"The Brief" - The ALA Blog

  • October 07, 2014 6:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Professor Geoffrey Stone of the University of Chicago Law School was the feature speaker at our September 22 meeting. He provided us with a fascinating look at his work as a member of a five-member Review Group appointed by President Obamato advise him on the activities of the National Security Agency. Professor Stone is the former Dean of the University of Chicago Law School, a former provost of the entire University, and the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law.


    Among other matters examined by the Review Group was the controversial surveillance program of the NSA authorized by section 215 of the Patriot Act of 2001. Under this program, the NSA on a daily basis collects metadata -- consisting of phone numbers and connections but no identities of callers or conversations -- on millions of American's phone calls from telephone providers. Professor Stone explained that the NSA holds and processes the metadata on its own computers. When NSA analysts determine that a particular phone number is associated with terrorism, the agency "queries" the database to find out related phone numbers from the database.


    In 2012, according to Professor Stone, the NSA queried the database for 288 different numbers. In 16 instances the suspect number was found to be in touch with another suspect number in the United States. Those 16 instances were turned over to the FBI for further investigation. In the seven years since the program was created, however, it has not provided any link that has proved critical in preventing a pending terrorist attack.


    Despite the lack of measurable success to date, Professor Stone said that the Review Group was of the view that the program should continue. But at the same time it recognized the danger of government abuse. Ultimately, the Review Group recommended to the President that the metadata should be held, not by the government, but by private parties -- either the telephone providers or a newly created private entity charged with overseeing the database. In addition, the Review Group recommended that no one should be able to access the database without a court order.


    Following the making of these recommendations, President Obama accepted them and directed that steps be taken to transition to the new model. Professor Stone, who is a card-carrying member of the ACLU, regarded this as a huge step forward.


    The presentation provided a rare glimpse into some of the workings of the NSA. The ALA and those attending the presentation are very grateful to Professor Stone both for his service on the Review Committee and for taking time to share his experience with our group.


    Recommended Citation: Don Sampen, Professor Geoffrey Stone Provides the Association With a Glimpse Into the NSA, The Brief, (October 7, 2014), http://applawyers-thebrief.blogspot.com/2014/10/professor-geoffrey-stone-provides.html.  


  • October 05, 2014 1:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS is a crippling and fatal disease that quickly and systematically eliminates the body's ability to use its muscles. The disease has received worldwide attention in recent months with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.


    Sadly, a member of the Illinois legal community has been inflicted with the disease. John Rooney, a longtime reporter for the Chicago Law Bulletin who has covered state and federal appeals, was diagnosed with ALS in March. A "Let's Roon ALS" fundraiser will be held on Sunday, October 19, 2014, in Merrionette Park, IL. The fundraiser will take place during a Chicago Bears game and, among other features, will include a buffet lunch, live entertainment, auction, and raffles. The proceeds will go towards John's medical costs, which given the nature of ALS, are likely to be high. 


    For more information on the fundraiser and to purchase tickets, please click here.  


  • October 03, 2014 5:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Association will present the following seminars and luncheons during the month of October.

    • October 8, 2014: Fourth District Appellate Seminar and Reception. 
      • Held at the University of Illinois College of Law in Champaign, the event will feature a panel discussion by justices from the Third, Fourth, and Fifth districts of the Appellate Court; an ethics discussion featuring Association President Steve Pflaum and ARDC Litigation Chief Peter Rotskoff; and former Illinois Solicitor General and Association Vice President Michael Scodro discussing tips for presenting oral arguments. The seminar will also include a roundtable luncheon with the Appellate Court justices and an informal gathering following the event. The seminar will run from 10:30 a.m. until 4:15 p.m. and offer 3.5 MCLE hours, including 1 hour of ethics. 
    • October 29, 2014: Third Annual SIU/ALA Seminar. Writing Tips and Professionalism for the Appellate Practitioner.
      • Held at the Southern Illinois University School of Law in Carbondale, the event will feature justices from the Illinois Supreme Court and Illinois Appellate Court, Fifth District; Professor Cheryl L. Anderson of SIU School of Law presenting “Zombie Nouns and Other Impediments to Persuasive Written Advocacy”; and Association President Steve Pflaum presenting “Professional Responsibility for Appellate Lawyers.” The event starts at 1 p.m. and ends at 4:20 p.m., and will offer 3 MCLE hours.
    • October 30, 2014: First District Luncheon Learn from the Press: Honing Writing Skills Under Pressure.
      • Pat Milhizer, the editor and a former reporter for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, and Teddy Greenstein, a longtime sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune, will offer the view from a different writing perspective. They will discuss how journalists gather relevant facts, think of a plan of attack, and then generate a concise discussion with a point, all the time under critical review by editors and a vocal public. The luncheon will be at the Union League Club in Chicago from 12 p.m. until 1:45 p.m. and offer 1 MCLE hour. 

