"The Brief" - The ALA Blog

  • September 11, 2019 9:44 AM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    Congratulations to Justice Anne Burke, who was selected to serve as the next Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. Her three-year term will begin on October 26, 2019. Justice Burke will be the fifth woman to currently lead a branch of the Illinois judiciary, joining Chief Judge Diane Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Chief Judge Sarah Darrow of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, and Chief Judge Nancy Rosenstengel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

    Justice Burke has served on the Illinois Supreme Court since 2006.  She is the third woman to ever sit on the state's highest court.  From 1995 to 2006, she served as a Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court, First District.  Before that, she served as a Judge to the Court of Claims, as special counsel for Child Welfare Services under Governor Jim Edgar, and as a solo practitioner.  Before embarking on her legal career, Justice Burke worked with mentally disabled children as a physical education teacher with the Chicago Park District and founded the Chicago Special Olympics, which later grew into the International Special Olympics.  Justice Burke is an active member of the American, Illinois State, Chicago, and Women's Bar Associations, and The Illinois Judges' Association.

    The Illinois Supreme Court's order announcing Justice Burke's selection may be found here.

  • September 04, 2019 8:06 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    Effective October 1, 2019, Justice Melissa A. Chapman of the Illinois Appellate Court, Fifth District, will be retiring from the bench.  Justice Chapman has served on the Appellate Court since 2001.

    Justice Chapman was born in Granite City, Illinois.  She received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, and worked as a mental health counselor for five years before attending law school.

    Justice Chapman earned her Juris Doctor from St. Louis University.   Before her appointment to the Appellate Court, she practiced law for 18 years as a partner in the firm of Morris B. Chapman & Associates, Ltd., in Granite City, where her practice focused on personal injury litigation.   Along with serving on the bench, Justice Chapman served on the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission Review Board from 1998 to 2001 and has served as a member of the Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions Committee-Civil since 1995. 

    The Illinois Supreme Court has appointed Retired Circuit Judge Milton S. Wharton to fill the vacancy left by Justice Chapman's retirement.  Judge Wharton served as an associate judge in St. Clair County from 1976 until his retirement in 2012.  Before serving on the bench, Judge Wharton worked in the St. Clair County Public Defender's Office.  Judge Wharton also founded the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Southwestern Illinois, a nonprofit that advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children.

  • August 30, 2019 3:12 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The Illinois Supreme Court’s September Term begins Tuesday, September 10, 2019, with oral arguments scheduled for September 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, and 19. A total of 19 cases will be heard – 5 criminal and 14 civil. The following criminal cases are scheduled for argument this Term:

    September 10

    People v. Muhammad Abdullah, No. 123492

    People v. Ashanti Lusby, No. 124046

    People v. Vivian Brown, No. 124100

    People v. Quentin Bates, No. 124143

    September 18

    People v. Conrad Morger, No. 123643  (Godfrey, IL)

    Below is a summary for one of these cases, People v. Vivian Brown. Summaries for this case and others pending in the Illinois Supreme Court can be found in our Cases Pending publication, accessible to ALA members on the ALA's website.

    People v. Vivian Brown

    Law enforcement responded to a call from defendant's husband reporting that defendant had fired a gun in their home.  Upon arrival, police found a rifle beside defendant's bed but no evidence that she had fired the gun in the home.  Because defendant did not have a Firearm Owner's Identification card (FOID card), she was charged with possession of a firearm without a FOID card.  According to defendant, she was eligible for a FOID card at the time of her arrest.

    This case is a direct appeal from the order of the White County Circuit Court that declared section 2(a)(1) of the FOID Card Act (430 ILCS 65/2(a)(1)) unconstitutional on its face and as applied under the Second Amendment.  The court found two bases for striking the statute.  First, the court held that requiring defendant to fill out a form, provide a picture ID, and pay a $10 fee to obtain a FOID card was an as-applied unconstitutional burden on her Second Amendment rights.  Second, the court found that compliance with the FOID Card Act was impossible within one’s own home, rendering it facially unconstitutional as to those with guns in their homes.

    Before the Illinois Supreme Court, the People first argue that the FOID Card Act is not an impermissible burden on the right to possess firearms in one's home.  Second, the People assert that the circuit court erred by declaring the provision unconstitutional as applied to defendant based on facts other than those in her case.  More specifically, the circuit court had raised two hypothetical scenarios (regarding constructive firearm possession in households with multiple residents) to justify the second basis for its order, neither of which describes defendant's circumstances.

