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Steinbrecher v. Steinbrecher

January 26, 2000

JOHN STEINBRECHER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JEROME STEINBRECHER, HINSDALE NURSERIES, INC., AND FARM CREDIT SERVICES OF NORTHERN ILLINOIS, DEFENDANTS
(ROSEMARY C. STEINBRECHER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT).
JOHN STEINBRECHER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JEROME STEINBRECHER AND ROSEMARY C. STEINBRECHER, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS (HINSDALE NURSERIES, INC., AND FARM CREDIT SERVICES OF NORTHERN ILLINOIS, DEFENDANTS)
JOHN STEINBRECHER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JEROME STEINBRECHER AND ROSEMARY C. STEINBRECHER, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS (HINSDALE NURSERIES, INC., FARM CREDIT SERVICES OF NORTHERN ILLINOIS, C.D.'S TREE SERVICE, AND DAVID MUKELSON, DEFENDANTS).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kendall County. No. 95--CH--60

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Galasso

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

Honorable Grant S. Wegner, Judge, Presiding.

Defendants Jerome and Rosemary Steinbrecher appeal from orders of the circuit court of Kendall County that (1) ordered the sale of property they owned along with plaintiff, John Steinbrecher, as tenants in common; (2) denied a motion for change of venue; and (3) granted the sale of the subject property.

On January 21, l991, Francis Steinbrecher (Francis) died intestate. He was survived by three children, John, Jerome, and Rosemary. At the time of his death, Francis owned three noncontiguous parcels of property (the property) located in Kendall County. Two of the parcels were improved with houses and outbuildings. In toto, the property was comprised of 409 acres. It is undisputed that Francis's children were the heirs and beneficiaries of his estate and that they held title to the property as tenants in common. On November 28, l995, John Steinbrecher (plaintiff) filed a complaint for partition of the subject property, pursuant to the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/17--101 et seq. (West 1994)). Named as defendants in the suit were his siblings, Jerome and Rosemary Steinbrecher, Hinsdale Nurseries, Inc., C.D.'s Tree Service, David Mukelson, and Farm Credit Services of Northen Illinois. Jerome and Rosemary are the only defendants involved in this appeal.

On April 26, 1996, plaintiff filed a motion to appoint a commissioner, wherein he requested that the trial court appoint a single commissioner to determine the feasibility of partitioning the property. On August 30, l996, the trial court appointed Michael Crowley as "substitute commissioner." Commissioner Crowley subsequently appraised the entire property's market value, as of August 30, l996, at $4,500,000. However, when Commissioner Crowley appraised the three parcels that comprised the property separately, the total value of the property was estimated to be $4,859,000. At the partition trial held in August of 1997, Commissioner Crowley testified that the property was incapable of being equitably partitioned in kind among the three heirs. On October 28, 1997, the trial court approved Commissioner Crowley's report and found that "the whole or any of the premises sought to be partitioned cannot be divided without manifest prejudice to the owners thereof" and that "the entire property at issue be *** sold at public sale." The court set a supercedeas bond of $3 million. On December 1, l997, Jerome and Rosemary filed separate notices of appeal. Subsequently, the defendants' appeals were dismissed by this court for reasons that will be discussed below.

On January 6, l998, the trial court granted plaintiff's motion to appoint the real estate agency of Dolan and Murphy (Dolan) as the exclusive listing agent for the property. The "Exclusive Right to Sell Contract," which was subsequently executed, set a listing price of $4,500,000 for the property. Subsequently, Dolan submitted three offers to purchase. Inland Real Estate Development Corporation offered $3,500,000 for the property, while "Robert Hamman or his nominee" offered $3,020,000, and Moser Enterprises, Inc. (Moser), offered $3,550,000. On August 19, l998, the trial court entered an order "approving the offer/bid tendered by Moser Enterprises, Inc."