    For more information on these events and to register, click here.


  • October 01, 2014 12:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    In re Marriage of Sheth, 2014 IL App (1st) 132611, examines the technical requirements for filing a notice of appeal by mail. Respondent, Sushil Sheth, was a cardiologist in the Chicago area who had been federally charged with healthcare fraud on January 28, 2009, and sentenced to 60 months' imprisonment in the federal corrections center on August 10, 2010. His wife, Anita Sheth, filed a petition for dissolution of marriage approximately six months after Sushil was charged. Sushil was originally represented by an attorney in the dissolution proceedings, but eventually proceeded pro se. During the dissolution proceedings, a dispute regarding disbursement of monies to their children arose. On May 13, 2013, and while incarcerated, Sushil filed a motion by mail resisting the disbursement of funds and seeking a continuance. Sushil’s motion went ignored, and on May 15, 2013, the trial court granted Anita’s motion to disburse the children’s funds into a trust administered by her brother. On June 4, 2013, Sushil filed a motion to reconsider by mail. On June 28, 2013, the trial court denied the motion to reconsider. 

    Sushil filed a pro se notice of appeal by mail. The notice of appeal was received and filed by the clerk on August 13, 2013. The notice of appeal contained a “Certificate of Service,” which was signed by Sushil and dated July 22, 2013, certifying that he placed the notice of appeal in the prison’s legal mailbox, with United States “First Class Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested,” postage affixed, addressed to the circuit clerk of Cook County. The Certificate of Service, which was also file-stamped with a date of August 13, 2013, was signed by Sushil but, important to this appeal, not notarized. Also attached to the notice of appeal and Certificate of Service was tracking information showing that documents had been processed through the USPS sort facility in Indianapolis on July 24, 2013, and delivered in Chicago on July 29, 2013.


    Before reaching the merits, the reviewing court, as it was required to do, considered whether it had jurisdiction. This inquiry required the court to consider whether Sushil’s pro se notice of appeal received and filed by the clerk on August 13, 2013, was timely. The court noted that, under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 303(a)(1) (eff. May 30, 2008), Sushil’s notice of appeal was required to be filed within 30 days after the entry of the order disposing of the last pending postjudgment motion directed against the judgment or order, which would have made the notice of appeal due on Monday, July 29, 2013. However, Sushil’s notice of appeal was not received and filed by the clerk until August 13, 2013, almost two weeks beyond the due date.

    Nonetheless, the reviewing court noted that Illinois Supreme Court Rule 373 (eff. Dec. 29, 2009) provides that, when a notice of appeal is mailed, the time of mailing shall be deemed the time of filing if it is received after the due date. Therefore, the court opined, Sushil had to rely on Rule 373 for his notice of appeal to be considered timely. For a party to rely on Rule 373, it must also file proper proof of mailing or delivery to a third-party commercial carrier as required by Rule 12(b)(3), which provides:

    “(3) in case of service by mail or by delivery to a third-party commercial carrier, by certificate of the attorney, or affidavit of a person other than the attorney, who deposited the document in the mail or delivered the document to a third-party commercial carrier, stating the time and place of mailing or delivery, the complete address which appeared on the envelope or package, and the fact that proper postage or the delivery charge was prepaid[.]” Ill. S. Ct. R. 12(b)(3) (eff. Jan. 4, 2013). 

