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"The Brief" - The ALA Blog

  • March 05, 2014 8:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On February 19, 2014, at the Union League Club in Chicago, ALA President Brad Elward presided over a seminar and luncheon on two appellate specialty topics: judicial review of administrative decisions and worker compensation arbitrations.

    The two-hour morning session was devoted to administrative appeals. Carl Draper of the Springfield law firm of Feldman, Wasser, Draper & Cox addressed the topic from the plaintiff's perspective. He supplemented the comprehensive written materials, which provide an excellent framework for understanding the administrative review process, with a "who, what, when, where" description of the issues that practitioners must consider in protecting the rights of those challenging administrative decisions in the circuit and appellate courts. Brett Legner, Civil Appeals Supervisor for the Appellate Division of the Illinois Attorney General's office, presented the defense perspective. Brett explained that, in seeking to uphold agency decisions, he hopes to defend the rulings without having to reach the merits, given the deferential standards of review that are applicable. Brett also addressed common law administrative review, which proceeds outside the Administrative Review Law, and the process for obtaining stays pending review. Justice Robert Gordon of the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, provided insights from the bench. He gave a candid assessment of the shortcomings on the part of attorneys that Justice Gordon has observed in his 18 years as a circuit judge or appellate justice. Justice Gordon also described the type of information that the court scours the record to find. For example, deference on credibility determinations may not be a foregone conclusion without some explanation by the decision maker below.

    After the the morning session, attendees enjoyed a luncheon honoring the justices of the Illinois Appellate Court, Workers Compensation Division. Following lunch, President Elward moderated a panel featuring the appellate justices assigned to the Workers Compensation Division – Justice Thomas E. Hoffman (First District), Justice Donald C. Hudson (Second District), Justice William E. Holdridge (Third District), and Justice Thomas M. Harris (Fourth District). (Justice Bruce D. Steward of the Fifth District was unable to participate.) Providing sound advice that is applicable to any type of case, the panelists engaged in a lively discussion about presenting and defending workers compensation appeals. The justices commented on good brief writing and the art of responding to questions during oral argument.

    The seminar concluded with President Elward speaking on judicial reviews from the Workers' Compensation Commission to the circuit court. Elward pointed out common pitfalls and offered practical advice on how to handle such cases on appeal.

    The ALA thanks the Justices of the Illinois Appellate Court, Workers Compensation Division, and the other speakers for providing their unique insights during the informative seminar.

  • March 03, 2014 6:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On February 25, 2014, the Appellate Lawyers Association and the Chicago Bar Association co-sponsored a public forum featuring the candidates for the Illinois Appellate Court, First District. The program was moderated by ALA Past President, Tim Eaton, who currently serves as the President of the CBA. Each candidate presented his or her credentials to the audience, and then participated in a moderated question and answer session. Candidates answered questions on an array of topics, including judicial elections vs. merit selection, the use of Rule 23 orders as persuasive authority, and the justices who inspire each candidate’s judicial philosophy.

    Three Appellate Court vacancies will appear on the ballot in the March 18, 2014, Primary Election.

                Candidates to fill the vacancy of Hon. Joseph Gordon

                Hon. Shelly A. Harris

                Hon. Freddrenna M. Lyle

                Hon. Susan Kennedy Sullivan

                Candidates to fill the vacancy of Hon. Michael Murphy

                Mr. David Ellis

                Candidates to fill the vacancy of Hon. John O. Steele

                Hon. Sharon Oden Johnson

                Hon. John B. Simon

    All of the candidates accepted our invitation to participate. However, Judge Freddrenna Lyle fell ill on the morning of the event and did not attend.

    We are grateful to the CBA for hosting this program and recording the event for rebroadcast. You can view the recording here or link to it through our website. It will be available until the primary election.

    This year’s Candidates’ Forum continues the ALA’s tradition of providing this public service to our membership and the public at large. We recognize that publicity regarding judicial elections often pales in comparison to that given contests for federal or statewide offices. However, our goal in sponsoring such programs is to help draw attention to judicial elections and thereby facilitate voters’ ability to make informed decisions regarding those elected to these important public offices. The CBA shares our commitment to this goal, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the CBA.

