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SAFE-T Act Appeals Require Proper Argument - By Kimberly Glasford

January 25, 2024 9:54 AM | Paul Coogan (Administrator)

This post was authored by by ALA Board Member Kimberly Glasford.

When the trial court denies a defendant pretrial release under the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act (SAFE-T ACT), he may appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(h) (eff. Sept. 18, 2023). Additionally, “[t]he appellant may file, but is not required to file, a memorandum” in support of the appeal. Id.

In People v. Duckworth, 2024 IL App (5th) 230911, the defendant appealed the denial of pretrial release by filing the notice of appeal form approved by the Illinois Supreme Court. The defendant checked the boxes setting forth issues for appeal. He did not, however, elaborate on the grounds for relief in the spaces provided for that purpose. The Office of the State Appellate Defender (OSAD), which was appointed to represent the defendant, subsequently filed a notice indicating that he did not intend to file a memorandum under Rule 604(h).

The State moved to dismiss the appeal, arguing that the notice of appeal was deficient given that defendant had merely checked the boxes. In response, the defendant, through OSAD, argued that checking the boxes was sufficient to show his desire to appeal and the notice itself conferred jurisdiction on the appellate court. OSAD further argued that the defendant’s arguments could be ascertained in a matter of minutes by reading the transcript.

The appellate court found that the timely-filed notice of appeal was sufficient to invoke the court’s jurisdiction. Id. ¶ 5. That being said, the court rejected OSAD’s argument that the defendant was not required to provide arguments supporting the issues raised on appeal. Id.

The reviewing court observed that Rule 604(h) requires a defendant’s notice of appeal to describe the relief requested and the grounds for that relief. Thus, some form of argument was required. Additionally, the reviewing court is not a depository into which the defendant may dump the burden of research and argument. Duckworth, 2024 IL App (5th) 230911, ¶ 6. “To presume, as contended by OSAD, that this court would present arguments on behalf of the appellant and then issue a ruling on those same arguments is both incredulous and contrary to well-established Illinois Supreme Court rules governing appeals.” Id. ¶ 7.

The reviewing court found that the defendant failed to comply with Rule 604(h)’s requirement that the notice of appeal describe the grounds for the relief requested. Id. ¶¶ 6, 8. The defendant had also failed to cite evidence in the record or make any legal argument to support his claims. Id. ¶ 8. Furthermore, OSAD had declined to rectify these deficiencies. Id. Accordingly, the appellate court concluded that the defendant forfeited the issues raised on appeal, warranting dismissal. Id.

Duckworth shows that while Rule 604(h) does not itself require a defendant to file a supporting memorandum, a defendant’s duty to present a proper argument nonetheless does require him to file one if his notice of appeal did not otherwise adequately develop his claims.

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