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"The Brief" - The ALA Blog

  • June 14, 2014 10:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    In Federal National Mortgage Association v. Tomei, 2014 IL App (2d) 130652, the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District, held that it lacked jurisdiction to review a trial court's order vacating a dismissal for want of prosecution (DWP). Federal National filed a mortgage foreclosure action against Tomei. Following Federal National's failure to appear for a status hearing, the trial court dismissed the case for want of prosecution. Thereafter, Federal National filed a motion to vacate the DWP pursuant to section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2012)), citing a "docketing error" for its failure to appear. The trial court granted the motion and reinstated the case. 

    Tomei appealed under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(b)(3) (eff. Feb, 26, 2010), arguing that Federal National should not have been relieved of the consequences of its own negligence under the standards of section 2-1401. Federal National argued that the appellate court lacked jurisdiction because, in substance, its motion was brought pursuant to section 2-1301(e) of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-1301(e) (West 2012)).

    Section 2-1301(e) gives the court discretion to set aside any default before a final order is entered, including a DWP order. Importantly, the court noted that section 13-217 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/13-217 (West 1994)) generally affords a plaintiff one year to refile an action after a DWP order. Therefore, a DWP order is interlocutory for the year after the trial court enters that order and becomes final only when the refiling period under section 13-217 expires.

    Conversely, a section 2-1401 petition allows the trial court to vacate a final judgment more than 30 days after its entry, provided that the movant demonstrates due diligence. Pursuant to Rule 304(b)(3), an order granting or denying relief under section 2-1401 is immediately appealable.

    The appellate court agreed with Federal National. It held that, based on the character of Federal National's pleading (as opposed to the label), the trial court should have converted its section 2-1401 motion to a section 2-1301(e) petition, which was the proper vehicle to set aside a DWP order. Therefore, the "[trial court's] grant of the motion produced an interlocutory order, not a final one" and "an appeal was improper." As a result, the appellate court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

    Recommended Citation: Gretchen Harris Sperry, Illinois Appellate Court: DWP Order Not Appealable Until Period for Refiling Expires, The Brief, (June 14, 2014),

  • June 10, 2014 4:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    In Plumhoff v. Rickard, No. 12-1117 (U.S. May 27, 2014), the United States Supreme Court applied 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and the collateral order doctrine to allow an interlocutory appeal, as of right, of an order denying summary judgment, where the summary judgment motion was based on the defendants’ claim of qualified immunity. Justice Samuel A. Alito wrote the Court’s opinion joined in by six justices, and joined in part by two additional justices.

    The case arose from a police officer’s stop of a vehicle driven by Donald Rickard for a traffic violation. Rather than comply with the officer’s request to see his driver’s license, Rickard sped away, resulting in a high-speed chase involving several officers. When stopped again and nearly cornered by the officers, Rickard tried to flee again, at which time the officers fired a total of 15 shots. Rickard’s car crashed into a building and both Rickard and his passenger were killed from a combination of gunshot wounds and crash injuries. Plumhoff, No. 12-1117, slip op. at 3. 

    Rickard’s daughter brought a civil rights action against the police officers and city officials in Memphis, where the incident occurred. She alleged the use of excessive force and violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The officers moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity, which motion was denied. The officers appealed, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court then granted certiorari. Id. at 4.-5

    Immunity Ruling as Collateral Order 

    Justice Alito’s opinion first addressed the Court’s jurisdiction. He noted that denials of motions for summary judgment were not generally considered final orders under § 1291, and therefore, were not immediately appealable. An exception exists, however, where the motion is based on a claim of qualified immunity. Importantly, Alito explained that qualified immunity is immunity from suit and not a mere defense to liability. Id. at 5. 

    As such, said Alito, pretrial orders denying qualified immunity generally fell within the collateral order doctrine. They did so because the immunity issue is separate from the merits of the action. The issue also could not be effectively reviewed on appeal from a final judgment, because by that time the immunity from standing trial would have been irretrievably lost. Id. 

    Fact v. Legal Determinations 

    Alito distinguished the instant case from Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. 304 (1995), relied on by the respondent, Rickard’s daughter. In that case, defendant police officers moved for summary judgment claiming that they were not present at the time of an alleged beating of the plaintiff. The district court denied the motion and the officers appealed, claiming that the district court had not correctly analyzed the evidence. Id. at 307-08.

