Articles Posted in Mootness

I reported on Felzak v. Hruby, a grandparent visitation case out of the Second District Appellate Court, in December 2006. Then, the important point concerned waiver on appeal of a due process argument. Here is the original post on the case.

Now, on appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, the pertinent issue for appellate practitioners is mootness. Ralph and Sondra were held in contempt for disobeying an order permitting grandparent visitation. They wanted to purge the contempt order. While the appeal was pending, Katie, Ralph and Sondra’s daughter, turned 18 years old.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that “Because Ralph and Sondra can no longer compel Katie to visit Geraldine [grandmother], the rationale for the civil contempt order in this case has been lost. When a situation such as this occurs, the appropriate disposition of the case, and the action we take here, is to vacate the judgments of the lower courts and remand the cause with instructions to dismiss … (‘As a requirement of due process, then, a civil contempt order will be vacated once it is evident that the sanction imposed is no longer fulfilling its original, coercive function’). Vacating the contempt judgments below leaves nothing before us with respect to the contempt order to review. Those issues raised in the contempt proceedings are necessarily moot.”

Alex T. was involuntarily admitted for mental health treatment. However, at the time the circuit court granted the State’s petition to have Alex admitted, a felony charge was pending against him. Alex argued that the order admitting him for mental health treatment was void. He based his argument on the Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code, which grants circuit court jurisdiction “over persons not charged with a felony.”

The Second District Illinois Appellate Court ruled, by virtue of the legislative limit, that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction over Alex T. In addition to its substantive position, the State also argued that (1) the appeal was moot because the term of admission had expired by the time the appellate court reviewed the case, and (2) the appellate court should not have taken judicial notice of the felony complaint against Alex because it was not submitted to the trial court and thus was not part of the record on appeal. The appellate court rejected both arguments.

As to mootness, the court stated that “… Illinois courts have generally held that review of an involuntary admission order is appropriate despite its expiration, because ‘the collateral consequences related to the stigma of an involuntary admission may confront [the] respondent in the future.’ … This policy is a recognition that the reversal or vacation of an involuntary admission order is, in the real world, often an effective form of relief.”

Kenneth Stark and Vesta Stark, both elderly, were married. Vesta suffered from Alzheimers disease. Kenneth died and left substantial money to the Southern Illinois University Foundation and the Shriner’s Hospital for Children. The will left nothing to Vesta, but did contain a statement that “adequate and suitable” provisions were made for Vesta from resources outside of the assets identified in the will. And the facts did show that Vesta was well taken care of.

Vesta gave power of attorney to her son, Mark. On Vesta’s behalf, Mark filed a renunciation of Kenneth’s will. By renouncing the will, Vesta stood to take a one-half share of Kenneth’s estate, more than $2.3 million.

SIU and Shriner’s petitioned to vacate the renunciation. The parties moved for partial summary judgment. SIU and Shriner’s argued that Mark did not act “for the benefit of” Vesta in renouncing the will, as is required by the Illinois Power of Attorney Act. Mark argued the opposite.

Unfit to stand trial for telephone harassment, Leslie H. was admitted to the Elgin Mental Health Center. Her psychiatrist petitioned to involuntarily administer psychotropic medication to her. A public defender represented her on the petition to administer the drugs. Leslie’s attorney in the criminal defense matter was not given notice of the psychiatrist’s petition.

The trial court granted the petition, and Leslie appealed. The Second District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that the dispute was not moot, even though the waiting period after the order authorizing administration of the drugs passed. The court invoked the public interest exception to the mootness doctrine. (Question of a public nature; authoritative ruling could help guide public officers; issue likely to recur.)

Because the public defender did not challenge the lack of notice to Leslie’s criminal defense lawyer at the hearing on the petition, the State argued waiver. The appellate court overlooked the waiver “in order to achieve a just result … especially in a case where the State seeks to involuntarily administer psychotropic medication.”

Contact Information