    The reviewing court concluded that Sushil’s certificate of service attached to the pro se notice of appeal, which was signed but not notarized, failed to meet the requirement of an “affidavit of a person other than the attorney” under Rule 12(b)(3). Citing Secura Insurance Co. v. Illinois Farmers Insurance Co., 232 Ill. 2d 209, 213 (2009), and People v. Tlatenchi, 391 Ill. App. 3d 705 (2009), the court in Sheth emphasized affidavits must be sworn to by a party before a person who has legal authority to administer oaths. Because the certificate of service was signed but not notarized, the notice of appeal received by mail after the 30-day period was untimely, and the Sheth court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

    Recommended Citation: Nate Nieman, You've Got Mail: First District Discusses the Requirements of Rules 373 and 12(b)(3) to Non-Attorneys, The Brief, (October 1, 2014), http://applawyers-thebrief.blogspot.com/2014/10/youve-got-mail-first-district-discusses.html.


  • September 20, 2014 1:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In Lake Environmental, Inc. v. Arnold, 2014 IL App (5th) 130109, the Illinois Appellate Court, Fifth District, engaged in a discussion regarding whether appellate jurisdiction is proper when the trial court reverses an administrative agency’s decision and remands the matter for further proceedings by that agency. Although the court’s jurisdictional discussion was brief, the opinion provides valuable insight regarding when such an order is final for purposes of appellate jurisdiction. 

    In this case, the plaintiff, Lake Environmental,was working on an asbestos removal project when the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) issued an emergency work stop order. The IDPH eventually issued a final administrative decision that revoked the plaintiff’s license. Thereafter, a complaint for administrative review was filed in the circuit court. 


    The trial court ordered IDPH to reinstate the plaintiff’s license pending its decision on the merits. The court then entered an order reversing the revocation of the plaintiff’s license and remanded the case for further proceedings to determine whether or not the plaintiff’s license “should be suspended or revoked.” Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a motion for sanctions pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 137 (eff. Feb. 1, 1994), and the court held a hearing on the matter and ultimately entered an order providing, “[p]laintiff’s request for sanctions pursuant to Rule 137 is denied.” The plaintiff appealed. 

    The defendants contended that reviewing court did not have jurisdiction because, when a trial court reverses an administrative agency’s decision and remands the matter for further proceedings, the trial court’s order is not final for purposes of appellate jurisdiction. The court noted, however, that if on remand the agency has only to act in accordance with the directions of the court and conduct proceedings on uncontroverted incidental matters, or merely make a mathematical calculation, then the order is final for purposes of an appeal.  Id. ¶ 6 (citing Edmonds v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Comm'n, 2012 IL App (5th) 110118WC  ¶ 19).  

    The defendants argued that, in the case at bar, the trial court’s order appeared “patently non-final” by ordering a remand that authorized more than ministerial action. The plaintiff responded that the order fully adjudicated all of the issues, found IDPH’s purported justifications for revoking the plaintiff’s license to be without merit, and therefore left IDPH with no discretion on remand and no choice but to reinstate the plaintiff’s license. The plaintiff further responded that, by the time the trial court ruled on its request for sanctions, the remand had been completed and its license had been reinstated. The reviewing court agreed with the plaintiff on both points and concluded that it had jurisdiction over the appeal. 

    The reviewing court ultimately reversed the case and found that, when a trial court rules on a motion for sanctions pursuant to Rule 137, that judge “must provide specific reasons for his or her ruling, regardless of whether sanctions are granted or denied.” 

    Recommended Citation: April Connley, Fifth District Appellate Court Explains When Trial Court Order Remanding an Administrative Agency's Decision Is Final for Purposes of Appellate Jurisdiction, The Brief, (September 20, 2014), http://applawyers-thebrief.blogspot.com/2014/09/fifth-district-appellate-court-explains.html.


