Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed January 22, 2016

  

People v. Salem, 2016 IL 118693

 

Appellate citations: 2014 IL App (3d) 120390-U; 2014 IL App (3d) 120523-U

 

            CHIEF JUSTICE GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

            Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

 

            In two separate 2012 jury trials, this defendant was convicted of unlawful possession of vehicle titles and possession of a stolen vehicle, both based on evidence found at his Will County home. He had unsuccessfully challenged four pieces of evidence of other crimes in the form of federal convictions which were more than 10 years old and which were used to impeach his credibility. In each case, he made an unsuccessful motion for a new trial, but each motion was made substantially more than 30 days after each jury verdict. The Code of Criminal Procedure states that a “written motion for a new trial shall be filed by the defendant within 30 days following the entry of a finding or the return of a verdict.” Supreme Court Rule 606(b) requires an appeal to be filed within 30 days of an entry of final judgment or, if a timely motion is filed attacking a judgment, within 30 days of the order disposing of that motion. The defendant’s motion for a new trial in each case was an attack on the judgment, but was not timely for purposes of extending the time for filing a valid notice of appeal, although he argued otherwise. The appellate court held that it lacked jurisdiction, a conclusion with which the supreme court, in this decision, agreed. It also said that, although a circuit court may have jurisdiction to consider a motion which is untimely, that fact cannot extend the time for filing an appeal.

            In this decision the supreme court issued a supervisory order reinstating the appeal, based on the unique facts of this case, which show that the defendant, through no fault of his own, was not afforded adequate relief through the normal appellate process. A criminal defendant has no federal constitutional right to direct appeal, but, under the Illinois Constitution, the right to appeal a criminal conviction is fundamental.

            In seeking a supervisory order, the defendant had highlighted the apparent confusion of trial counsel and the court regarding the time to file a motion for a new trial. After the deadlines for filing such a motion (for purposes of appeal) had expired, counsel and the courts discussed scheduling a time to file and hear a new trial motion, and counsel unsuccessfully sought jury information for motion preparation. Neither the State’s Attorney nor the trial court took issue with the timeliness of defendant’s motions for a new trial, and the parties were preoccupied with a discussion of the “revestment doctrine,” which the supreme court said did not apply here. Neither was there any applicability of the procedure for filing a late appeal, with which the defendant had not attempted to comply.

            In the exercise of its supervisory authority, the supreme court reinstated the appeal, directing the appellate court to vacate its judgment and to consider the appeal on the merits.