    The Johnson Court held that the denial order was not immediately appealable because it merely decided a question of evidence sufficiency, i.e., which facts the defendants may or may not have been able to prove at trial. The Court further observed that such a question is closely related to other determinations that a trial court may be required to make at later stages of the case, and was within the realm of the trial court’s fact-finding expertise. Id. at 313-16.

    By contrast, Alito noted that the officers in this case did not claim that they were not responsible for the shooting. Rather, they took the position that their conduct did not violate the Fourth Amendment and, in any event, did not violate clearly established law. Alito found that these issues were legal in nature and the core responsibility of appellate courts. He therefore found that the Sixth Circuit properly exercised jurisdiction. Plumhoff, No. 12-1117, slip op. at 6-7.

    Merits of Controversy 

    On the merits, Alito went on to find that, in light of the danger a high-speed car chase presents to innocent bystanders, the officers did not violate the Fourth Amendment by shooting at Rickard to prevent him from resuming the chase. Id. at 9. Nor did the officers violate the Fourth Amendment by firing 15 shots even in the presence of Rickard’s passenger. Id. at 11. As to the passenger, Alito further commented that Fourth Amendment rights are personal, and the passenger’s presence could not enhance Rickard’s rights. Id. at 11-12.

    Finally, in the alternative, Alito found that even if the officers had violated the Fourth Amendment, the violation was not so “clearly established” at the time the incident as to destroy the officers’ right to qualified immunity. Id. at 12-14. 

    The Supreme Court therefore reversed the decision of the Sixth Circuit. 


    Recommended Citation: Don R. Sampen, SCOTUS: Order Denying Summary Judgment is Immediately Appealable as of Right Where Motion is Based on Qualified Immunity Claim, The Brief, (June 10, 2014),

  • June 04, 2014 11:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    On May 28, 2014, the Association gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago for its annual roundtable luncheon honoring the Judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. ALA Secretary Mike Scodro welcomed Association members and guests, who included many judges of the Seventh Circuit along with judges from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the Illinois Supreme Court, the Illinois Appellate Court, and the Cook County Circuit Court.

    Also in attendance was Hon. James Allsop, the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia. After being introduced by Chief Judge Diane Wood, Chief Justice Allsop provided an insightful overview of the Federal Court of Australia. The Chief Justice noted that the court was established in 1976; it is a national court with no districts or circuits; and appeals from its decisions go directly to the High Court of Australia, the highest court in the Australian judicial system.

    Following lunch, during which members of the Seventh Circuit sat at individual tables alongside ALA members, Chief Judge Wood, Judge John Daniel Tinder, and Judge David Hamilton participated in a panel discussion moderated by Scodro. The panel provided helpful tips with respect to both brief writing and presenting oral argument. Regarding briefs, Chief Judge Wood noted the "virtues of being concise and focused" and emphasized that doing so was "immensely helpful" to the court. Judge Hamilton appreciated briefs that were organized in a simple, two-part, structure: (1) why your side is right; followed by (2) why the other side is wrong.

    With respect to oral argument, the panel encouraged the audience to "embrace the tough questions." Chief Judge Wood noted that a well-prepared attorney will thoroughly know the facts and law underlying the case, with Judge Tinder reminding the audience that appellate court judges were "generalists." The panel also provided a helpful reminder that interrupting the judges presiding over oral argument "is a foolish way to win a case."

    The ALA thanks the Judges of the Seventh Circuit for another enjoyable and informative roundtable luncheon.

    Recommended Citation: Charlie Ingrassia, Seventh Circuit: Be Concise and Embrace Tough QuestionsThe Brief, (June 4, 2014),

  • May 31, 2014 10:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On May 29, 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court amended Rule 306, which governs interlocutory appeals by permission. The amendment added language to subsection (c)(5), which provides that if a petition for an interlocutory appeal is granted, the proceedings at the trial court are stayed. The amended subsection (c)(5) provides that the Appellate Court, or a judge on that court, "may vacate or modify the stay." 

    The committee comments note that, "in exceptional circumstances or by agreement of the parties," it may be appropriate for certain aspects of the case to continue at the trial court, "such as discovery, for example." However, the continuation may not interfere with appellate review or otherwise offend "notions of substantial justice," and the trial court is not permitted to enter an order that interferes with appellate review. The amendment becomes effective on July 1, 2014. 

    Will parties be more inclined to seek a permissive interlocutory appeal knowing that certain aspects of the case may proceed at the trial court while the interlocutory appeal (if granted) remains pending?