  • September 12, 2014 5:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On Monday, September 22, 2014, the ALA will kick off the bar year with a luncheon at the Union League Club in Chicago featuring University of Chicago Law Professor Geoffrey Stone. Attendees will have the unique opportunity to hear Professor Stone discuss his recent service on President Obama's Review Group concerning the National Security Agency, data collection, and privacy. 


  • September 11, 2014 12:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In a case that could easily compete with Jarndyce v. Jarndyce for longevity and complexity, the Seventh Circuit held that the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois erred by failing to adhere to an earlier ruling in the same case by the Second Circuit. If that sounds unusual, welcome to the long-running Parmalat litigation. As Judge Posner noted in his preface to a summary of the case’s procedural history, “The litigation is highly complex; we’ll simplify ruthlessly.” Parmalat Capital Finance Ltd. v. Grant Thornton Int’l, 756 F.3d 549, 550 (7th Cir. 2014) (decided June 25, 2014).

    Parmalat, a food company, entered the Italian bankruptcy system. Parmalat’s “extraordinary commissioner” (which, Judge Posner noted, was the “Italian equivalent of a bankruptcy trustee”) filed two lawsuits. First, he filed a proceeding in the bankruptcy court of the Southern District of New York to enjoin litigation against Parmalat with respect to property involved in the Italian bankruptcy proceedings. Second, he filed a tort suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, against Grant Thornton, an accounting firm that, the commissioner alleged, had performed fraudulent audits of Parmalat. 


    Grant Thornton removed the Cook County lawsuit to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois under 28 U.S.C. § 1334(b). That provision, Judge Posner explained, “confers original though not exclusive federal jurisdiction” over civil suits that are related to bankruptcy cases, and the commissioner’s Cook County lawsuit related to the bankruptcy proceeding. Once removed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the commissioner’s suit against Grant Thornton was then transferred by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.


    Once the Grant Thornton lawsuit was transferred to the Southern District of New York, the commissioner asked the federal district court judge there to abstain from deciding the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1334(c)(2). Section 1334(c)(2) provides:

    “Upon timely motion of a party in a proceeding based upon a State law claim or State law cause of action, related to a case under title 11 but not arising under title 11 or arising in a case under title 11, with respect to which an action could not have been commenced in a court of the United States absent jurisdiction under this section, the district court shall abstain from hearing such proceeding if an action is commenced, and can be timely adjudicated, in a State forum of appropriate jurisdiction.”
    The commissioner argued that the tort suit against Grant Thornton could be “timely adjudicated” in an Illinois state court and met section 1334(c)(2)’s other requirements for federal abstention. 


    The federal judge in New York disagreed and awarded summary judgment to Grant Thornton on Illinois tort law grounds. (The substantive basis for that ruling is beyond the scope of this contribution to The Brief, but it is discussed in my law partner John J. Barber’s excellent Law & Accounting column in the August 6th edition of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.) On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the federal district court in the Southern District of New York should have abstained pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1334(c)(2), remanded the case, and directed that the case be transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois so that it “can be remanded to Illinois state court.” 


    Once the case returned to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, however, it took another detour. Despite the Second Circuit’s holding that the tort claims should be decided by an Illinois state court pursuant to section 1334(c)(2), the federal judge in the Northern District of Illinois to whom the case was transferred decided not to remand the case to the Circuit Court of Cook County. “These cases have remained unresolved for nearly ten years, and it is unlikely that a remand back to state court will result in more timely dispositions of the cases,” the Illinois federal district court judge reasoned. Finding that the earlier award of summary judgment to Grant Thornton “should be respected” under the law of the case doctrine, the federal district court judge in Illinois awarded summary judgment to Grant Thornton.


    On appeal from that ruling, the Seventh Circuit noted that 28 U.S.C. § 1334(d) expressly provides that “any decision to abstain . . . is not reviewable by appeal or otherwise by the court of appeals . . . or by the Supreme Court of the United States.” Writing for the Seventh Circuit panel, Judge Posner explained: “The statute doesn’t say in so many words that an order to abstain is not reviewable by another district court, but the idea that a district judge has appellate authority denied to the U.S. Supreme Court can’t be taken seriously.” For good measure, Judge Posner added that “[f]ederal district judges have appellate authority over decisions by magistrate judges, bankruptcy judges, and certain administrative law judges (administrative law judges in social security disability cases, for example), but not over decisions by other district judges, let alone by courts of appeals.” 