  • February 25, 2014 6:13 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The plaintiff in Williams v. BNSF Ry. Co., 2013 IL App (1st) 121901, filed suit against BNSF under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act. Id. ¶ 1. BNSF in turn filed a third-party complaint for contribution and contractual indemnity. Id. The case proceeded to a jury trial, at the conclusion of which the jury awarded plaintiff damages in excess of $2.6 million. Id. The jury also returned a verdict in favor of the third-party defendant. Id. BNSF appealed, but the Illinois Appellate Court did not reach the merits. Instead, the reviewing court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction because BNSF failed to file its notice of appeal within 30 days of the oral ruling denying BNSF’s posttrial motions. As illustrated below, this case serves as an important reminder that, unless the trial court expressly requires a written order or a local circuit court rule requires a prevailing party to submit a draft order, the judgment is entered "at the time it is entered of record" (Id. ¶ 25), and the time period to file a notice of appeal will begin.

    Before addressing the jurisdictional question, the reviewing court noted that another reviewing court panel denied an earlier motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction shortly after the appeal was filed. Id. ¶ 4. BNSF claimed that this ruling should prevent revisiting the jurisdictional issue. The court disagreed, stating that it has a continuing obligation to verify its jurisdiction. Id. ¶ 5. The court observed that the posttrial procedural history was complex and required a more in-depth consideration of the record than was feasible before the record on appeal was filed with the court. Id.

    The reviewing court then turned to the jurisdictional question. BNSF filed a timely posttrial motion following the jury verdict. Id. ¶ 7. The motion raised 46 issues in total, 45 of which would have resulted in a new trial or modified judgment. Id. The last issue, however, dealt with a setoff which, if allowed, would have partially satisfied the judgment. Id. ¶ 8.

    On April 18, 2012, after conducting a hearing, the trial court orally denied the posttrial motion as to all issues except the setoff claim, which it took under advisement. Id. ¶ 9. No written order reflecting denial of the posttrial motion was entered. Id. On May 31, 2012, more than 30 days later, BNSF filed a motion for leave to cite supplemental authority relative to one of the 45 issues that was rejected in the oral ruling issued on April 18, 2012. Id. ¶ 10. Counsel advised the trial court at the hearing on that motion that he wanted to submit the new authority before the trial court entered a final and appealable order. Id. ¶ 11. The trial court reminded BNSF counsel it denied the posttrial motion on April 18, 2012 and that the only remaining issue was the setoff question, which was still under advisement. Id. ¶ 11.

    Thereafter, the trial court conducted a hearing on June 6, 2012, where it distinguished BNSF’s new authority, reiterated its denial of that motion, and denied BNSF’s request for a setoff. Id. ¶ 14. The parties could not agree on the language of the written order. Id. ¶¶ 16-17. BNSF wanted the order to state that it was final and appealable regarding the jury verdict. Id. ¶ 18. The trial court disagreed and it omitted any reference to the jury verdict. Id. BNSF filed its notice of appeal within 30 days of the entry of the June 6 order. Id. ¶ 19.

    The reviewing court found that the notice of appeal was untimely because BNSF did not file that notice within 30 days of the trial court's April 18, 2012, denial of the posttrial motion, and the unresolved setoff question did not otherwise toll the time to appeal. Id. ¶ 20.

    The reviewing court noted that, because a setoff only operates to satisfy a judgment, it does not qualify as a posttrial motion under section 2-1202 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-1202 (West 2012)), which is limited to motions that will impact the judgment as opposed to satisfying it. Williams, 2013 IL App (1st) 121901, ¶¶ 21-22. The time to appeal therefore began to run on April 18, when the trial court orally denied the part of BNSF’s posttrial motion, which, if granted, would have resulted in a new trial or modified judgment. Id. ¶ 22. The court also rejected BNSF’s contention that, because the trial court considered the supplemental authority that related to one of the issues in the motion that was directed at the judgment at the June 6 hearing, its section 2-1202 motion was not fully resolved before entry of the written order. Id. ¶ 24. The court observed that BNSF’s motion to cite the supplemental authority was filed more than 30 days after denial of the posttrial motion, meaning that the trial court no longer had jurisdiction over the issues that were raised in that motion. Id. ¶ 24.

