compliance with the Mental Health Code, the Second District Illinois Appellate Court agreed with Nicholas and heard the appeal. Here is the appellate court’s rationale.

[T]he question presented by respondent [Nicholas] involves the issue of statutory compliance and thus qualifies as a matter of a public nature. Moreover, the vast number of cases addressing the issue of compliance with section 2-102(a-5) [requiring the State to give the patient information about alternative treatments] … indicates both a need for an authoritative determination for the future guidance of public officers and the likelihood of future recurrence … We also confirm respondent’s assertion that no published opinion in our state has addressed the specific issue of failure to provide written notification solely of alternative treatment options. Accordingly, the public-interest exception is applicable to respondent’s contention regarding statutory compliance.

A trial court ruled Benjamin Hernandez was a sexually violent person. Before he could be released from prison, the Illinois Sexually Violent Commitment Act required an outpatient facility to write a conditional release plan. The court ordered the plan to be written, but two years later, it still had not been prepared.

The trial court then ordered that Hernandez “is to be placed on conditional release.” The court also ordered a conditional release plan to be filed within three months.

The State appealed, but filed its notice of appeal before the conditional release plan was filed and before the trial court made a written order of releasing Hernandez. The plan later was accepted by the trial court and Hernandez was released from custody.

John Walsh was the president of his condominium association. Certain members of the association felt the developer committed fraud in connection with the conversion of the apartment building to a condominium. So the association sued the developer.

Two companies and two individuals were involved in the condo conversion – Sixty Thirty LLC; Wright Management LLC; W. Andrew Wright; and James Wright. Andrew and James were members of Sixty Thirty and Wright Management, and another related company, Wright Development Group LLC. The condo association did not sue Wright Development.

About two months after the association filed its fraud lawsuit, the local alderman held a meeting to give the residents “a public forum to communicate the problems they had experienced with developers and contractors building and renovating condominium buildings in the ward.” Walsh attended the meeting, and spoke about problems at the condo and the fraud lawsuit.

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