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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article we will explain the Illinois appeals process.  We will discuss what types of orders can be appealed, deadlines for filing appeals, how the appeal filing process works, what happens in an appeal once the case is filed, what actions the appeals court may order, and what your options are if you lose on appeal.  Let’s start with a quick overview of the Illinois appeals system.

How does the Illinois Appeals Process Work?

In Illinois, cases are initially filed and heard in the county circuit courts.  These are also known as “trial courts” because the circuit courts are the level on which each side presents evidence and jury and bench trials are held in order to make findings of fact.  

After final judgment is rendered in the trial court, or after certain types of orders have been entered by the trial court judge prior to final judgment, the parties can seek to appeal to the appellate court in order to have the circuit court’s order reversed.  

‍The appellate court will review the record of the trial court along with briefs written by both parties and decide whether to reverse the trial court’s ruling, uphold it, or order some further action by the trial court.  If the appellate court reverses or upholds the trial court ruling, the losing party can then appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.  

What Types of Orders can be Appealed in Illinois?

Throughout the course of a trial court proceeding, the court will issue several orders before issuing a final judgment.  The court may grant an injunction or dismiss certain claims against certain parties.  Not all of these orders are appealable.  Final judgments disposing of all claims as to all parties in the case are appealable.  However, there are several other types of orders that are immediately appealable, which we will discuss below.

Final Judgments Disposing of All Claims against All Parties 

Final judgments by the trial court that resolve all of the claims made against all of the parties to the case are appealable.  Notice of Appeal must be filed within 30 days of the judgment order or within 30 days of the disposition of any postjudgment motions that seek to alter the judgment.  

Partial Final Judgments Requiring a Special Finding of the Trial Court to Appeal

Civil litigation often involves multiple different claims against one or more parties.  Often, some of these claims will be decided earlier in the process than others.  For example, some claims or parties may be disposed of via motions to dismiss or motions for summary judgment while the remaining claims are resolved later at trial.  

As a general rule, when some but not all claims in a case have been resolved, the order resolving those claims is not appealable until such time as all claims against all parties to the litigation have been resolved.     

However Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a) provides an exception to this rule.  According to Rule 304(a), a final judgment on a particular claim can be appealed before the end of the case if the trial court makes an express written finding that there is “no just reason” for delaying either the enforcement of the judgment or the appeal of the judgment.  If the court finds that there is no just reason for delay of appeal or enforcement, then the deadline to appeal will begin running from the date of the order containing this language, not from the final judgment as to all parties and claims.

Partial Final Judgments that Do Not Require a Special Finding of the Trial Court to Appeal

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(b) provides a list of specific types of partial final judgments that do not require a special finding from the trial court regarding “no just reason for delay” in order to be immediately appealable. These exceptions are as follows:

  • An order entered in an estate, guardianship, or similar proceeding that finally determines the rights or status of a party to the case;  
  • An order entered in a receivership, rehabilitation, liquidation or similar proceeding that finally determines the rights or status of a party;
  • An order granting or denying a petition for relief from judgment based on the petitioner having been convicted of a felony when the cause of the petitioner’s participation of the felony was that the petitioner was a victim of domestic violence; 
  • An order finding a person to be in contempt of court and imposing a penalty; and
  • A judgment allocating parental responsibilities or modifying a child custody order. 

Interlocutory Appeals as of Right 

An “interlocutory appeal” occurs when a party makes an appeal regarding something that happens in a case before the final judgment on the claim in question.  Orders that are issued by the court prior to final judgment are called “interlocutory orders.”  Some interlocutory orders are automatically appealable, other types of interlocutory orders require court permission.  

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307(a) establishes the types of interlocutory orders that are automatically appealable:

  • Orders granting, refusing, modifying, dissolving, or refusing to dissolve or modify an injunction;
  • Certain orders dealing with the appointment and powers of receivers or sequestrators;
  • Orders placing or refusing to place a mortgagee in possession of a mortgaged property;
  • Orders terminating parental rights;
  • Orders granting, denying or revoking temporary commitment in adoption proceedings; and
  • Certain types of orders dealing with eminent domain issues.

In these cases, a “Notice of Interlocutory Appeal” must be filed  within 30 days of the order in question in order to preserve the right to appeal. 

Interlocutory Appeals by Permission of the Appellate Court

Some types of interlocutory orders that are not automatically appealable may be appealable by permission of the Appellate Court.  In these cases, the person seeking the appeal must file a petition with the Appellate Court seeking leave to appeal the interlocutory order.  The following orders are appealable by petition:

  • Orders from the circuit court granting a new trial;
  • Certain types of orders granting or denying motions to dismiss based on the forum or venue in which the case was filed, or based on lack of jurisdiction;
  • Orders impacting the care and custody of children, the allocation of parental responsibility, or the relocation of minor children;
  • Orders granting a motion to disqualify one of the parties’ attorneys;
  • Orders granting or denying the certification of a case as a class action;
  • Orders dealing with motions to dispose of claims, pursuant to the Citizen Participation Act, based on the claim relating to the acts of the party in furtherance of the moving party’s rights of petition, speech, association or to participate in government.

Deadline to File an Appeal

Appeals must be filed within 30 days of the final judgment as to all claims in the case, with a few exceptions. 