    Finally, the reviewing court dispensed with the notion that the lack of a written order denying the posttrial motion on April 18 did not render that ruling any less final because Supreme Court Rule 272 (eff. Nov. 1, 1990) expressly provides that a judgment is final when a written order is entered only if the trial court expressly requires a written order. Williams, 2013 IL App (1st) 121901, ¶ 25. But if the trial court did not require a written order, the judgment is final when it is entered. Id.

    The record established that the posttrial motion was denied on April 18, 2012, and that only the setoff question was taken under advisement. There was also no reference to a written order, and the trial court did not instruct the parties to prepare one. As such, the judgment became final on the date the posttrial motion was denied, and BNSF’s notice of appeal was due within 30 days of the April 18, 2012, ruling. Id. ¶¶ 26-28.

    Recommended Citation: Rosa M. Tumialán, The Lack of a Written Order Does Not Affect Finality, The Brief, (February 25, 2014),

  • February 23, 2014 9:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On February 25, 2014, the ALA and the Chicago Bar Association will host a forum featuring the candidates seeking election to the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, in the March 2014 Primary Election. Each candidate will be allotted time to discuss his or her qualifications and will participate in a moderated question and answer session. All candidates have been invited; acceptances pending.

    The event will be held from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., and is free and open to the public. Click here for more information and to RSVP.

  • February 18, 2014 6:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Over the past two decades, the “mailbox rule” has enjoyed expanded applicability and precedential support in Illinois courts, easing the burden on the bar, their staffs and vehicles, and the environment that sacrifices its trees so we can file papers. The mailbox rule stems from Illinois Supreme Court Rule 373 (eff. Dec. 29, 2009), which permits the mailing of documents for filing in Illinois reviewing courts on the day they are due, instead of having to physically transport the documents to one of the six reviewing courts spread widely throughout the state, as long as the document is accompanied with the specified proof of mailing--proof that is not difficult to muster. Rule 373, entitled “Date of Filing Papers in Reviewing Court; Certificate or Affidavit of Mailing” is short enough to quote in full:

    "Unless received after the due date, the time of filing records, briefs or other papers required to be filed within a specified time will be the date on which they are actually received by the clerk of the reviewing court. If received after the due date, the time of mailing, or the time of delivery to a third-party commercial carrier for delivery to the clerk within three business days, shall be deemed the time of filing. Proof of mailing or delivery to a third-party commercial carrier shall be as provided in Rule 12(b)(3). This rule also applies to the notice of appeal filed in the trial court."
    Decisions of those very reviewing courts have expanded the scope of the rule to include many filings in the trial court, including notices of appeal and post-judgment motions. In this author's opinion, applying the mailbox rule to post-judgment motions required some loose interpretation of the rule, which expressly applies to papers filed in the reviewing courts and notices of appeal filed in the trial court, but does not refer to post-judgment motions.

    Moreover, almost all papers filed in the trial and reviewing courts in Illinois can be mailed for filing on the date they are due; even if the paper is received and filed after the deadline, proper practice renders those papers timely on general principles not expressly tied to Rule 373. The only exceptions were documents initiating an action in the trial court, such as the original complaint, or a petition for relief from a judgment after the trial court lost jurisdiction of the matter, usually after 30 days.

    Now, pursuant to Nizamuddin v. Community Education in Excellence, Inc., 2013 IL App (2d) 131230, there is another exception. This new exception limits the application of the mailbox rule to certain rare filings in the appellate court. Under Nizamuddin, papers filed in the appellate court in appeals from orders dealing with requests for temporary restraining orders must arrive at the appellate court on the date they are due, and cannot benefit from the mailbox rule, even though the text of Rule 373 would seem to expressly apply to those filings. The text of Rule 373 refers to filing "records, briefs or other papers required to be filed within a specified time." (Emphasis added.)