On September 24, 1998, plaintiff filed a "Report of Sale and Petition for Confirmation." The report stated, inter alia, that the real estate closing on the property had occurred on September 18, l998, and that the net proceeds of the sale were $2,967,392.60. On the same date, the trial court entered two orders, only one of which is of concern to this court. In that order, the trial court inter alia approved the report of sale, granted the petition for confirmation of sale, and ordered the deed to be recorded. On September 25, l998, Rosemary filed a motion to stay the court's order of September 24, l998. On October 23, 1998, Moser filed its petition to intervene. Jerome filed his notice of appeal from the September 24 order on October 28, l998. At the hearing held on October 30, 1998, Moser's petition to intervene was granted. On the same date Rosemary filed instanter what, in essence, was a motion to reconsider the order confirming the sale of the property. The trial court denied this motion, and Rosemary filed her notice of appeal on November 13, l998.

On appeal, defendants make the following arguments, namely, (1) whether the trial court had jurisdiction over the partition suit; (2) whether the trial court erred in ordering the entirety of the land to be sold; (3) whether the trial court's requirement of a $3 million supercedeas bond and the trial court's refusal to stay enforcement of the sale decree were abuses of discretion; (4) whether the conduct of the sale of the property was erroneous; and (5) whether Judge Hogan and "the judges of Kendall County" were required to recuse themselves from presiding over the subject cause of action.

Before addressing the issues raised on appeal, we will deal with plaintiff's motions to dismiss this appeal, which were ordered taken with the case. Plaintiff argues that this court does not have jurisdiction over this appeal on the basis of lack of jurisdiction and mootness. To eliminate at least some of the confusion surrounding the various appeals, we will address the appeals separately.

Before doing so, we note that Jerome has never filed an appellate brief in this matter and that he has not joined the briefs filed by Rosemary. A reviewing court has the inherent authority to dismiss an appeal for an appellant's failure to file a brief. First Capitol Mortgage Corp. v. Talandis Construction Corp., 63 Ill. 2d 128, 131 (1976). Accordingly, Jerome's appeal is dismissed for failure to file a brief with this court.

Appeal of Order for Sale of the Property

Initially, plaintiff argues that this court lacks jurisdiction over issues related to the sale of the property because this court has previously affirmed the October 28, l997, order, which directed the sale of the property. Rosemary argues that this court ruled that the appeal was untimely as this order was not a final and appealable order and that this court's dismissal of her appeal in no way prejudices her instant appeal. The factual background to this argument is as follows. After a trial on the partition suit was held in August of 1997, the trial court entered an order on October 28, 1997. In it, the trial court found that the parties were the three owners of the subject property and that each held an undivided one-third interest in it as tenants in common. This order also approved Commissioner Crowley's report, finding that, "[t]he whole or any of the premises sought to be partitioned cannot be partitioned without manifest prejudice to the owners thereof" and "the entire property at issue be and here sold at public sale." On December 1, l997, Rosemary filed a notice of appeal regarding the October 28, l997, order. On December 29, l997, this court ordered Rosemary to file her appellate brief on or before March 10, 1998, which she failed to do. On March 10, l998, Rosemary filed for an extension of time to file her appellate brief. This court extended the time for Rosemary to file her appellate brief until June 2, l998.

On June 3, 1998, a day after she was to have filed her appellate brief, Rosemary filed another notice of appeal, a motion to combine appeals, and for an extension of time to file her brief. This second notice of appeal was related to a number of trial court rulings regarding the process of selling the property. Plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss all the orders appealed from in Rosemary's second notice of appeal, arguing that all were interlocutory in nature and that this court had no jurisdiction over them. Further, plaintiff opposed Rosemary's motions to combine the appeals and for an extension of time to file her brief. On June 19, l998, this court entered an order (1) denying Rosemary's motion to consolidate appeals; (2) granting plaintiff's motion to dismiss Rosemary's second notice of appeal on the grounds that the trial court's orders were not final and appealable; and (3) dismissing Rosemary's first appeal on the basis that there had been no final order entered by the trial court.

