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Town of Sugar Loaf v. Environmental Protection Agency

June 15, 1999

THE TOWN OF SUGAR LOAF, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, THE CITY OF COLUMBIA, ILLINOIS, AND LOUIS I. MUND, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS, AND AREAWIDE MANAGEMENT COORDINATION BOARD AND SOUTHWESTERN ILLINOIS METROPOLITAN REGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION, A/K/A SOUTHWESTERN ILLINOIS PLANNING COMMISSION, DEFENDANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. No. 96-MR-445 Honorable Scott Mansfield, Judge, presiding.

Honorable Thomas M. Welch, J. Honorable Terrence J. Hopkins, J., and Honorable Gordon E. Maag, J.,

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Welch

In September 1995, the City of Columbia (Columbia) sought to obtain authority to provide sewer service to an area within its corporate boundaries (subject area) that was going to be developed. This area was within the facility planning area of the Town of Sugar Loaf (Sugar Loaf). A facility planning area is an area in which a designated management authority, in this case Sugar Loaf, has the authority to plan, design, construct, own, and operate sewer facilities, including wastewater-treatment facilities. Columbia sought an amendment to the state water quality management plan to transfer the subject area from Sugar Loaf's facility planning area to its own. Sugar Loaf objected.

Both parties submitted evidence to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), the agency charged with maintaining the state water quality management plan. The IEPA, in a letter dated July 25, 1996, approved the transfer of the subject area from Sugar Loaf's facility planning area to Columbia's facility planning area.

On October 11, 1996, Sugar Loaf filed, in the circuit court of St. Clair County, an amended complaint for the review of the IEPA decision by writ of certiorari. Columbia and the IEPA filed answers to the amended complaint. On June 19, 1997, the court entered an order of certiorari directing the IEPA to produce its records and files in the case for review.

Upon receipt of the record, the parties filed motions for summary judgment in their favor. On December 31, 1997, the court entered summary judgment in favor of Columbia and the IEPA, effectively affirming the decision of the IEPA in favor of Columbia.

On January 20, 1998, Sugar Loaf filed a motion asking the court to reconsider its judgment. On March 17, 1998, the court granted Sugar Loaf's motion to reconsider, reversed itself, and entered summary judgment in favor of Sugar Loaf, effectively reversing the decision of the IEPA. Columbia, Louis Mund, and the IEPA appeal.

The first argument we address on appeal is raised by appellants by a motion to dismiss and concerns the question of our jurisdiction to hear this appeal. Appellants argue that Sugar Loaf's motion to reconsider was deficient as a matter of law and was therefore not the type of postjudgment motion that tolls the time for filing a notice of appeal. Accordingly, appellants argue, Sugar Loaf's notice of appeal was not timely filed and this appeal should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Supreme Court Rule 303(a)(1) provides that a notice of appeal must be filed "within 30 days after the entry of the final judgment appealed from, or, if a timely post[]trial motion directed against the judgment is filed, *** within 30 days after the entry of the order disposing of the last pending post[]judgment motion." 134 Ill. 2d R. 303(a)(1). The timely filing of a notice of appeal is jurisdictional. See J.D. Marshall International, Inc. v. First National Bank of Chicago, 272 Ill. App. 3d 883, 888 (1995).

In the instant case, the notice of appeal was not filed within 30 days of the entry of the summary judgment in favor of Columbia. Instead, within those 30 days Sugar Loaf filed a motion to reconsider. Sugar Loaf's motion to reconsider alleged as grounds for the reconsideration of the order granting Columbia's motion for summary judgment only that said order was contrary to the law, that said order was contrary to the evidence, and that the decision of the administrative agency was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence and not supported by the evidence. The motion to reconsider asked the court to enter an order setting aside the summary judgment and for such other and further relief as the court deemed just and equitable. Appellants argue that this motion lacked the specificity required by case law and is therefore not a valid postjudgment motion within the meaning of Supreme Court Rule303(a)(1).

Section 2-1203(a) of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-1203(a) (West 1996)) provides that, in all cases tried without a jury, any party may file a motion for a rehearing or a retrial or modification of the judgment or to vacate the judgment or for other relief. Our courts have consistently held that a motion to reconsider is a postjudgment motion within the meaning of section 2-1203(a) in that it seeks "other relief" which is similar in nature to the relief specified in section 2-1203(a). See Beck v. Stepp, 144 Ill. 2d 232, 241 (1991); Sho-Deen, Inc. v. Michel, 263 Ill. App. 3d 288, 293 (1994). However, appellants argue that our supreme court has held that not only must a postjudgment motion seek the kind of relief enumerated in section 2-1203(a), but it must also contain sufficient specificity with regard to the points of error urged in support of the prayer for relief.

In Anderson v. Resource Economics Corp., 133 Ill. 2d 342, 346 (1990), our supreme court held that a motion for leave to file an amended complaint was not a valid postjudgment motion capable of extending the time for filing a notice of appeal under Supreme Court Rule 303(a)(1). Not only did the motion not seek the kind of relief enumerated in section 2-1203, it did not contain sufficient specificity to allow the trial court to review its decision. See Anderson, 133 Ill. 2d at 347. Because the plaintiff's motion neither requested modification or vacation of the judgment nor offered any points warranting such relief, it was not a valid postjudgment motion. See Anderson, 133 Ill. 2d at 347. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

In Beck v. Stepp, 144 Ill. 2d 232 (1991), in a letter addressed to the trial court following summary judgment, a party's attorney stated: "I understood the Court to announce that it was denying the Motion, but the Order states that the Motion was allowed. Thank you for your attention to this matter." The supreme court held that the letter did not constitute a valid postjudgment motion within the meaning of Supreme Court Rule 303(a)(1) and section 2-1203(a) of the Code of Civil Procedure. The court held that a postjudgment motion must include a request for at least one of the forms of relief specified in section 2-1203(a). Beck, 144 Ill. 2d at 240. In addition, relying on Anderson, the court held that a postjudgment motion must allege grounds that would warrant the granting of the relief requested. Beck, 144 Ill. 2d at 241. The letter to the Judge failed in both these respects and could not extend the time for filing a notice of appeal.

These supreme court cases, on which appellants rely to argue that Sugar Loaf's motion to reconsider was insufficiently specific to extend the time for filing a notice of appeal, have been variously followed, distinguished, and rejected by this appellate court. In Sho-Deen, Inc. v. Michel, 263 Ill. App. 3d 288 (1994), the second district of this court followed the holdings in Anderson and Beck to dismiss an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. In Sho-Deen, Inc., the appellant had filed a motion for reconsideration and other relief that stated simply, "The defendant John S. Michel, by and through his undersigned counsel[,] respectfully moves that the court reconsider its order entered on December 7, 1992[,] denying him homestead." This motion was denied and the appellant filed a notice of appeal. The appellate court held that, although the motion did in a cursory fashion request a form of relief cognizable under section 2-1203(a) and Supreme Court Rule 303(a)(1), the motion failed to state any legal or factual basis upon which to afford the trial court an opportunity to assess its earlier decision. ShoDeen, Inc., 263 Ill. App. 3d at 292. The court held that the specificity requirement mentioned in Anderson and Beck is ...


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