    Unlike most civil actions, papers filed in the reviewing court in appeals related to requests for temporary restraining orders have their own special requirements in another Supreme Court Rule and cannot be served by mail, but rather must be served by personal delivery or facsimile transmission. Rule 307(d) (eff. Feb. 26, 2010), entitled "Appeals of Temporary Restraining Orders; Time; Memoranda" provides that these appeals shall be by petition filed in the "appellate court" within two days" of the order being appealed. Id. The Rule further provides:
    "The petition shall be in writing, state the relief requested and the grounds for the relief requested, and shall be filed in the Appellate Court, with proof of personal service or facsimile service as provided in Rule 11, within two days of the entry or denial of the order from which review is being sought." (Emphasis added.) Id.
    The respondent has two days from the "filing of the petition" to file and serve (personally or by facsimile) its response. Replies are not allowed without court permission. There is to be no oral argument. Id. And the appellate court "shall consider and decide the petition within five days after the respondent's time to respond has expired." But the appellate court "may, if it deems it appropriate, order a different schedule," presumably including a different deadline for the respondent’s response or the court’s decision. Id.

    Thus, the tension between Rules 307(d) and 373 was at issue in Nizamuddin. The trial court entered a temporary restraining order on a Friday. Nizamuddin, 2013 IL App (2d) 131230,  ¶ 1. The petition required by rule 307(d) was mailed to the appellate court on the following Monday. The petition was served by mail on that Monday, too. The appellate court and the respondent received the petition on the next day, Tuesday. Id. ¶ 4.

    The reviewing court noted that the petitioner violated Rule 307 in various ways, including serving the petition by mail, when personal service or facsimile transmission was required. Id. ¶ 13. While the Nizamuddin court dismissed the appeal because the petitioner filed its notice of appeal in the trial court rather than the appellate court (id. ¶ 5), the takeaway is the reviewng court’s refusal to apply the mailbox rule. The court conceded that rule 307(d) does not "point blank" specify that the notice of appeal must be filed in the appellate court as opposed to the trial court, relying on its own interpretations of Rule 307(d). Nizamuddin, 2013 IL App (2d) 131230,  ¶ 6. Indeed, the reviewing court devoted the bulk of its discussion to the issue of the mailbox rule, three pages in the eight-page opinion, in a discussion that boiled down to common sense–appeals related to requests for temporary restraining orders are of a "highly expedited nature," given the two-day deadline and the requirement of personal or facsimile service. Nizamuddin, 2013 IL App (2d) 131230, ¶ 7.

    "Given the highly expedited nature" of appeals under Rule 307(d), "the 'mailbox rule' [in Rule] 373 does not apply," the reviewing court concluded. Nizamuddin, 2013 IL App (2d) 131230, ¶ 7. The court reasoned that "applying the mailbox rule" to these appeals "would lead to the practical evisceration of" the applicable two-day deadlines, "an absurd result," according to the reviewing court. Id. ¶ 9. In declining to apply the mailbox rule, the reviewing court noted the "tight deadlines and extraordinary service requirements" in appeals under Rule 307(d) distinguish them from most other civil appeals. Nizamuddin, 2013 IL App (2d) 131230, ¶ 10. The court also wrote that applying the mailbox rule would improperly subject these appeals "to the vagaries of mail delivery." Id. ¶ 11.

    Ultimately, the court "read the specialized filing deadlines of Rule 307(d) to control over the general mailbox rule of Rule 373." Nizamuddin, 2013 IL App (2d) 131230, ¶ 11. The court held that the more general provisions of Rule 373 must yield to the more specific rules in ruleR307(d). Id.

    Common sense prevailed. The petitioner failed to serve its petition properly. But the text of Rule 373 seemed to permit the petitioner to mail its petition on the date it was due. The appellate court rarely dismisses an appeal for improper service. Thus, Nizamuddin is a remarkable case that could rouse the supreme court into action, either by granting leave to appeal or amending one or both of the applicable rules.

    Recommended Citation: Lawrence A. Stein, Illinois Appellate Court: A New Exception to the Mailbox RuleThe Brief, (February 18, 2014),
  • February 14, 2014 4:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Appellate Lawyers Association (ALA) is presenting a Seminar and Luncheon from 10:00 AM to 2:45 PM on February 19, 2014 at the Union League Club.