    Recommended Citation: Charlie Ingrassia, Supreme Court Amends Rule 306: Appellate Court May Vacate or Modify Stay, The Brief, (May 31, 2014),

  • May 29, 2014 10:52 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The recent opinion by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Banks v. Chicago Board of Education, 2014 US App. LEXIS 7740 (7th Cir., Apr. 24, 2014), serves as a firm reminder that the 28-day time period to file a Rule 59(e) motion is strict and unforgiving.

    Banks sued her former employer and supervisor alleging racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as related violations of federal and state law. The district Court granted summary judgment in favor of all of the defendants on all claims. Banks then filed a motion to “alter entry of summary judgment” under Rule 59(e). However, Banks filed her motion on the 29th day following the grant of summary judgment. The district court considered the motion on the merits and denied it six days later. Banks filed her notice of appeal within 30 days of the denial of her Rule 59(e) motion.

    The Seventh Circuit questioned the scope of its jurisdiction on appeal. The court requested that Banks file an additional brief addressing jurisdiction, but was ultimately not persuaded. The reviewing court concluded that, because the motion to “alter entry of summary judgment” was filed one day late, it did not toll the time to appeal from the summary judgment order. The motion instead would be treated as a Rule 60(b) motion. Appellate review was therefore limited to the denial of relief under Rule 60(b), and Banks forfeited direct review of the order granting summary judgment.

    The Seventh Circuit began its Rule 60(b) analysis by noting that relief under that rule is limited, lest it be used to circumvent the time limit set out in Rule 4. A party is entitled to relief under Rule 60(b) when the party raises an issue that could not have been raised under direct appeal. The reviewing court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Banks’ motion under the Rule 60(b) standard because the only arguments she raised on appeal were ones that could have been raised in the direct appeal, which she forfeited.

    The reviewing court also declined to find that Banks’ motion raised “exceptional circumstances” within the catchall provision provided in Rule 60(b)(6). The court noted that this provision had a narrow application designed to avoid Rule 60(b) being used as a substitute for direct appeal.

    Finally, the reviewing court found that it made no difference for purposes of appellate jurisdiction that the district court considered the untimely motion on the merits. The district court’s denial of an untimely motion could not vest the Seventh Circuit with jurisdiction over the propriety of the summary judgment ruling.

    Recommended Citation: Rosa M. Tumialán, Scope of Appellate Jurisdiction Narrowed by Untimely Rule 59(e) Motion, The Brief, (May 29, 2014), 

  • May 25, 2014 9:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    On May 20, 2014, the Association co-hosted an appellate practice seminar with the McLean County Bar Association in Bloomington. The MCBA President, Rusty DePew, welcomed the attendees and introduced the speakers, Brad Elward, ALA President and partner at Heyl, Royster, Voelker & Allen; and Michael Scodro, ALA Secretary, partner at Jenner & Block, and former Illinois Solicitor General.

    Brad Elward discussed interlocutory appeals, providing the particularities of Illinois Supreme Court Rules 304, 306, 307, and 308 while also providing practical advice. Michael Scodro provided insight on appeals to the Illinois Supreme Court, focusing on the requirements and real-world application of Rule 315.

    The ALA thanks the MCBA for co-hosting the event. 

  • May 19, 2014 2:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On May 9, 2014, the Association gathered in downstate Mt. Vernon for its annual roundtable luncheon honoring the Justices of the Fifth District Appellate Court. This year's luncheon honored retiring Appellate Court Justice James Wexstten, who had served on the bench - as both a trial court judge and appellate court justice - for more than 25 years. 

    Special guests, as well as Association members and nonmembers, turned out in force to honor the retiring justice, as more than 95 lawyers and judges attended. Among those paying tribute were Justice Bruce D. Stewart of the Illinois Appellate Court, Fifth District, and retired Circuit Court Judge Thomas H. Sutton of the Second Judicial Circuit. Justice Stewart, who attended law school, practiced law, and served on the appellate court with Justice Wexstten, gave a glowing recap of their long personal and professional relationship. Judge Sutton, who served as circuit judge with Justice Wexstten for many years, brought laughter and tears with their fond memories.

    The ALA thanks the Justices of the Illinois Appellate Court, Fifth District, for another enjoyable and informative roundtable luncheon.