    Defendant argued that the circuit court correctly found that the FOID Card Act violates defendant's rights under the Illinois Constitution and that the People waived any argument to the contrary.  Defendant also asserted that the circuit court's two findings were correct.

    An amicus brief was filed in support of each party.  The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence supported the People; supporting defendant was a collection of gun rights groups, professors, and two state's attorneys.

  • August 29, 2019 9:14 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The Illinois Supreme Court’s September Term begins Tuesday, September 10, 2019, with oral arguments scheduled for September 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, and 19. A total of 19 cases will be heard – 5 criminal and 14 civil. The following civil cases are scheduled for argument this Term:

    September 11

    The Robert R. McCormick Foundation v. Arthur J. Gallagher Investment Management Services, No. 123936

    Lakewood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, LLC v. The Illinois Department of Public Health, No. 124019

    Horsehead Corp. v. Illinois Department of Revenue and Illinois Independent Tax Tribunal, No. 124155

    September 12

    Ammons v. Canadian National Railroad Co., No. 124283

    Andrews v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, No. 124283

    September 17

    Iwan Ries & Co. v. City of Chicago, No. 124469  

    Rushton v. Illinois Department of Corrections, No. 124552  

    Sanders v. Illinois Department of Corrections, No. 124565  

    Hernandez  v. Lifeline Ambulance, LLC, No. 124610

    September 18

    Dew-Becker v. Wu, No. 124472  

    September 19

    Raab v. Frank, No. 124641

    Zamuido v. Ochoa, No. 124676

    Crim v. Dietrich, No. 124318

    Yakich v. Aulds, No. 123667

    Below is a summary for one of these cases, Crim v. Dietrich. Summaries for this case and others pending in the Illinois Supreme Court can be found in our Cases Pending publication, accessible to ALA members on the ALA's website.

    Crim v. Dietrich

    This case presents a question of first impression regarding whether an appellate court’s reversal of a partial directed verdict resurrects claims that were tried to a jury but not subject to a post-trial motion or pursued on appeal. 

    Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendant alleging two claims related to the delivery of a child: (1) failure to obtain informed consent, and (2) professional negligence.  The case proceeded to a jury trial.  At the close of the Plaintiffs’ case, Defendant moved for a partial directed verdict on the issue of informed consent.  The circuit court granted the motion and entered a partial directed verdict as to that claim.  The remaining professional negligence claim went to the jury, which ultimately returned a verdict for the Defendant.  Plaintiffs did not file a post-trial motion, but they did file an appeal.  In their brief on appeal, Plaintiffs limited the scope of the appeal to the partial directed verdict on the informed consent claim and did not raise any arguments challenging the jury’s verdict on the professional negligence claim. 

    The Illinois Appellate Court’s opinion, 2016 IL App (4th) 150843 (“Crim I”), was limited to the informed consent issue.  The Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District reversed and remanded to the circuit court “for such other proceedings as required by order of this court.” 

    On remand, Defendant filed a motion in limine to preclude Plaintiffs from raising issues related to the professional negligence claim because, according to Defendant, that issue was never appealed.  Plaintiffs, however, argued that the reversal on the informed consent claim changed the tenor of the trial such that both the lack of informed consent and professional negligence claims should go to the jury.  The circuit court denied Defendant’s motion in limine, but certified a question for interlocutory appeal to determine whether the Fourth District’s original reversal and remand for a new trial required a trial de novo on all of Plaintiffs’ claims.  The Fourth District issued an order concluding that, because the mandate and opinion in Crim I used general language, “the entire judgment was abrogated and the trial court is to proceed as if hearing the case for the first time.”  The Fourth District instructed the circuit court “to return to that moment in the trial when that judgment was entered” and “proceed as if no trial had taken place.”

    In its petition for leave to appeal, Defendant argues that the new trial should be limited to the only issue the Plaintiffs appealed in Crim I—the informed consent claim.  The Fourth District’s holding, Defendant maintained, violated the general rule that failure to file a post-trial motion following a jury trial prevents review of the jury’s verdict.  Furthermore, the Fourth District’s mandate in Crim I reversing and remanding the “order on appeal” could not have encompassed the jury verdict because the only order on appeal was the trial court’s directed verdict on the informed consent claim.  The mandate, therefore, could not have revived the professional negligence claim.  Rather, once the 30-day deadline for filing post-trial motions passed, Defendant argued, the jury’s verdict on the professional negligence claim became a final judgment. 