    The morning session from 10:00 AM to 12:00 Noon will cover Judicial Review of Administrative Decisions from Plaintiff, Defense, and Judicial Perspectives. The Presenters will be Carl Draper, Vice-Chair, ISBA Administrative Law Section; Brett Legner, Appellate Division, Illinois Attorney General’s Office; and Justice Robert Gordon, First District Appellate Court.

    The Luncheon from 12:00 Noon to 12:45 will honor the Appellate Justices present, including Justice Gordon and the five Justices assigned to review Workers Compensation Arbitrations: Justice Thomas E. Hoffman, First District; Justice Donald C. Hudson, Second District; Presiding Judge William E. Holdridge, Third District; Justice Thomas M. Harris, Fourth District; and Justice Bruce D. Stewart, Fifth District Appellate Court.

    The afternoon session from 12:45 to 2:45 PM will cover Judicial Review of Workers Compensation Arbitrations. The Presenters will include a Panel of the Justices assigned to hear these appeals. ALA President Brad Elward will also present on Perfecting Judicial Reviews to the Circuit Court and Common Pitfalls.

    4.00 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit are available for the Seminar. The full agenda can be viewed at, where you can also register online. The cost is for Lunch and Full Day Seminar (4 MCLE Credit hours) is $90 for ALA Members, $110 for Non-Members, and $60 for Public Sector. The cost for Lunch and 1 Session of Seminar (2 MCLE Credit Hours) is $55 for ALA Public Sector Members, $75 for Non-Members, and $40 for Public Sector.

  • February 08, 2014 4:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In Aurora Loan Services, LLC v. Kmiecik, 2013 IL App (1st) 121700, the Illinois Appellate Court held that a party waives any objection to personal jurisdiction if the party has filed a responsive pleading before filing a motion to quash service, even if that pleading had no legal effect because it was filed after the entry of a default judgment. The holding in Kmiecik is important for appellate practitioners because it demonstrates that even a null pleading can result in a party waiving an opportunity to challenge a court's personal jurisdiction, including on appeal.

    Jozef Kmiecik was sued in a mortgage foreclosure action. After Kmiecik initially failed to respond to the complaint, Aurora filed a motion for default judgment. Id. ¶¶ 4-5. On the day the motion was to be heard, Kmiecik appeared before the court pro se and sought an extension of time to respond because he was trying to modify his loan. Id. ¶ 7. The court granted Kmiecik several extensions and ultimately gave Kmiecik a final deadline to respond, with the motion for default being set for a hearing one week after that deadline. Id. ¶ 8. Kmiecik did not appear for the hearing or file any response in advance of the hearing. As a result, the trial court entered a default judgment against him. Id. ¶ 9. Later that same day, Kmiecik filed an untimely general appearance and verified answer, admitting that he was the mortgagor. Id. Nothing further occurred until the property was sold and the trial court entered an order confirming the sale. Id. ¶ 10.

    Nearly 30 days after the trial court entered the order approving the sale, Kmiecik, now represented by counsel, filed a motion to vacate the default judgment and quash service under section 2-1301 of the Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-1301 (West 2010)), arguing that service was improper and, therefore, the trial court did not have personal jurisdiction over him. Kmiecik, 2013 IL App (1st) 121700, ¶ 11. The appellate court held that under section 2-301(a-5) of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-1301(a-5) (West 2010)), Kmiecik waived his objections when he filed his verified answer, even though the answer was untimely. Kmiecik, 2013 IL App (1st) 121700, ¶ 18. Importantly, the trial court specified that Kmiecik did not object to personal jurisdiction in his answer. Id.

