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Supreme Court Quick Takes

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court civil opinions in the civil cases BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP v. Mitchell, In re Marriage of Tiballi, Spanish Court Two Condominium Association v. Carlson and Home Star Bank and Financial Services, etc. v. Emergency Care and Health Organization, Ltd.

BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP v. Mitchell  (PDF)

By Michael T. Reagan, Law Offices of Michael T. Reagan, Ottawa

In the context of a motion attacking foreclosure proceedings for lack of proper service filed after confirmation of the report of sale, BAC Home Loans Servicing v. Mitchell “reaffirms 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.’”  The court resolved a conflict among appellate panels on the issue of whether a waiver of personal jurisdiction operated prospectively only, or whether it served to retroactively validate previous orders of the court entered without personal jurisdiction. 

The source of the controversy is the amendment of section 2-301 in 2000 which both eliminated the need for a special appearance and specified the manner of objecting to a court’s jurisdiction.  The court held that in context the amendment was ambiguous, and should therefore not be interpreted to contradict In re Marriage of Verdung, 126 Ill.2d 542 (1989), which applied the prospectively-only rule. 

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the criminal cases People v. Clark, People v. Melongo, People v. Fernandez, People v. Easley, People v. Davis and People v. Cummings. In People v. Clark and People v. Melongo the Court unanimously held that the current eavesdropping statute is unconstitutional.

People v. Clark and People v. Melongo

By Jay Wiegman, Office of the State Appellate Defender

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Friday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Bartlow v. Costigan and Evanston Insurance Company v. Riseborough and the criminal cases People v. Cregan and People v. Tousignant.

CIVIL

Bartlow v. Costigan

By Michael T. Reagan, Law Offices of Michael T. Reagan, Ottawa

The Employee Classification Act (820 ILCS 185/1) was enacted to “address the practice of misclassifying employees as independent contractors” in the construction industry.  The Act broadly defines “performing services” for a construction contractor, and then states that an individual performing such services is “deemed to be an employee of the employer.” 

People v. Bailey

By Kerry J. Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender

In a unanimous decision, the Court reviewed the revestment doctrine. Since its first application in a criminal case in 1983 (in People v. Kaeding, 98 Ill. 2d 237), the revestment doctrine has always provided that a circuit court may be revested with jurisdiction over an untimely post-judgment motion where there is (1) active participation by the parties, (2) without objection, (3) in proceedings inconsistent with the merits of the earlier judgment. At issue was the meaning of the last element, "proceedings inconsistent with the merits of the earlier judgment." The Court clarified that the last element is met only in those circumstances where both parties assert positions that support setting aside at least part of the judgment. A failure to object on the basis of timeliness is not sufficient to revest the court with jurisdiction, rejecting the position asserted by the defendant.

The Court also clarified that the appropriate result in the case of improper revestment is not for the appellate court to dismiss the appeal. Rather, the appellate court should vacate the trial court's order addressing the merits of an untimely motion and should order that the untimely motion be dismissed.

This opinion confirms that the revestment doctrine is very narrow and will only apply in situations where both parties agree that there should be some modification to the final judgment. Thus, no party should rely on its ability to invoke the revestment doctrine and revest court with jurisdiction over an untimely pleading.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Friday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil case Gillespie Community Unit School District No. 7 v. Wight & Co. and the criminal cases People v. Elliott, People v. Hommerson and People v. McChriston.

CIVIL

Gillespie Community Unit School District No. 7 v. Wight & Co.

By Karen Kies DeGrand, Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC

The Illinois Supreme Court applied a five-year statute of limitations to bar a school district’s lawsuit alleging that an architect’s misrepresentations resulted in the district’s decision to build an elementary school that was condemned less than seven years after it was built. A history of coal mining activity in the Benld/Gillespie area of the state prompted the plaintiff, Gillespie Community Unit School District No. 7, to contract with  defendant, Wight & Company, to perform, among other architectural services, a “site mine investigation” before determining to go forward with the project. Based on the analysis provided regarding the risk of mine “subsidence,” that is, collapse, the school district went ahead at the site selected. Unfortunately, in March, 2009, a coal mine subsided beneath the new building, which was severely damaged.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Hooker v. The Retirement Board of the Firemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, American Access Casualty Co. v. Reyes, and The Venture-Newberg-Perini, Stone & Webster v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and the criminal cases In re Danielle J. and People v. Brown.

CIVIL

Hooker v. Retirement Board of the Firemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago

By Michael T. Reagan, Law Offices of Michael T. Reagan, Ottawa

This case resolved the issue of whether annuities paid to the widows of two Chicago firemen who suffered duty-related injuries and later died should have included “duty availability pay,” which had never been received by these decedents, in the calculation of the amounts. The calculation of an annuity is to be based on “the current annual salary attached to the classified position to which the fireman was certified at the time of his death.” The court noted that the amount of the annuity does not depend on the fireman’s actual salary during his career. “Duty availability pay” is paid on a quarterly basis to all firemen, except certain employees assigned to platoon duty.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Wells Fargo Bank v. McCluskey, Hartney Fuel Oil Company v. Hamer, The Board of Education of Roxana Community Unit School District No. 1 v. The Pollution Control Board, Schultz v. Performance Lighting, Inc., Rogers v. Imeri and the criminal cases People v. Radojcic and People v. Pikes.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Friday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil case In re Karavidas and the criminal case People v. Trzeciak.

CRIMINAL

People v. Trzeciak

By Kerry J. Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Friday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Skokie Castings, Inc. v. Illinois Insurance Guarnty Fund, Performance Marketing Association, Inc. v. Hamer, The Board of Education of Peoria School District No. 150 v. The Peoria Federation of Support Staff, Relf v. Shatayeva and Prazen v. Shoop.

Skokie Castings, Inc. v. Illinois Insurance Guaranty Fund

By Karen Kies DeGrand, Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC

The Illinois Supreme Court finds no distinction between primary and excess workers’ compensation policies in applying the workers’ compensation exception to the statutory cap of the Illinois Guaranty Fund.  The court ruled in favor of an employer obligated to pay lifetime benefits to a seriously injured employee, where the employer’s excess insurer became insolvent.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the criminal cases People v. Johnson and In re Shelby R.

People v. Johnson

By Kerry J. Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender

At issue was whether Section 4-2002.1(a) of the Counties Code allows for imposition of a $50 State’s Attorney fee for hearing a 2-1401 petition. The statute refers only to imposition of the fee for habeas corpus proceedings.

The Court rejected the argument that “habeas corpus” was meant to refer, generically, to any collateral proceedings, noting that habeas corpus has a specific meaning. Considering the plain language of the statute as the best indication of legislative intent, the Court concluded that the reference to “habeas corpus” was meant to encompass the various types of habeas corpus proceedings (e.g., habeas corpus ad prosequendum, habeas corpus ad respondendum, habeas corpus ad testificandum), and nothing more. Inclusion of any other collateral proceedings would have to come from the
legislature.

While this decision is not particularly broad-reaching, it does demonstrate the Court’s adherence to long-standing principles of statutory construction, beginning with looking first to the plain language of the statute.  Where the plain language is clear, the Court will go no further in interpreting a statute’s meaning.