    In their answer, Plaintiffs contend that their notice of appeal encompassed not only the directed verdict, but also all subsequent rulings by the circuit court such that Plaintiffs’ appeal additionally included the jury verdict. Plaintiffs also argue that the Fourth District correctly concluded that the mandate in the original appeal remanded the entire case back to the circuit court as if no trial had occurred, thereby requiring a second trial on Plaintiffs’ professional negligence claim.

  • August 23, 2019 3:05 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    By Nate Nieman

    Walter Wells was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated battery in a public place and was sentenced to three years in prison. Wells appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to convict him and that the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) violated his rights to substantive and procedural due process.

    In People v. Wells, 2019 IL App (1st) 163247, the First District Appellate Court determined that the evidence was sufficient to convict Wells. Wells also argued that “the broad SORA regulations and restrictions imposed on him as a result of his conviction for a sexual offense violate his substantive due process rights and are facially unconstitutional.”

    However, before reaching this issue, the court had to consider whether it had jurisdiction to review this issue after the State argued that “a defendant cannot raise a constitutional challenge to SORA on direct appeal from the criminal conviction that triggered application of SORA” after the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision in People v. Bingham, 2018 IL 122008.

    Bingham involved a defendant’s challenge to SORA registration that was triggered by a felony theft conviction. The Bingham court held “because the requirement to register under SORA was not encompassed within the trial court’s judgment of guilt on the theft conviction or any order of the trial court in that proceeding, the defendant’s constitutional challenge did not ask the reviewing court to take action available to it under [Ill. S. Ct. R.] 615(b).”

    The Bingham court reasoned that “‘[a]llowing defendants to challenge the collateral consequences of a conviction on direct appeal would place a reviewing court in the position of ruling on the validity (or resolving the details) of regulatory programs administered by the state agencies and officials that are not parties to the action.’” Such challenges to SORA could, however, be brought in civil suits or on direct appeal from convictions resulting from violating SORA requirements.

    Finding that Wells’ obligation to register under SORA was a collateral consequence of his conviction that was not embodied in the trial court’s judgment, the court applied Bingham and held that it did not have jurisdiction to consider Wells’ constitutional challenges to SORA. 

  • August 13, 2019 8:37 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    Lawyers-Lend-A-Hand to Youth, an organization that channels the legal community's resources to promote mentoring and tutoring programs in disadvantaged Chicago communities, is seeking volunteer tutors for its one-on-one tutoring program. The program meets on Tuesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Chicago Bar Association, 321 South Plymouth Court, Chicago, Illinois. Tutors will assist children from Chicago's Englewood neighborhood become better readers. Orientation will be held on September 3 and 10.

    For more information, contact Jenna Meyers at (312) 554-2053 or email jmeyers@lawyerslendahand.org.

  • August 08, 2019 8:59 AM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    Justice Robert Spence of the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District, will be retiring from the bench. Justice Spence has served on the Appellate Court since 2012 and, before that, served in the circuit court since 2001.  Justice Spence also served as an Assistant State's Attorney for 14 years and as an Assistant Attorney General for six years. Justice Spence received his undergraduate degree from Taylor University and his Juris Doctor from The John Marshall Law School.

    To fill Justice Spence's vacancy, the Illinois Supreme Court has appointed Retired Circuit Judge George Bridges to the Second District effective September 16, 2019. 

    Judge Bridges received his undergraduate degree in 1982 from National Lewis University and his Juris Doctor in 1987 from Chicago-Kent College of Law.

    Judge Bridges served as Waukegan's first African-American police chief from 1988 to 1990, when he began working as an Assistant State's Attorney in the Lake County State's Attorney's office.  Judge Bridges served as Waukegan's police chief again from 1993 until his appointment as an associate judge in Lake County in 1995.  The Illinois Supreme Court appointed Judge Bridges as a circuit judge of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit in 2012, and he was elected as a full circuit judge in 2014.  Judge Bridges retired from the bench in 2016. 