  • If there are postjudgment motions directed against the judgment in question, the 30 day clock begins to run from the date of the order resolving the last pending postjudgment motion.  Requests for reconsideration of a postjudgment motion will not pause this deadline.  
  • Judgments and orders are typically not appealable until any sanctions claims in the case are resolved unless the court explicitly finds that there is no just reason for delay or enforcement of the order pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a).  
  • Interlocutory appeals as of right must be filed within 30 days of the interlocutory order in question.   
  • Appeals of partial final judgments resolving some but not all claims and with respect to which the court finds that there is no just reason for delay in enforcement or appeal must be filed within 30 days of the court’s finding.
  • If the appealing party does not file by the 30 day deadline, he or she may file a motion for extension of time requesting leave to file the appeal after the expiration of the deadline.  The appellate court may extend the deadline by 30 days if the petitioner shows a reasonable excuse for failing to file the notice of appeal within the original deadline.

What is the Process for Filing an Appeal in Illinois?

Below is an outline of the process for filing an appeal in Illinois:

  • Within the applicable deadline (typically 30 days after entry of final judgment), the appealing party (known as the “appellant”) must file Notice of Appeal with the circuit court that entered the order in question.  The Notice of Appeal must be served upon every other party and to certain other entities entitled to notice.  Proof of service must be filed with the Notice of Appeal.
  • Within 7 days after filing the Notice of Appeal with the circuit court, the appellant must file a notice with the appellate court that the Notice of Appeal has been filed.
  • Within 14 days after filing the Notice of Appeal with the circuit court, the appellant must file a Docketing Statement with the appellate court.  The Docketing Statement provides the appellate court with general information about the case.
  • During this entire process, the Appellant should be working with the clerk of the circuit court and the court reporters who participated in the case to prepare the Record on Appeal.  The Record on Appeal includes the order that is the subject of the appeal, the Notice of Appeal, every document filed in the case, every court order that was entered, exhibits filed by any party, and court reporter transcripts. Once the Record on Appeal has been prepared by the clerk of the circuit court, it is the appellant’s responsibility to arrange for it to be filed with the appellate court.  This can often be accomplished by the circuit court clerk upon payment of a fee.  There are several due dates associated with this process.

Note that as of July 1, 2017 all filing in civil cases must be accomplished electronically in most appellate districts. 

What Happens Once an Illinois Appeal Is Filed?

Once the Record on Appeal has been filed, the next step is for the appellant and appellee to submit briefs to the appellate court.  Briefs are written legal arguments explaining why the party writing the brief should win on appeal.  The briefs must meet strict formal requirements and should reference both the Record on Appeal and legal authority.  

The first brief is written by the appellant, and must be submitted within 35 days of the filing of the Record on Appeal.  Next, the appellee must file a response to the appellant’s brief. This is due within 35 days after the due date of the Appellant’s brief.  Finally, the appellant must submit a reply brief responding to the appellee’s arguments.  The appellant’s reply brief is due within 14 days of the due date for the appellee’s response brief. 

Often, the appellate court will issue a ruling based solely on the briefs and the record on appeal, without hearing oral arguments from the parties’ attorneys.  If the court seeks clarification of issues in the briefs, the court will schedule an oral argument during which each side will present its arguments to the court verbally.  Thereafter, the court will issue its ruling.  Unlike circuit court proceedings, the appellate court will not hold a trial or hear new evidence.  

What Actions Can the Appellate Court Take?

After briefing and possibly oral argument, the appellate court will issue an order that mandates one of the following:

  • The appellate court may affirm the ruling of the lower court, upholding the lower court’s decision and ruling in favor of the appellee.  
  • The appellate court may reverse the ruling of the lower court, overturning its decision and ruling in favor of the appellant.
  • The appellate court may remand the case to the circuit court.  A remand order sends the case back down to the circuit court and requires the circuit court to take further action.  This can involve a new trial, or a correction of a mistake originally made by the circuit court.  

Will Judgments Be Enforced While an Appeal is Pending?

Enforcement of monetary judgments will be placed on hold (“stayed”) if the Notice of Appeal is filed and an appeal bond or other form of security is presented to and approved by the court.  The purpose of the appeal bond is to ensure that the appellant does not dissipate any funds that would otherwise be subject to collection actions during the pendency of the appeal.   

The court may stay the enforcement of injunctions upon the filing of a motion and a hearing.  

Petitions to stay enforcement of a judgment pending appeal must first be made to the circuit court.  A petition to stay enforcement may be made directly to the appellate court only upon a showing that petitioning the circuit court is not practical or that the circuit court has already denied the application to stay enforcement or the relief requested by the applicant. 

Some types of orders terminating parental rights are automatically stayed on a limited basis, without the need for petition and without the requirement of a bond. 

What are Your Options if You Lose on Appeal?

If the appellate court rules against you, you have 3 options:

  1. Let the decision of the appellate court stand as the final decision on the matter;
  2. File a Petition for Rehearing by the appellate court.  Petitions for rehearing may be granted in cases where the appellate court misunderstood a fact or law or when new legal authority has been issued since the decision was made.  Petitions for rehearing must be filed within 21 days of the appellate court’s order.  
  3. File a Petition for Leave to Appeal (“PLA”) with the Illinois Supreme Court.  A Petition for Leave to Appeal must be filed within 35 days of either the appellate court’s opinion or the order on petition for rehearing.  It may be filed simultaneously with a petition for rehearing.  Unlike the appellate court, the Illinois Supreme Court has discretion as to whether to accept appeals.  The Illinois Supreme Court is more likely to hear your case if the appellate court’s opinion included a dissent, if the appellate court’s opinion is in conflict with other divisions of the appellate court, or if the issue you are appealing has broad legal or public policy implications.  
Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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