By Bradley Jarka
Assistant Appellate Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender
In People v. Daniels
, 2017 IL App (1st) 142130-B, the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court has once again undertaken to define the limits of its own jurisdiction. This is the third decision of this kind to be featured on this blog this summer. For further discussion of this topic see Katherine Grosh’s recent analysis
of People v. Griffin, 2017 IL App (1st) 143800 and Andrew Kwalwaser’s summary
of People v. Grigorov, 2017 IL App (1st)143274.
In Daniels, the court held that it does not have jurisdiction to entertain the State’s request to reinstate charges previously dismissed pursuant to a nolle prosequi, where that request is made for the first time on appeal from the denial of a defendant’s 2-1401 petition. This deceptively simple holding is dependent on the surreptitious complexities lurking in the procedural posture of Daniels’s case, the substantive relief that Daniels requested, and the Illinois Supreme Court’s recent decision in People v. Shinaul, 2017 IL 120162. Each will be discussed in turn.
In 2005, Chicago police officers conducted a pat down search of Ronald Daniels on a city bus and found him to be in possession of an unloaded revolver and four rounds of ammunition. Based on that discovery, the State charged Daniels with several counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW) and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. Daniels pleaded guilty to the count of AUUW charged under Section 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(B) of the criminal code, which made it unlawful to possess an unloaded firearm outside his dwelling or place of business if ammunition was immediately accessible. Pursuant to that plea agreement, the State nolle prosequied (nolle’d) the remaining counts that Daniels had been charged with. Daniels did not take a direct appeal. Instead, once his sentence was completed in early 2014, Daniels filed a 2-1401 petition (735 ILCS 5/2-1401) seeking to vacate his conviction for AUUW. The circuit court denied his petition and Daniels appealed.
By the time Daniels’s case was up on appeal, his path to substantive relief had largely been forged. In 2013, the Illinois Supreme Court decided People v. Aguilar, 2013 IL 112116, which held that Section 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A) of the AUUW statute was facially unconstitutional. Shortly thereafter, in People v. Burns, 2015 IL 117387, the court clarified that its holding extended to both the Class 4 and Class 2 “versions” of that offense. In Daniels’s case, the State conceded that Aguilar and Burns applied with equal force to Section (a)(1), (a)(3)(B) of the AUUW statute and agreed that Daniels’s conviction under that section should be vacated. Then, for the first time, the State asked the appellate court to remand so that it could reinstate the charges that it had nolle’d in exchange for Daniels’s plea. The court found that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the State’s request.
Enter Shinaul. Like Daniels, Cornelius Shinaul pleaded guilty to one count of AUUW and the State nolle’d the rest of the counts. Like Daniels, Shinaul filed a 2-1401 petition arguing that his conviction should be vacated in light of Aguilar. The State similarly agreed that Shinaul’s conviction had to be vacated. Then, while the case was still in the circuit court, the State filed a motion to reinstate the previously nolle’d charges. The circuit court denied the State’s motion and its subsequent motion to reconsider and the State appealed. Another division of the First District found that there was no jurisdiction to consider the State’s request. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed.
At issue in Shinaul was whether the appellate court has jurisdiction over the State’s appeal from the circuit court’s denial of its motion to reinstate charges after the court had vacated the defendant’s only count conviction. The court concluded that the appellate court did have jurisdiction. There were two key parts to the court’s holding. First, the court found that the State’s motion to reinstate the nolle’d charges was properly filed as the equivalent to a responsive pleading “conditioned upon [Shinaul]’s success in vacating his conviction.” Second, the court found that the denial of the State’s motion to reinstate was, in fact, part of the circuit court’s final judgment in the litigation of Shinaul’s 2-1401 petition. Final judgments are “determination[s] by the circuit court on the issues presented on the pleadings” that permanently affix the rights of the parties. This led the court to hold that, by properly filing its motion to reconsider in the circuit court, the State had made reinstatement of the nolle’d counts “pertinent to the outcome of the judgment” as one of the “issues before the circuit court.” The State thus had the right to appeal that judgment and the appellate court had jurisdiction to consider it.
So, what of Daniels? The State filed a petition for leave to appeal the appellate court’s determination that it lacked jurisdiction to consider reinstatement. The supreme court denied that petition but vacated the appellate court’s judgment and ordered the court to reconsider in light of Shinaul.
Upon reconsideration, the court in Daniels made quick work of distinguishing Shinaul. The court held that the State’s choice to raise the issue of reinstatement for the first time on appeal was a fatal distinction. The appellate court recognized that the circuit court had rendered a final judgment, but found that the judgment had been limited to the merits of Daniels’s 2-1401 petition and had not included any request by the State to reinstate charges. This, of course, was different than Shinaul where the circuit court’s judgment had included both the merits of Shinaul’s 2-1401 petition and the State’s responsive request to reinstate previously nolle’d charges.
For similar reasons, the court then considered and rejected the possibility of exercising original appellate jurisdiction, which is authorized by Article VI, Section 6 of the Illinois Constitution, “when necessary to the complete determination of any case on review.” Here, the court adopted the reasoning from its original opinion and found that the only “case on review” was the merits disposition of Daniels’s 2-1401 petition. That case was a separate civil proceeding unrelated to the original criminal prosecution. Entertaining a request to reinstate charges that were part of the underlying criminal case was not necessary to the determination of the 2-1401 petition. Original jurisdiction was lacking as well.
Ultimately, the appellate court reaffirmed its original disposition of Daniels’s appeal. The court reversed the circuit court’s denial of Daniels’s 2-1401 petition, vacated his AUUW conviction, and declined to reach the State’s request to reinstate the nolle’d charges for lack of jurisdiction. In a footnote, the court suggested that the State was not without a remedy. Subject to statutory or constitutional limitations, the State could either file a new indictment or move, in the circuit court, for reinstatement of the nolle’d charges.
It is worth noting that the Rule 23 order in People v. Burris, 2017 IL App (1st) 142860-U, was reissued just last week on August 16th upon remand to reconsider its prior decision in light of Shinaul. Upon reconsideration, the court in Burris found that it indeed had jurisdiction to review the State’s request to reinstate nolle’d charges (it ultimately denied the State’s request on the merits). As in Shinaul, the State in Burris had made a motion to reinstate the charges in the circuit court prior to taking its appeal.