Staying apprised of recent developments in the state’s high court is a necessity for both trial and appellate practitioners. By simply becoming an ALA member, you can enjoy complimentary and convenient access to Cases Pending, a must-have resource that compiles and synthesizes data from the Illinois Supreme Court’s docket to provide ALA members with up-to-date information about current civil, criminal and disciplinary matters before the court. Chaired by seasoned appellate practitioners Joanne R. Driscoll and Clare J. Quish, the Cases Pending committee publishes the catalogue five times each year.
To view two excerpts from the recent edition of Cases Pending, please continue reading this post. The excerpts discuss In re Marriage of Eckersall, No 117922, which will address whether a custody and visitation order was injunctive and immediately appealable under Rule 307(a)(1), and Anthony Williams v. BNSF Railway Co., No. 117444, which addresses whether a notice of appeal was timely filed. Both cases are scheduled for oral argument on Thursday, November 20, 2014.
FAMILY LAW – JURISDICTION
In re Marriage of Eckersall
The issue in this case is whether a trial court’s interlocutory order imposing certain restrictions on the parents when the minor children were with them during the pendency of divorce proceedings constitutes an injunction under Supreme Court Rule 307(a).
In 2013, Raymond Eckersall filed a petition for the dissolution of his marriage, and his wife, Catherine, filed a counter petition. Raymond moved out of the family home and filed a petition to set up a temporary parenting schedule. At the status hearing, the parties could not reach an agreement, so the court entered an order that prohibited the parents from engaging in certain conduct with their children, including: interfering with their minor children’s personal liberty; discussing any aspect of the ongoing litigation in the presence of the children; questioning the children about their preference with custody or visitation; and engaging in any kind of electronic surveillance of the children. This order was entered over Catherine’s objection that it infringed upon her right to parent and communicate with her children. Catherine appealed under Supreme Court Rule 307, arguing that the order was an injunction.
The Illinois Appellate Court, First District, dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the trial court’s order did not constitute an injunction and thus, jurisdiction was not proper under Rule 307(a). The court explained that what constitutes an appealable injunctive order under Rule 307(a) depends on the substance of the action, not its form. There was no indicia of injunctive relief and no evidence suggesting the minor children’s representative or either party sought an injunction. Rather, the function of the order more closely conformed to appropriate temporary relief set forth in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The order was intended to place restrictions on the parents during visitation and was not the equivalent of a preliminary injunction.
Justice Mason dissented, stating that the appellate court had jurisdiction to review the “broad-ranging injunction” entered by the trial court. She explained that the very definition of restraining Catherine or Raymond from engaging in certain behavior constituted an injunction. Further, she concluded that the order was overly broad and defective on both procedural and substantive grounds.
Appellate Court Decision: 2014 IL App (1st) 132223. Hyman, P.J. with Pucinski, J., concurring. Mason, J., dissenting.
PLA Allowed: 07/24/2014
Appellant Counsel: Benton H. Page, Pamela Hutal, David Friedman, LLP, 135 South LaSalle Street, 36th Floor, Chicago, Illinois 60603, (312) 782-2220.
Amicus Curiae: Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
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Williams v. BNSF Railway Co.
The issue in this case is whether the 30-day period for filing the notice of appeal began to run when the circuit court orally denied the defendants’ post-trial motions, leaving open a request for setoff (which was not directed at the judgment), or when the court subsequently entered a written order addressing the setoff issue.
In November 2011, the circuit court entered judgment on the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff, assigning 50% fault to the plaintiff, 37.5% to BNSF and 12.5% to a third-party defendant, Quality Terminal Services, LLC (“QTS”). It also denied BNSF’s separate claim against QTS for contractual indemnity. QTS and BNSF filed post-trial motions. BNSF sought a new trial or judgment notwithstanding the verdict. It also sought a remittitur of the award for lost wages or Railroad Retirement Board (“RRB”) disability payments to Williams and a setoff for the RRB taxes that BNSF would be required to pay on the award of lost wages.
On April 18, 2012, at the hearing on post-trial motions, the circuit court orally denied the post-trial motions with the exception of BNSF’s taxation issue, taking that issue under advisement. No entry was made on the court docket reflecting these rulings. On June 6, the circuit court heard additional argument on the remittitur issue (noting that it had already denied that request) and the taxation issue. A written order was entered on that day stating, in part, “For the reasons stated by the Court, on record, on June 6, 2012, post-trial motions related to disability payments [and] taxes are denied.” The order also stated, “This order is final and appealable.” BNSF filed its notice of appeal on June 29, 2012. Williams moved to dismiss BNSF’s appeal, joined by QTS, arguing that BNSF’s notice was untimely because it was not filed within 30 days of April 18.
The appellate court initially denied the motion to dismiss; but, after merits briefing in which Williams again raised jurisdiction, the appellate court dismissed BNSF’s appeal holding that the April 18 oral ruling was effective on that date and that the 30-day period to appeal began to run from that date. The court reasoned that the circuit court unequivocally denied the post-trial motions on April 18, did not refer to or request preparation of a written order, and if there was any question as to finality, it was incumbent on BNSF to seek clarification within 30 days of April 18. The court also reasoned that BNSF’s pending setoff request did not make the April 18 ruling nonfinal because it was not post-trial relief directed at the judgment and that the circuit court’s reconsideration of BNSF’s remittitur argument on June 6 did not delay finality because the court lacked jurisdiction to consider that issue after 30 days from April 18.
BNSF contends that the appellate court’s opinion violates Supreme Court Rule 272 and conflicts with Swisher v. Duffy, 117 Ill. 2d 376, 378-80 (1987) and Scott v. Dreis & Krump Manufacturing Co., 26 Ill. App. 3d 971, 983-84 (1st Dist. 1975), in which the courts held that when the trial court does not require the submission of a written judgment order, an oral judgment does not become final until the clerk makes an entry on the official docket. It further argues that the appellate court’s opinion renders the effective date of judgments uncertain whenever the trial court issues an oral ruling.
Appellate Court Decision: 2013 IL App (1st) 121901, 998 N.E.2d 543.
PLA Allowed: 05/28/14
Appellant Counsel: Raymond H. Groble III, Sean M. Sullivan, Jeffrey J. Scolaro, Daley Mohan Groble P.C., 55 West Monroe Street, Suite 1600, Chicago, Illinois 60603, (312) 422-9999.