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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 “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:
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.
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:
Appeals must be filed within 30 days of the final judgment as to all claims in the case, with a few exceptions.
Below is an outline of the process for filing an appeal in Illinois:
Note that as of July 1, 2017 all filing in civil cases must be accomplished electronically in most appellate districts.
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.
After briefing and possibly oral argument, the appellate court will issue an order that mandates one of the following:
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.
If the appellate court rules against you, you have 3 options: