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Illinois High Court Affirms Validity of Revestment Doctrine and Clarifies Its Parameters

March 20, 2014 7:12 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

The Illinois Supreme Court reaffirmed the revestment doctrine in People v. Bailey, 2014 IL 115459. By doing so, the state’s high court clarified the doctrine's scope regarding untimely postjudgment filings. The Court held that, for the revestment doctrine to apply, both parties must (1) actively participate in the proceedings; (2) fail to object to the untimeliness of the late filing; and (3) assert positions that make the proceedings inconsistent with the merits of the prior judgment and support the setting aside of at least part of the judgment. Bailey, 2014 IL 115459, ¶ 25.

The revestment doctrine is an exception to the rule that a trial court loses jurisdiction 31 days following a final judgment. In People v. Kaeding, 98 Ill. 2d 237 (1983), the Court held that, for the doctrine to apply, “the parties must actively participate without objection in proceedings which are inconsistent with the merits of the prior judgment. ” Id. at 240.

In Bailey, a minor defendant pleaded guilty to the offense of criminal sexual abuse, and the trial court sentenced him to 300 days in the county jail, with credit for time served. Id. ¶ 3. At sentencing, the trial court indicated that there was no requirement regarding sex offender registration. Id. More than three years later, the defendant moved to vacate his plea and sentence, arguing the trial court was required to order him to register. Id. The State filed a written response, arguing only that the trial court’s actions did not render the plea and sentence void. Id. The trial court denied the defendants motion. Id. Thereafter, the defendant appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court, which dismissed his appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Id. ¶ 4. 

On appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the continued validity of the revestment doctrine and rejected the State’s suggestion to abolish it, explaining, “[w]hile the application of the doctrine is undoubtedly in conflict with our otherwise strict jurisdictional standards, an exception is, by its very nature, always in conflict with the underlying rule.” Id. ¶ 10. The Court acknowledged that, although the doctrine had “sometimes been dormant" in its decisional law, it had never expressly rejected it. Id. ¶ 12.


The State also argued that the Court’s holding in People v. Flowers, 208 Ill. 2d 291 (2003), supported abrogating the revestment doctrine, arguing that the Flowers court noted that “[t]he jurisdiction of trial courts to reconsider and modify their judgments is not indefinite” (id. at 303) and recognized that “[l]ack of subject matter jurisdiction is not subject to waiver and cannot be cured through consent of the parties.” Id. (internal citations omitted). But the Bailey court held the revestment doctrine was not at issue or mentioned in Flowersand, further, that the warnings contained in Flowersregarding general jurisdictional matters were consistent with a narrow application of the revestment doctrine. Bailey, 2014 IL 115459, ¶ 16. 

Turning to the doctrine’s application in this case, only the third requirement--whether the proceedings were “inconsistent with the merits of the prior judgment”--was at issue. Id. ¶ 17. Importantly, the supreme court held that the State had not acted inconsistently with the merits of the prior judgment by asking that the judgment be upheld. Id. ¶¶ 18-19. The Court held that the revestment doctrine only applied when both parties have sought to modify or overturn the prior judgment (Kaeding, 98 Ill. 2d 237; People v. Bannister, 236 Ill. 2d 1, 11 (2009)), but rejected the doctrines application if one party opposed setting aside the prior judgment (Sears v. Sears, 85 Ill. 2d 253, 260 (1981); Archer Daniels Midland Co. v. Barth, 103 Ill. 2d 536 (1984)). Bailey, 2014 IL 115459, ¶ 25.

The holding in Bailey reinforces the intentionally narrow application of the revestment doctrine and prevents defendants from utilizing the doctrine simply because a prosecutor failed to object based on the finality of the prior judgment or the timeliness of the new proceeding. Id. ¶ 25. Defending the merits of the prior judgment is not inconsistent with that judgment.  Id. ¶ 26. The revestment doctrine only applies when both parties are interested in setting aside at least part of the prior judgment and both actively take positions inconsistent with that prior judgment.

Recommended Citation: Charles E. Harper & Christopher J. Zdarsky, Illinois High Court Clarifies Revestment Doctrine and Clarifies Its ParametersThe Brief, (March 20, 2014),
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