By Kevin R. Malloy
Partner, Forde Law Offices LLP
In Vines v. Village of Flossmoor, 2017 IL App (1st) 163339, the First District reconsidered its granting of a Rule 303(d) motion for leave to amend a notice of appeal, and dismissed an appeal as untimely. In the case, a fourteen year old boy was injured when a metal grate outside the Flossmoor Library gave way, and his parents sued the Village of Flossmoor and the Flossmoor Library. The trial court granted summary judgment to the Village and the Library. The notice of appeal was due December 14, 2016, but the plaintiffs did not file until December 21.
Under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 303(d), the plaintiffs then had within 30 days after the time for expiration of the time to file the notice of appeal, or until January 13, 2017, to file a motion for leave to appeal. No Rule 303(d) motion was filed by that date. After the 30 days expired, the Library moved to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, and the plaintiffs then filed a “Motion to Amend” the December 21, 2016 notice of appeal. A panel of the First District (other than the panel that issued the opinion) denied the Library’s motion to dismiss and granted the plaintiffs’ motion to amend the late-filed notice of appeal.
In its opinion, the appellate court reversed its grant of the motion to amend. In doing so, the court first noted its independent duty to review its jurisdiction and that the filing of a timely notice of appeal is both mandatory and jurisdictional. In reversing its prior decision to grant the Rule 303(d) motion, the appellate court noted that, under the plain language of the rule, the requested amendment fell outside the 30-day grace period for civil appeals. The court remarked that “[i]f litigation is to have some finality, acts must be accomplished within the time prescribed by law.” Vines, 2017 IL App (1st) 163339, ¶ 11 (quoting Gaynor v. Walsh, 219 Ill. App. 3d 996, 1004 (2d Dist. 1991)).
The court noted a split of authority as to whether a Rule 303(d) motion must be filed simultaneously with the notice of appeal to confer jurisdiction. The Vines court agreed with LaGrange Memorial Hospital v. St. Paul Ins. Co., 317 Ill. App. 3d 863, 865 (1st Dist. 2000), that the filing of the motion and the notice of appeal separately was not fatal, noting that the authority granted under the rule should be liberally exercised as long as the Rule 303(d) motion is filed within the additional 30 days. In Vines, however, the Rule 303(d) motion was not timely filed.
The plaintiffs urged the court at oral argument to extend the holding of People v. Brown, 54 Ill. 2d 25 (1973), to avoid unduly emphasizing “formality” over “substance.” The appellate court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument. In Brown, the supreme court reversed the appellate court’s dismissal of an appeal where the defendant filed a pro se notice of appeal seven weeks after pleading guilty and being sentenced, but where the trial court did not advise him about the time requirements for a notice of appeal. Brown was inapposite, according to the appellate court, as there is no corresponding obligation on the part of a trial court in a civil suit to admonish parties as to the time limits of the notice of appeal.
While the appellate court noted it was sensitive to the injuries suffered by the boy, the plaintiffs missed the deadline for filing a Rule 303(d) motion, and thus did not meet the mandatory requirement for appellate jurisdiction. Given that “[f]airness, efficiency, and predictability require that there be strict deadlines for our jurisdiction in civil cases,” the court dismissed the appeal. Vines, 2017 IL App (1st) 163339, ¶ 18.