  • August 02, 2019 8:58 AM | Louis Manetti (Administrator)

     By: Katherine A. Grosh, Levin Ginsburg 

    Undaunted by admonishments from the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and the First District Appellate Court of Illinois, pro se litigant Lisa J. Gillard filed her latest in a series of unsuccessful appeals stemming from a September 2016 incident whereby Gillard shoved a security guard at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and was convicted of battery. Gillard v. Northwestern Memorial Hospital, et al., 2019 IL App (1st) 182348.  Over 10 pages of the First District’s 22-page opinion were devoted to a review of Gillard’s litigation over the last few years. Gillard had filed several civil and criminal lawsuits against Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the security contractor, Starbucks, Circuit Court of Cook County Judge Clare McWilliams, and others, alleging in one complaint that she was the victim of “defamation and emotional distress” and seeking $3 billion (with a “b”) in damages. Many of the suits (some of which were consolidated) ended in dismissals for failure to state valid causes of action after multiple pleading attempts.

    In the suit at hand, Gillard attempted to allege counts for defamation per se, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and false light. Id. ¶¶ 11, 17.  In the midst of Gillard’s pleading attempts and related motion practice by many of the defendants, the trial court dismissed the case for want of prosecution on two occasions, the second of which occurred after Gillard failed to appear on a series of court dates. Id. ¶¶ 10, 12. Each time, Gillard moved to vacate the dismissal, and the court reinstated the case. Id. ¶ 12. Gillard also filed two motions for substitution of judge, which were denied, but resulted in both trial judges recusing themselves from all cases involving Gillard. Id. ¶ 13, 14. At around the same time, Gillard filed a separate tort complaint against several Cook County sheriff’s officers assigned to duty on the twenty-second floor of the Daley Center. Consequently, all of the law division motion call judges recused themselves from Gillard’s cases. Id. ¶ 15. All then-pending suits, including the instant case, were assigned to Judge Clare McWilliams. Id.

    Judge McWilliams granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss Gillard’s complaint, but gave Gillard another opportunity to amend. Id. ¶ 16. Gillard’s fourth amended complaint increased her demand from $500 million in damages to $3 billion, and sought the termination of several of defendants’ employees. Id. ¶ 17. By the time she filed her fourth amended complaint, her criminal battery case had concluded and she was found guilty, and ordered not to have any contact with Northwestern Memorial Hospital except in the case of medical emergency. Id. ¶ 18 (citing People v. Gillard, 2018 IL App (1st) 171121-U, ¶ 1).The defendants again filed motions to dismiss, arguing, among other things, that Gillard’s conviction for battery established conclusively that any statements the defendants had made about Gillard shoving a security guard were not false. They also argued that the fourth amended complaint, like the previous complaints, did not plead adequate facts to support any of her claims. Id. ¶ 19.

    Rather than file a response to the motions to dismiss, Gillard filed a motion to substitute Judge McWilliams for cause, arguing that she was part of a “ring of conspiracy” by judges and “mentally unfit.” Id. ¶ 20. Thereafter, she filed a civil complaint against Judge McWilliams, alleging civil rights violations and conspiracy. Id. ¶ 21 (citing Gillard v. McWilliams, 2019 IL App (1st) 182217-U, ¶ 5). She also filed several “emergency motions” to disqualify Judge McWilliams before the presiding judge of the law division, all of which were denied or stricken, as well as a “memorandum” threatening to initiate ARDC proceedings against counsel for Northwestern Memorial Hospital and to file “federal indictment charges” against opposing counsel and several Cook County judges, all after Judge McWilliams entered a “protocol order” at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s request. Id. ¶¶ 22, 23.

    In a written order dated October 23, 2018, entered over one month after the deadline set by the court for Gillard to respond to the defendants’ motions to dismiss, the court dismissed the fourth amended complaint with prejudice, finding that Gillard had not pleaded sufficient facts support any of her claims. Id. ¶ 24. Gillard then filed two separate motions to reinstate the case, incorrectly stating that the case had been dismissed for want of prosecution, and alleging that Judge McWilliams was “disqualified under the law.” Id. ¶ 25. However, as would later become relevant to the disposition of her appeal, neither motion argued that Gillard had sufficiently pleaded the five counts of her fourth amended complaint or otherwise addressed the court’s rulings on the motion to dismiss. Id. ¶ 25. The motions to reinstate were denied on November 1, 2018, and Gillard appealed. Id. ¶ 25.

    Although the court’s opinion discusses numerous important appellate procedural rules, the court confronted two main issues: (1) whether Gillard can prevail on her claims of error and (2) “whether her appeal is so frivolous, and her pattern of behavior so egregious,” that an order of sanctions should be entered against her under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 375.