    Kmiecik argued that because the untimely answer was being used as a basis for establishing jurisdiction, it must also be grounds for vacating the default judgment. Id. ¶ 16. The appellate court disagreed, holding that the timeliness of his answer and the subsequent default had “no bearing” on whether he submitted to the court’s jurisdiction. Rather, he simply filed a responsive pleading before he filed a motion to quash service under section 2-1301(a), which results in waiver of any personal jurisdiction objections. Id. ¶ 24. Thus, even if Kmiecik had appeared at the hearing on the default and filed his answer at that time, avoiding the default judgment, he still would have submitted to the court’s jurisdiction because he filed a response before objecting to personal jurisdiction. Id.

    Recommended Citation: Gretchen Harris Sperry, The Cart Before the Horse: Personal Jurisdiction Exists When a Pleading is Filed Before Objecting to Jurisdiction, Even if That Pleading was NullThe Brief (February 8, 2014),
  • February 04, 2014 4:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    An important aspect of appellate advocacy is providing trial counsel with proactive advice. Doing so can make a litigation team more effective and, ultimately, more successful. On January 30, 2014, the Association sponsored a brown bag luncheon at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Chicago, which featured a distinguished panel of experienced appellate practitioners sharing their insights on how appellate lawyers can provide advice to trial attorneys.

    Michael A. Pollard, past Association president and partner at Baker & McKenzie LLP, began the panel discussion by offering an oversight on how appellate practitioners can advise trial attorneys during the course of litigation. Pollard emphasized that appellate practitioners were in a unique position to offer "immediate proactive advice" and should strive to provide trial counsel with flexible options. Pollard encouraged appellate practitioners to think of themselves as an "appellate resource" that could be a valuable asset to a litigation team.

    Thereafter, the panel covered a broad range of substantive topics about which trial attorneys were likely to seek counsel. ALA Treasurer Joanne R. Driscoll of Forde Law Offices LLP, discussed evidentiary issues. Driscoll emphasized that, when a party seeks to introduce evidence which the trial court excludes, the party must make an offer of proof to preserve that evidence. If, however, a party seeks to exclude testimonial evidence that is allowed, the party should object and move to strike that testimony as soon as possible. Driscoll further discussed Rule 304(a) (eff. Feb. 26, 2010). Driscoll noted that, in an action involving multiple parties or claims, a final judgment as to one party or claim is not immediately appealable absent a Rule 304(a) finding.

    Association past president Karen Kies DeGrand of Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC focused on jury instructions. DeGrand advised the audience to urge trial counsel to consider a client's big-picture interests when asking for a specific instruction, cautioning "be careful what you ask for." DeGrand emphasized the importance of reminding trial counsel to create a clear record during a jury instructions conference and to specifically refer to each instruction by name. DeGrand also discussed various issues related to post trial motions. Pollard addressed appeal bonds and stays, and discussed the significant distinctions between federal law and state law.

    The ALA thanks Baker & McKenzie for its generous hospitality in hosting the brown bag luncheon and the panel members for their thoughtful comments.

  • January 31, 2014 3:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On January 15, 2014, in a unanimous opinion, the United States Supreme Court significantly clarified when a judgment is final for purposes of 28 U.S.C. §1291. InRay Haluch Gravel Co. v. Central Pension Fund of Int’l Union of Operating Engineers & Participating Employers, 571 U.S. ___, the Supreme Court opted for a bright-line rule that should provide clarity and predictability to appellate practitioners.

    It is well established that a judgment can be “final” and appealable for purposes of 28 U.S.C. §1291 even if a claim for attorney's fees remains pending. The precise issue in Ray Haluch Gravel Co. was, in the words of Justice Kennedy, “whether a different result obtains if the unresolved claim for attorney’s fees is based on a contract rather than, or in addition to, a statute.” Ray Haluch Gravel Co.,  No.12-992, slip op. at 1. The answer was no. “Whether the claim for attorney’s fees is based on a statute, a contract, or both,” Justice Kennedy explained, “the pendency of a ruling on an award for fees and costs does not prevent, as a general rule, the merits judgment from becoming final for purposes of appeal.” Id.

    In the case sub judice, pension funds sued Ray Haluch Gravel Co., a landscape supply company, for failing to make required contributions to the funds. Among other relief, the Funds sought attorney’s fees, auditor’s fees, and costs under ERISA and a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Id. at 2.