    Moreover, Judge Posner explained, “[n]othing has happened since the Second Circuit’s decision to justify a district court’s reopening and reversing it.” Grant Thornton argued that a recent Seventh Circuit case changed the legal landscape as to its entitlement to summary judgment on the merits, but Judge Posner rejected that argument, since that recent Seventh Circuit case had been brought to the Second Circuit’s attention in a petition for rehearing, which the Second Circuit had denied. That recent Seventh Circuit decision also, in Judge Posner’s estimation, was “not a novel decision.”


    Thus, the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court’s “unauthorized . . . exercise of de facto appellate authority” and ordered it to remand the case to the Circuit Court of Cook County. Had the district court done so immediately upon receiving the case from the Second Circuit, Judge Posner noted, “the litigation might well be at an end rather than on the brim of restarting.” And so the Parmalat saga continues!


    Recommended Citation: John M. Fitzgerald, Parmalat Capital Finance Ltd. v. Grant Thornton Int’l: Legendarily Complex Litigation Nears Its Conclusion, The Brief, (September 11, 2014), http://applawyers-thebrief.blogspot.com/2014/09/parmalat-capital-finance-ltd-v-grant.html.


  • September 04, 2014 3:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In a recent New York Times article, First District Appellate Court Justice Terrence J. Lavin praised the Jackie Robinson West Little League team on their inspiration to the community. To read the article, click here

  • August 29, 2014 4:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund v. US Foods, Inc., No. 13-1566 (7th Cir. July 30, 2014), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction over an interlocutory appeal seeking an order that would direct certain action by an arbitrator in a pending arbitration under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 (MPPAA). The case involved arbitration resulting from an employer withdrawing from a multiemployer pension fund under the MPPAA and the Seventh Circuit’s holding provides helpful insight regarding when a party may bring an interlocutory appeal under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) from an order denying a petition to order arbitration to proceed.


    The Central States Pension Fund (Fund) assessed liability against US Foods in 2008 and 2009 because US Foods withdrew in part from an underfunded multiemployer pension plan. Pursuant to the MPPAA, US Foods could request arbitration within a certain time period, “though unlike normal arbitration[,] it is neither contractual nor consensual.” US Foods made that request within the statutory limit for the 2009 assessment, but did not make a timely request for arbitration with respect to the 2008 assessment. Meanwhile, the Fund sued US Foods to collect the 2008 assessment. US Foods requested that the district court order the arbitrator in the pending arbitration regarding the 2009 assessment to consider the amount owed for 2008 as well, but the district court refused.

    US Foods filed an interlocutory appeal, invoking section 16(a)(1)(b) of the FAA, which authorizes an interlocutory appeal from an order “denying a petition under section 4 of this title to order arbitration to proceed.” The Seventh Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. In doing so, the reviewing court first explained that section 16(a)(1)(b) of the FAA pertains only to petitions under section 4 of the FAA. Section 4 of the FAA, in turn, authorizes an aggrieved party to petition a district court for an order “directing that . . . arbitration proceed in the manner provided for” in a written agreement for arbitration. US Foods and the Fund, however, had no agreement. Although the reviewing court suggested that perhaps arbitration proceedings under the MPPAA should be treated the same as arbitrations pursuant to a contract, it noted that no court of appeals had addressed that issue or otherwise decided whether the FAA authorizes an interlocutory appeal in a proceeding under the MPPAA. Therefore, the Seventh Circuit refused to do so as well.

