Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed June 20, 2013


 

 

VC&M, Ltd. v. Andrews, 2013 IL 114445

Appellate citation: 2012 IL App (2d) 110523.

 

      JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Justices Freeman, Garman, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

      Justice Thomas dissented, with opinion, joined by Chief Justice Kilbride and Justice Karmeier.

 

      Problems arising from the Illinois Supreme Court’s pilot project on electronic filing (e-filing) in the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit are addressed in this Du Page County civil litigation to collect a real estate commission. Plaintiff realtor had a listing contract with defendant couple and produced an offer for their home in Hinsdale that was for less than the initial asking price. This was refused. The owners then said they were divorcing and that one would buy the other out, and the listing agreement expired. In the divorce, the wife bought out the husband’s interest for the amount of the refused offer plus $5. In 2010, plaintiff realtor sued for a commission. The claims alleged were for breach of contract and account stated. The suit was dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a cause of action.

      At the time, the local rules that had been put in place pursuant to this pilot program prohibited the e-filing of all notices of appeal and also of certain motions. After the dismissal, the plaintiff, within the requisite 30 days, e-filed a motion for reconsideration. It is conceded that this was in violation of the local e-rules because the cause had never been designated for e-filing in the first place. (This can be arranged for, but the parties had not done so.) One month later, plaintiff followed up with a paper copy of the motion, which was filed with the clerk. The motion to reconsider was denied on the merits, without reaching procedural issues. Plaintiff then filed a notice of appeal within 30 days of that denial, but this was an e-filing then forbidden by the local rules. There was also an issue as to whether this notice of appeal was timely, i.e., whether the time for filing it had been extended by the motion to reconsider, which was now challenged as invalid because it was e-filed. The appellate court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction and dismissed, but certified for the Illinois Supreme Court’s consideration the questions of whether the time for filing a notice of appeal, which is normally extended by the filing of a posttrial motion, could be extended where that motion was e-filed in violation of the local rule, and whether the local rules prohibited the e-filing of a notice of appeal.

      In this decision, the supreme court held that the time for filing the notice of appeal was extended despite the procedural failure of initially e-mailing the motion to reconsider. The initial e-filing was not a nullity that deprived the trial court of the jurisdiction to consider the motion. The supreme court pointed out that, in this case, no prejudice was asserted by the defense, and the trial court, which was fully advised at the postjudgment hearing concerning the e-rule violation, exercised its discretion not to impose any sanction and ruled on the motion on the merits.

      As to the notice of appeal, a provision of the local rule (which is no longer in existence) stated that all “appellate and postjudgment enforcement proceeding documents and notices shall be filed and served in the conventional manner and not by means of e-filing.” Although the plaintiff contended that this language did not refer to a notice of appeal, the supreme court said that it did and found no ambiguity. The supreme court held that the local rules then in effect prohibited the e-filing of a notice of appeal and noted that there was no follow-up with a paper copy. However, the local rules also provided that, during the pilot project, the clerk should make paper copies of all e-filings and maintain a parallel file thereof. Thus, there was a deficiency of form rather than of substance, and the appellate court did not lack jurisdiction. As it had concerning the previous question, the defense did not argue any prejudice.

      Since the appellate court had jurisdiction, it should undertake further proceedings in the cause, and the matter was remanded to it for that purpose. Its prior ruling was reversed.