This court's ruling had the effect of making it the law of the case that the October 28, 1997, order to sell the property was not final. Added to this is the fact that the trial court's order of October 28, 1997, did not contain the necessary Rule 304(a) (155 Ill. 2d R. 304(a)) language stating there was no just reason for delaying enforcement or appeal. As a result, we conclude that the subject notice of appeal by Rosemary was without effect and that its dismissal did not prevent her from subsequently appealing from the order to sell the property. Appeal from Denial of Motion for Change of Venue

Further, on June 17, 1998, Rosemary filed a motion for change of venue, arguing therein that Judge Thomas Hogan had demonstrated a "flagrant disregard of the laws governing the *** case, or which should govern it, and [demonstrated] conduct evincing either uncontrolled bias against pro se litigants generally *** or some personal or venal motivation." On July 1, l998, Judge Grant Wegner denied the motion for change of venue, and Rosemary filed her notice of appeal on August 3, l998.

Plaintiff argues inter alia that the order denying the motion for change of venue is interlocutory and that this court is without jurisdiction over it. Plaintiff also argues that Rosemary failed to file the notice of appeal within the required 30-day period. Rosemary contends that the order underlying this appeal was within the procedural progression of the order entered on September 24, l998, and was, therefore, "drawn into" this consolidated appeal.

Denial of a motion for change of venue is not a final order, nor does any supreme court rule authorize an appeal from that type of interlocutory order. Mexicali Club, Inc. v. Illinois Liquor Control Comm'n., 37 Ill. App. 3d 797, 799 (1976). Thus, this particular motion for a change of venue, which alleges biased conduct and flagrant disregard of the law, does not fall within the exceptions to the general rule that only final orders may be appealed. Moreover, even if there were appealable orders involved in this appeal, the fact that the notice of appeal was filed over 30 days from the entry of the July 1, l998, order denying the motion for change of venue deprived this court of jurisdiction over this appeal. However, we agree with Rosemary that the July 1, l998, order fell within the procedural progression to the judgment underlying her subsequent appeal related to the September 24, l998, order and, thus, was "drawn into" this later appeal. See Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center v. Berlin, 268 Ill. App. 3d 184, 187 (1994). Accordingly, we conclude that Rosemary's change of motion issue can be addressed in this appeal.

Appeal from the Order Approving the Sale of the Property

On September 24, l998, the trial court entered an order that provided for the sale and transfer of the property to the purchaser, Moser. The order further provided that the proceeds of the sale were to be placed with Chicago Title Company and that funds from the proceeds were to be distributed to satisfy the outstanding mortgage on the property, state transfer taxes, brokers' fees, Internal Revenue Service judgments, and title charges. The order further stated, "The Court specifically finds that its orders regarding the report of sale, confirmation of sale and motions by Rosemary Steinbrecher are final and appealable pursuant to Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 304(a); there is no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal of paragraphs 2, 3, 4, and 5 of this order." On September 25, l998, Rosemary filed a motion entitled, "Motion for Stay of Judgment Pending Appeal and Rehearing Re: Deposition." This motion was noticed for hearing on October 2, l998. On October 2, l998, the hearing on Rosemary's motion to stay was continued to October 30, l998.

During the October 2, l998, hearing, the trial court appeared to forbid Rosemary from filing any further motions prior to October 30, l998. The following colloquy is taken from the October 2 hearing, where Rosemary appeared pro se:

"THE COURT: *** I told you a long time ago that I'm not going to hear this thing every other day. Just because you want to file a motion doesn't mean I'm going to hear it. I told you to file things once a month. We've set a date for a motion sometime later in this month. I don't know what the date is--

MS. STEINBRECHER: October 30th.

THE COURT: --but you do.

MS. STEINBRECHER: October 30th, your Honor.

THE COURT: Now, yet, you continually file motions. You continually get the--the Clerk's office has to bring this file down here. The other attorney has to come in. He was here all morning. And I've told you in the past I'm not going to hear this just because you want to file a motion and notice it up on whatever day you want to notice it up. Now, I will hear the--everything ...


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