    Nonetheless, the Seventh Circuit concluded that, regardless whether the FAA authorizes an interlocutory appeal in a proceeding under the MPPAA, jurisdiction in this case would still be lacking. The reviewing court noted that US Foods, in effect, wanted the 2008 assessment “added to the agenda of the arbitrator who is already serving” in the arbitration regarding the 2009 assessment. That was not a request for an order directing arbitration within the meaning of section 4 of the FAA. Nor is a court’s order refusing to interfere with the conduct of an arbitration an order denying a petition to order arbitration to proceed, for purposes of section 16(a)(1)(b). Citing Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Inc. v. BCS Insurance Co., 671 F.3d 635 (7th Cir. 2011), the reviewing court noted that “a party’s request to tell an arbitrator how to act in a pending proceeding is not a request to compel arbitration, no matter what caption the litigant puts on its motion.” The reviewing court further emphasized that “judges must not intervene in pending arbitration to direct arbitrators to resolve an issue one way rather than another. . . . Review comes at the beginning or the end, but not in the middle. Until the arbitration was over, the matter was “in the hands of arbitrator.” (quoting Blue Cross Blue Shield, 671 F.3d at 638).

    Recommended Citation: Myriam Z. Kasper, Seventh Circuit Discusses When Party May Bring Interlocutory Appeal From Order Denying a Petition to Order Arbitration to Proceed, The Brief, (August 29, 2014), http://applawyers-thebrief.blogspot.com/2014/08/seventh-circuit-discusses-when-party.html.


  • August 21, 2014 12:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Hadley v. Subscriber Doe, 2014 IL App (2d) 130489, involved a challenge to a request for discovery under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 224 (eff. May 30, 2008), which provides a mechanism to identify potential defendants before suit is filed. Here, the plaintiff sought an order directing Comcast Cable Communications, LLC (Comcast) to provide the identity and last known address of the defendant, subscriber Doe, a/k/a “Fuboy,” because the plaintiff wished to pursue a defamation claim against him for statements he anonymously posted about plaintiff on an internet message board.

    In his defamation suit, the plaintiff named the defendant as “Subscriber Doe, a.k.a. Fuboy, whose legal name is unknown,” and that same day issued a subpoena to Comcast requesting Fuboy’s legal identity. Comcast notified Fuboy, and Fuboy hired an attorney who sought to quash the subpoena. At a hearing five months later, and with both Fuboy’s and plaintiff’s attorneys present, the trial court directed the parties that the subpoena and motion to quash would be better addressed within the Rule 224 context, finding Stone v. Paddock Publications, Inc., 2011 IL App (1st) 093386, instructive. According to the Hadley court, Stone sets forth the standards for the application of Rule 224 to a defamation case and the plaintiff’s pleading obligations before an individual’s identity is revealed pre-suit. The trial court gave the plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint and a Rule 224 petition. Complying with the trial court’s instructions, the plaintiff filed an amended two-count complaint. Count I was the defamation claim against Fuboy, pleaded in accordance with Stone’s requirements, and Count II was the Rule 224 request seeking Fuboy’s legal identity and naming Comcast as the respondent.

    Based, in part, on an evaluation of the sufficiency of the defamation count (Count I) under Stone, the trial court granted the Rule 224 request (Count II) and directed Comcast to release Fuboy’s identity and address. Fuboy then filed a motion to reconsider, which had been brought, in part, “to solidify the basis for [appeal].” After a discussion regarding the immediate appealability of standard Rule 224 orders and the impact of the still-pending defamation claim, the trial court stated that it believed the proper vehicle for appeal was Illinois Supreme Court Rule 303 (eff. June 4, 2008). However, “to ease the parties’ concerns,” the trial court stated that it would enter a finding pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a) (eff. Feb. 26, 2010) as an alternative jurisdictional basis for appeal.

    Fuboy appealed the trial court’s order requiring Comcast to provide the information, and at the outset the plaintiff claimed that Fuboy lacked standing to challenge the Rule 224 petition because the subpoena was issued to Comcast. The reviewing court disagreed with the plaintiff’s argument, citing Stone’s holding that a Rule 224 petitioner seeking to discover an individual’s identity before suit has the burden to provide allegations in the proposed defamation case sufficient to overcome a section 2-615 motion to dismiss. Because this standard was created to protect the rights of an unidentified defendant, the reviewing court reasoned, the defendant here had an interest in the proceedings even though he was not required to participate, and therefore, had standing to challenge the Rule 224 request.