    On June 17, 2011, the district court issued an order finding that the Funds “were entitled to certain unpaid contributions, though less than had been requested.” Id. at 3. On the same day, the district court awarded a total of $26,897.41 to the Funds. In a separate order issued approximately a month later, on July 25, 2011, the district court awarded the Funds a total of $34,688.15 in attorney’s fees and costs. Id. at 3-4. The Funds appealed from both orders on August 15, 2011.

    Ray Haluch Gravel Co. argued in the appellate court that the Funds had failed to timely appeal from the district court’s order of June 17, and thus lost their opportunity to challenge the district court’s resolution of their substantive claims. Id. at 4. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit disagreed on the basis that the Funds’ claim for attorney’s fees was based (at least in part) on the CBA. The First Circuit reasoned that the CBA required “the payment of attorneys’ fees as an element of damages in the event of a breach,” and therefore found that the June 17 order was not final. Id. The Supreme Court granted certiorari “to resolve a conflict in the Courts of Appeals over whether and when an unresolved issue of attorney’s fees based on a contract prevents a judgment on the merits from being final.” Id. at 4-5. The Supreme Court reversed the First Circuit and, incidentally, agreed with the Seventh Circuit’s approach to this issue. See Continental Bank, N.A. v. Everett, 964 F.2d 701, 702-03 (7th Cir. 1992) (“An open issue about legal fees, contractual or otherwise, does not affect our jurisdiction to resolve the appeal” on the underlying claims.).

    As early as Budinich v. Becton Dickinson & Co., 486 U.S. 196 (1988), the Supreme Court had decided that a judgment was “final” for purposes of 28 U.S.C. §1291 notwithstanding a pending claim for attorney’s fees pursuant to a statute. In Ray Haluch Gravel Co., the Funds argued that pending claims for attorney’s fees pursuant to a contract were different because contractual attorney’s fees provisions, unlike statutory attorney’s fees provisions, are “liquidated-damages provisions intended to remedy the injury giving rise to the action.” Ray Haluch Gravel Co., No.12-992, slip op. at 7. That argument failed. First, the Court noted that contractual attorney’s fees provisions often entitle prevailing defendants to fees. Second, the holding of Budinich did not recognize the distinction on which the Funds relied. Justice Kennedy went as far as to suggest that the Funds were attempting “to relitigate an issue already decided in Budinich.” Id. at 8.

    The Court also noted that the rule suggested by the Funds posed at least two serious practical problems. First, “[o]perational consistency is not promoted by providing for different jurisdictional effect to district court decisions that leave unresolved otherwise identical fee claims based solely on whether the asserted right to fees is based on a contract or a statute.” Id. Second, and potentially more important, the Funds’ proposed rule “does not promote predictability,” because while “it may be clear whether and to what extent a fee claim is contractual rather than statutory in nature, that is not always so.” Id. Indeed, in the case at hand, the Funds’ request for fees was based on both ERISA and the CBA. Accordingly, while the Funds raised the specter of piecemeal litigation, that concern was “counterbalanced by the interest in determining with promptness and clarity whether the ruling on the merits will be appealed.” Id. at 9. Finally, the Court found it immaterial that the Funds’ request for fees included some fees that were incurred before the litigation began. Id. at 12.

    Certainly with respect to the timing of filing a notice of appeal, predictability and certainty are worthy goals. On that measure, Ray Haluch Gravel Co. merits the appreciation of the appellate bar.

    Recommended Citation: John M. Fitzgerald, Ray Haluch Gravel Co. Clarifies When Judgments Are Final, The Brief, (January 31, 2014),

  • January 29, 2014 7:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Illinois Supreme Court Rule 313 (eff. Feb. 1, 1994) governs the applicable filing fees in the reviewing court. On January 23, 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court amended the rule to increase the filing fee for appellants and petitioners from $25.00 to $50.00; and from $15.00 to $30.00 for all other parties who enter an appearance or file any paper. This increase will not become effective until January 1, 2015.

    Recommended Citation: Charlie Ingrassia, Supreme Court Rule 313: Increased Filing Fees in the Reviewing Court, The Brief, (January 29, 2014),

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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