    Initially, the court addressed whether it had jurisdiction over the appeal, where Gillard’s notice of appeal specified a “November 1, 2018 order entered by Judge McWilliams,” where that order was the order denying Gillard’s motions to reinstate the case, and was entered by a different judge, and where the notice of appeal did not reference the October 23, 2018 dismissal order entered by Judge McWilliams. Reiterating that “[c]lerical errors in a notice of appeal do not necessarily render the notice defective,” and that an unspecified order is reviewable where it is a step in the “procedural progression” leading to the judgment specified in the notice of appeal, the court found it had jurisdiction to review both orders under the “liberal construction” standard governing notices of appeal. Id. ¶¶ 41-43.

    The defects in the notice of appeal aside, the court observed that Gillard’s appellate brief violated Supreme Court Rule 341(h) in several respects. The single-page statement of facts contained no references to the record on appeal and omitted any description of the defendants’ motions to dismiss or the court’s rationale for granting them. Id. ¶ 46.  The argument section also failed to cite to the record, and did not contain any substantive content or argument directed at the circuit court’s reasoning for dismissing her fourth amended complaint. Id. ¶ 47. Instead, the brief discussed the jurisdiction of the “Illinois Supreme Court” and the standards a court applies when considering whether a statute is unconstitutional, even though the case was not currently before our supreme court and did not involve any challenge to a statute’s constitutionality. Id. ¶ 47.  The court stated: “[a] pro se litigant must comply with the rules of procedure required of attorneys, and a court will not apply a more lenient standard to pro se litigants." Id. ¶ 45 (citing People v. Adams, 318 Ill. App. 3d 539, 542 (2001)). However, because the court understood the issues Gillard intended to raise, and because the defendants very competently briefed the issues, the court elected not to strike Gillard’s brief.

    Still, the court found that each of Gillard’s arguments on appeal were either waived -- having been raised for the first time on appeal -- or forfeited under Supreme Court Rule 341(h)(7), having been raised in the trial court but abandoned on appeal in the opening brief. Id. ¶¶ 49-51.  Further, Gillard made no reference to any of the five claims actually pleaded in her fourth amended complaint, but rather, made arguments related to causes of action that she never pleaded, such as malicious prosecution and consumer fraud. Id. ¶ 51.  Nevertheless, and with emphasis on Rule 63(c)’s requirement of judicial self-disqualification, the court went on to address the merits of Gillard’s appeal, concluding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing Gillard’s fourth amended complaint or in denying her motions to reinstate the case. Id. ¶¶ 52-60.

    Addressing the defendants’ motions for sanctions against Gillard, the court stated, “[a]lthough this court is especially solicitous of self-represented parties who do not display punctilious compliance with our rules, we will order sanctions against pro se litigants under sufficiently egregious circumstances.” Id. ¶ 62. The court observed that Gillard’s “prodigious appellate practice has been characterized by repeated, and often dispositive, failures to obey the Illinois Supreme Court rules regarding briefs. Gillard has yet to file before this court a single appellate brief that consistently and properly cites the record.” Id. ¶ 68.  The court also noted other courts’ admonishments to Gillard for her frivolous litigation, including the warning the court itself issued to her months ago. Id. ¶ 67 (citing Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 2018 IL App (1st) 180922-U, ¶ 25) (“if [Gillard] pursues a pattern of frivolous appeals before this court, she will face sanctions”). The court continued, “[d]espite our admonishments and dismissals, Gillard persists in inappropriate use of the judicial system.” Id. ¶ 68.  Recognizing the likelihood that Gillard would be unable or unwilling to pay a monetary sanction consisting of a judgment for the defendants’ attorneys’ fees, however, the court referred its opinion to the court’s executive committee for the entry of an administrative order requiring Gillard to fulfill several procedural requirements before she can pursue any future appeals. Id. ¶ 69.  The court also recommended that for any future appeal she files, it will be automatically stayed and no opposing party need file responsive documents unless requested by the court or the court lifts the stay.

    Apparently as the result of prior issues regarding Gillard’s qualifications for court fee waivers, the court also recommended that for future appeals: (a) any fee waiver motion Gillard files pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 313 shall include her actual residence address (not a post office box address), as well as copies of her last two annual state and federal income tax returns with an affidavit as to their authenticity, and (b) that the circuit court hold a hearing on any future fee waiver petitions filed by Gillard, and stay any litigation brought by her until either she pays the appropriate fees, or the court is satisfied that she actually qualifies for a fee waiver. Id. ¶ 69.