    After addressing the merits of the defamation claim, the court in Hadley delved into a discussion regarding the interplay between the trial court’s disposition of the plaintiff’s Rule 224 request and appellate jurisdiction under Rules 301 and 304(a). Addressing the dissent’s position that the appellate court lacked jurisdiction to consider the trial court’s order directing Comcast to provide Fuboy’s identity because it was a “nonfinal discovery order,” the reviewing court initially discussed Rule 224 and its counterpart, section 2-402 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-402 (West 2012)), known as the “respondents in discovery” statute. Section 2-402 could not have been applicable in this case, the majority determined, because that section was “meant to discover the identity of defendants other than the defendant named in the underlying complaint,” and is used after at least one defendant has been named in an existing complaint and the plaintiff seeks the identities of other defendants. Rule 224, by contrast, is the mechanism for discovering the identity of the same initial defendant, as the plaintiff sought to do here with the pseudonym of Fuboy. Thus, the majority determined, the trial court entered a Rule 224 order, not a section 2-402 order. Interestingly, the dissent later disclaimed any notion that it believed that the trial court’s order was a section 2-402 order, stating: “The majority suggests that I must believe that section 402 is the procedural posture under which the trial court entered its order. *** Such is not the case. It is clear to me that the trial court was simply looking for a jurisdictional hook for defendant to have an immediate appeal.” 

    The majority noted that Rule 224 orders “have been appealed as final judgments (presumably under Rule 301).” Indeed, as the court in Hadley pointed out, Rule 224 itself states that petitions brought under that rule are “independent [a]ctions.” The “irregularities” presented by the plaintiff’s Rule 224 request in this case, however, made a Rule 304(a) finding necessary because the request was (1) not filed prior to the plaintiff’s suit, and (2) filed as part of a two-count complaint, rather than an independent action, based on specific directives from the trial court following the plaintiff’s issuance of a subpoena to Comcast, “thus removing Rule 301 as a means by which to establish” appellate jurisdiction. The reviewing court noted that, “[a]lthough Rule 224 likely envisioned a one-count action,” the plaintiff’s Rule 224 request was part of a two-count complaint and presented what the court referred to as a “conundrum” when the Rule 224 was entered with the defamation count still pending. Therefore, “although a Rule 224 order is ordinarily a final and appealable order under Rule 301,” a Rule 304(a) finding was necessary in view of the remaining pending claim. Because the trial court had entered a Rule 304(a) finding, the reviewing court determined that appellate jurisdiction existed.

    Apparently responding to the dissent’s position that Rule 304(a) jurisdiction did not exist in this case because there was just reason to delay enforcement or appeal (i.e., to avoid piecemeal appeals, prolonged litigation, and expense), the majority - in a footnote - gave a nod to its recent holding in AT&T v. Lyons & Pinner Electric Co., 2014 IL App (2d) 130577. In that case, the Appellate Court found that a Rule 304(a) finding had been improvidently entered where the trial court failed to consider the “Geier factors” (Geier v. Hamer Enterprises, 226 Ill. App. 3d 372 (1992)). However, the majority summarily distinguished AT&T on the grounds that the Hadley trial court’s apparent motivation to “get the case before the appellate court” was based on mootness considerations, which was one of the Geier factors. Specifically, when the trial court stated: “[t]here must be some avenue by which the defendant can seek relief without disclosure from a higher court than this one,” it had considered that the loss of anonymity could not be undone, and thus, that the issue would become moot if the case proceeded against a named defendant.

    Recommended Citation: Katherine A. Grosh, Second District Appellate Court Tackles Jurisdiction and Standing Questions, The Brief, (August 21, 2014), http://applawyers-thebrief.blogspot.com/2014/08/second-district-appellate-court-tackles.html.

DISCLAIMER: The Appellate Lawyers Association does not provide legal services or legal advice. Discussions of legal principles and authority, including, but not limited to, constitutional provisions, statutes, legislative enactments, court rules, case law, and common-law doctrines are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

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