  • May 16, 2014 3:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    For decades, defendants in civil actions faced a dilemma if they wished to appear in a case for the first time after judgment to contest the court’s prior personal jurisdiction over them--for want of proper service of process on them--to seek to vacate the judgment, to submit to the jurisdiction of the court, and to defend on the merits. The dilemma was that such an appearance and submission of the defendant to the jurisdiction of the court could "serve to validate retroactively a judgment [that was] void when entered." J.C. Penney Co., Inc. v. West, 114 Ill. App. 3d 644, 646 (1983) (finding against retroactivity but recognizing the existence of conflicting decisions). The alternative was to first seek to vacate the judgment only, and not to immediately submit to the jurisdiction of the court, and not seek to immediately defend on the merits.

    This dilemma was made acute by the reality that seeking only to vacate the judgment for improper service was unattractive for practical reasons: the court is more likely to vacate the prior judgment if the defendant submits to its jurisdiction. Seeking to vacate the judgment for improper service, without also submitting to the court's jurisdiction, might seem overly technical to the court, reducing the likelihood of success of a request only to vacate the judgment.

    In BAC Home Loans Services, LP v. Mitchell, 2014 IL 116311, our supreme court has eliminated that persistent dilemma. BAC involved a mortgage foreclosure. The return of the summons indicated service on the defendant, Kim E. Mitchell, resulting from substitute service on Michelle Foreman by leaving the summons with Foreman at Mitchell’s residence. Mitchell did not respond to the summons within 30 days, and in 2010 BAC obtained a judgment of foreclosure and sale from the court based on the substitute service. Also in 2010, a judicial sale occurred pursuant to the judgment of foreclosure and sale. The court confirmed the sale in 2011. In a mortgage foreclosure action, an order confirming the sale is the final judgment of the court.

    Within 30 days after the trial court entered the final order confirming the sale, Mitchell filed an appearance and a motion to vacate the order confirming the sale. The motion was withdrawn and refiled as a motion to quash, and a petition for relief from, the order confirming the sale. BAC responded to the motion as re-filed, alleging that substitute service on Foreman at the residence was proper and that Foreman was Mitchell’s daughter. Mitchell replied, under oath, that she had no daughters, only a son, and did not know anyone named Michelle Foreman. Mitchell’s motion was denied, and the appellate court affirmed, holding that Mitchell’s actions in the trial court "worked prospectively and retroactively" to validate the orders of the court entered before Mitchell first appeared and moved to vacate the order confirming the sale.

    The supreme court reversed, holding that Mitchell’s actions did not retroactively validate the orders entered prior to Mitchell’s appearance, overruling the decisions from the appellate court permitting retroactive validation of orders entered without personal jurisdiction. In doing so, the court reaffirmed "the longstanding rule that 'a party who submits to the court’s jurisdiction does so only prospectively and the appearance does not retroactively validate orders entered prior to that date.' " BAC Home Loans Services, 2014 IL 116311, ¶ 43 (quoting In re Marriage of Verduna, 126 Ill. 2d 542, 547 (1989)). As a result, the supreme court held that Mitchell had submitted to the trial court's jurisdiction and waived any objection to personal jurisdiction, prospectively only. The court vacated as void all orders entered before Mitchell submitted to the court's jurisdiction and remanded for further proceedings, where Mitchell will have the opportunity to defend the merits of the lawsuit.

    Recommended Citation: Lawrence A. Stein, No Risk of Retroactively Validating Prior Void Orders When Submitting to the Jurisdiction of the Court After Final Judgment, The Brief, (May 16, 2014),

  • May 13, 2014 4:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has published an updated edition of its Practitioner's Handbook for Appeals. The May 2014 edition can be found here.

  • May 09, 2014 11:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On Friday, June 13, 2014, the ALA will gather at the Union League Club in Chicago for the Installation Luncheon of Steven F. Pflaum as the Association's Forty-Seventh President. Justice Michael B. Hyman of the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, will administer the oath of office. 

    The Association’s Nominating Committee will also present the following slate of Officers and Directors for election at the meeting:

    Officers (2014-2015)
    Vice-President: Michael A. Scodro
    Secretary: Joanne R. Driscoll
    Treasurer: Evan Siegel 

    Directors (2014-2016) 
    Director (1st Dist.): Matthew D. Elster
    Director (1st Dist.): John M. Fitzgerald
    Director (3rd Dist.): Natalie D. Thompson
    Director (1st Dist.): E. King Poor

    Click here for information on how to register for the event. 

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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