Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed December 28, 2012
Cooney v. Rossiter, 2012 IL 113227
Appellate citation: 2011 IL App (1st) 102129-U.
CHIEF JUSTICE KILBRIDE delivered the opinion of the court, with opinion.
Justices Thomas, Garman, and Karmeier concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice Burke specially concurred, with opinion, joined by Justices Freeman and Theis.
This Cook County plaintiff, along with her parents, filed a 2007 circuit court action seeking damages for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress. The defendant is a general and forensic psychiatrist who was appointed by the circuit court as a psychological evaluator to make recommendations to the court in connection with the woman’s custody dispute with her ex-husband, which arose after the 1998 entry of a judgment of marriage dissolution. This appointment had initially been requested by the ex-wife herself, but she was unhappy with the results. Defendant, in the report furnished, opined that the ex-wife and her parents were delusional and that the two children involved should be removed from their mother’s custody and have no further contact with her. A change of custody was granted, and the Department of Children and Family Services later made a finding of abuse and neglect against the children’s mother. In the complaint, she accused the defendant of making false statements and a false evaluation. The trial court dismissed the action on the basis of res judicata, and the appellate court affirmed.
The basis of the res judicata holding was a separate class action that the ex-wife had filed earlier in federal court seeking civil rights relief against defendant and others for their role in child custody proceedings. That action was dismissed for the immunity of such evaluators, and that dismissal was affirmed on appeal in the federal court system.
In this decision, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed that all the elements of res judicata were present. Both suits involved the same set of operative facts. The circuit court properly dismissed the state tort action, and the appellate court’s affirmance on that basis was proper.
However, the supreme court held that the appellate court did not need to reach the immunity issue, and the part of its order that did so was vacated.
The supreme court also held that the appellate court’s ruling, which originally took the form of an unpublished Rule 23 order, should not have been withdrawn after the petition for leave to appeal to the supreme court had been allowed. A motion to publish was later granted by the appellate court and another opinion was filed. These actions taken after the allowance of leave to appeal to the supreme court were beyond the jurisdiction of the appellate court, and its orders in connection with them were vacated.