    The opinion was authored by Justice Mathias Delort, with Justice Maureen Connors and Sheldon Harris concurring. Still pending before the First District Appellate Court are Gillard’s consolidated appeals from the trial court’s dismissal of her suits against Comeaux-Brookins, the court reporter in her criminal battery trial and the presiding judge of her criminal trial, Judge Clarence Burch, which allege that their defamatory statements led to her arrest for harassment when Gillard violated the staking no contact order.

  • July 23, 2019 7:15 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

    The Appellate Lawyers Association offers its best wishes to Justice Mary Ann Mason on her retirement from the Illinois Appellate Court, effective July 26, 2019. Justice Mason began her legal career as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and later worked at Kevin M. Forde, Ltd. for 16 years. She was appointed to the Circuit Court of Cook County in 2000, serving most recently in the Chancery Division, until her appointment to the Illinois Appellate Court in 2013. Justice Mason served the judiciary with distinction for 19 years. The ALA wishes to recognize Justice Mason’s service by making a donation in her name to the Chicago Bar Foundation, where she will co-chair a task force to examine how professional rules affect innovation and sustainable legal practices. She also will join JAMS as an arbitrator in the Fall. 

    The ALA also congratulates Judge Mary Ellen Coghlan on her appointment to the First District Appellate Court, effective July 30, 2019. Since 2010, Judge Coghlan has served as the Presiding Judge of the Probate Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. She first joined the Circuit Court in 1995, after serving as an Assistant Attorney General, an Assistant Public Defender, and a private practitioner. Congratulations to Judge Coghlan.

  • July 18, 2019 8:57 AM | Louis Manetti (Administrator)

    By: Richard C. Harris

    Adler Murphy & McQuillen LLP 

    A divided Illinois appellate court recently held that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to entertain a motion for sanctions filed several months after the entry of a Rule 304(a) finding. The Rule 304(a) finding accompanied the dismissal of a “discrete portion of the overall controversy between the parties.” The majority reasoned that, because the allegedly sanctionable conduct related exclusively to the “discrete portion” of the lawsuit that had been dismissed, the motion for sanctions needed to be filed within 30 days of the Rule 304(a) finding.   

    In Lakeshore Centre Holdings, LLC v. LHC Loan, LLC, 2019 IL App (1st) 180576, the plaintiff sold its ownership interest in a health club to the defendant subject to a repurchase option. The plaintiff later filed a complaint including several claims related to the defendant’s alleged failure to honor the repurchase option. Thereafter, the defendant filed a counterclaim against the plaintiff based on its alleged failure to enter good faith negotiations for the purchase of a different health club. Notably, the defendant’s counterclaim had no relation to the claims advanced by the plaintiff.   

    On November 30, 2016, the circuit court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint in its entirety and made a finding under Rule 304(a) that there was no just reason to delay the plaintiff’s appeal. On May 25, 2017, while the plaintiff’s appeal was pending, the defendant filed a motion for sanctions in the circuit court under Rule 137. The sanctions motion related solely to the plaintiff’s claims based on the repurchase option; none of the allegations related to the transaction at the center of the defendant’s counterclaim. After the circuit court granted the sanctions motion in part and denied it in part, both parties filed notices of appeal. However, after the parties briefed the appeal and cross-appeal of the sanctions judgment, the First District Appellate Court ordered supplemental briefing on the issue of whether the circuit court had jurisdiction to grant any of the relief requested in the defendant’s sanctions motion.

    Writing for the majority, Justice Pierce noted that Rule 137(b) requires the filing of a sanctions motion within 30 days of “the entry of final judgment.” The final judgment was entered on November 30, 2016, when the circuit court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims in their entirety and entered the Rule 304(a) finding. At that point the clock began to run on all postjudgment activity related to the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims, including any motions for sanctions. Because the allegedly sanctionable conduct related solely to the repurchase option that was the basis for the plaintiff’s claims, the defendant’s Rule 137 motion needed to be filed within 30 days. However, when no postjudgment motions were filed and the plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal, the circuit court lost jurisdiction to entertain any such motion. Justice Griffin concurred in the judgment and opinion.

    In her dissent, Justice Mikva noted that proceedings under rule 137(b) “shall be brought within the civil action in which the pleading, motion or other document referred to has been filed.” Because the civil action was still pending on the defendant’s counterclaim, Justice Mikva believed that the sanctions motion was timely and the circuit court had jurisdiction to consider it.

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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