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The People Ex Rel. v. Fagerholm

OPINION FILED MAY 22, 1959

THE PEOPLE EX REL. CARL M. SCHWARTZ, COMMISSIONER OF HIGHWAYS, APPELLEE,

v.

ALBERT R. FAGERHOLM, TOWN CLERK, APPELLANT. — (WOODROW WOOD ET AL., INTERVENORS, SEPARATE APPELLANTS.)



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Kane County; the Hon. CASSIUS POUST, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE HOUSE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied September 22, 1959.

This is an appeal from a judgment order of the circuit court of Kane County for the issuance of a writ of mandamus to compel the respondent, the town clerk for the town of Aurora, to perform certain official duties pertaining to the issuance of bonds for the construction of two township bridges. A constitutional question was presented to and passed upon by the trial court.

At the annual meeting of the town of Aurora on April 1, 1958, a special election was held at the request of the highway commissioner for the borrowing of money for the construction of two township bridges. The borrowing of $1,553,050 was approved by secret ballot vote, the result of which was 299 for the proposition, 288 against, and six spoiled ballots.

The town clerk refused to join with the highway commissioner in the issuance of the bonds. The commissioner, therefore, on May 14, 1958, originated this action by filing a petition for a writ of mandamus to compel the clerk to join in the issuance of the bonds. The town clerk in his answer alleged that section 18-17 of the Election Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1957, chap. 46, par. 18-17,) was applicable to the special election and since the election was not held in conformity therewith, he asked that the prayer of the petition be denied.

The intervenors, Woodrow Wood, W.P. Mast and Paul Egan, filed a motion for leave to intervene stating that the highway commissioner and town clerk were both proponents of the proposition to construct the bridges and that the suit is a friendly one. They were permitted to intervene as defendants upon stipulation of the parties and after the court had found that they are representative of all residents and taxpayers of the township. The intervenors in their amended petition merely charge technical irregularities in the conduct of the election. Their amended petition was ordered to stand as their answer.

A motion to strike certain paragraphs of respondent's answer was filed by the petitioner. The motion alleged that section 18-17 of the Election Code is not applicable to the type of election here involved; and that if it is applicable, it is contrary to the State and Federal constitutions. Petitioner also filed a motion to strike certain paragraphs of the intervenors' amended answer. The intervenors then moved for a summary judgment.

The court entered an order denying intervenors' motions, granted petitioner's motion and ordered the writ of mandamus to issue.

The intervenors contend that when Judge Poust rendered his decision he was in DeKalb County and not Kane County where the proceedings were held. They argue that since this judicial function was not exercised in the proper forum, the purported order is null and void.

The record shows that the entire cause was heard in Kane County. On January 6, 1959, Judge Poust appeared in the court room where the cause had been heard and orally announced that he would deny defendant-intervenors' motions and would grant petitioner's motion. He then requested that a draft order be prepared. A form of order was submitted to Judge Poust on January 8 in DeKalb County, where he approved it by placing his signature thereon, and it was filed for record that same day with the circuit clerk of Kane County.

A judgment is generally defined as "the official and authentic decision of a court of justice upon the respective rights and claims of the parties to an action or suit therein litigated and submitted to its determination." (Black's Law Dictionary, 4th ed.) It is the expression of the court's decision that constitutes the rendition of the judgment. The real and obvious purpose of the rendition is to show the litigants and persons interested in the cause that the judge has arrived at a decision and what the decision is. It is this reflection of the judge's state of mind that makes the judgment or decree effective.

Where, when and how this expression of decision should be made before it can be considered a rendition has been the subject of many statutes, rules and decisions. (30 Am. Jur., Judgments, secs. 48-53; 4A C.J.S. Appeal and Error, sec. 445; 49 C.J.S., Judgments, secs. 100-102, 113, 114; 4 A.L.R.2d 579. Thus, in some jurisdictions it must be in writing before it may be considered a rendition; while in others, oral expression by the judge is sufficient. (49 C.J.S., Judgments, secs. 102, 113.) In all jurisdictions, however, the expression of the judge's decision must be in words. In addition to the requirement that the decision be in words, it is necessary that the decision be made publicly and at the situs of the proceedings before it will be considered a rendition. There is a divergence of practice, however, as to what is sufficient to make the decision public. Hence, in some jurisdictions it is sufficient if the pronouncement of decision is made in open court, in others, if the clerk is authorized to enter the determination on the minutes and, in still others, if the decree or judgment is filed and becomes a part of the public record of the case. (4A C.J.S., Appeal and Error, sec. 445.) In final analysis then, there are at least three essential elements that must coincide in order to have a rendition: namely, the decision must be expressed publicly, in words, and at the situs of the proceeding.

Whether the manifestation of decision must be written or merely oral to give it effect has long been recognized in this State to depend upon whether the decision is a judgment at law or a decree in equity. In the case of a declaratory judgment, it is determined by the nature of the relief declared. At law, a judgment becomes effective at the time it is pronounced. (Chicago Great Western Railroad Co. v. Ashelford, 268 Ill. 87; Anastaplo v. Radford, 14 Ill.2d 526.) In equity the mere oral pronouncement of a decision is of no effect until the order is reduced to writing, approved by the chancellor and filed for record. (Miller v. Miller, 376 Ill. 628; Anastaplo v. Radford, 14 Ill.2d 526.) In the case of a declaratory judgment, the decision is effective only after it is reduced to writing, approved and filed for record, if the nature of the relief declared is equitable; while it is effective at the time it is pronounced, if the nature of the relief declared is legal. Freeport Motor Casualty Co. v. Tharp, 406 Ill. 295.

We are concerned with the question of whether a purported judgment order, approved by the presiding judge in a place other than the situs of the proceeding, can be considered an effective judgment ...


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