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Doe v. Noe

November 21, 2000

IN THE MATTER OF J.D.,
JANE DOE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JOHN NOE AND JILL NOE, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County No. 98AD10 Honorable Ronald C. Dozier, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Myerscough

In December 1999, plaintiff, referred to herein as Jane Doe, filed a motion pursuant to section 2-1203 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-1203 (West 1998)) seeking reconsideration of a March 1999 order denying her motion to vacate a June 1998 adoption judgment involving defendants, referred to herein as the Noes, and the minor child referred to herein as J.D. She also sought relief from the adoption judgment pursuant to section 2-1401 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 1998)). The Noes filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 1998)). In March 2000, the trial court granted the Noes' motion because Jane Doe lacked standing. Jane Doe appealed. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

J.D. was born in August 1993. His mother, referred to herein as Joyce Doe, had tested positive for cannabis and cocaine at delivery. J.D. also tested positive at birth for cannabis and cocaine, and he was taken into protective custody two days after birth. J.D. was adjudicated a neglected minor in September 1993, and in October 1993 the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) became his guardian. He was placed with his maternal aunt, Jane Doe. In January 1996, Joyce Doe signed a final and irrevocable surrender of her parental rights as to J.D., and she acknowledged her surrender before a juvenile court judge. In April 1996, the State filed a petition to terminate Joyce Doe's parental rights. In July 1996, the trial court terminated Joyce Doe's parental rights and gave DCFS authority to consent to J.D.'s adoption. Jane Doe never filed a petition to adopt J.D.

In January 1997, DCFS removed J.D. from Jane Doe because he had bruises consistent with those received from a spanking. DCFS indicated the abuse report and placed J.D. with different foster parents. Jane Doe administratively appealed J.D.'s removal and the indicated abuse report. Hearings in the administrative appeal were delayed several times until DCFS voluntarily "unfounded" the abuse report in December 1998. At a permanency hearing in July 1997, the circuit court expressed concern that the delays in the administrative appeal were holding up J.D.'s potential adoption. The judge recessed the hearing until August 1997 to allow the counsel for DCFS to consult with DCFS' regional counsel to find a way to expedite or "get around" the appeals process. In August 1997, the circuit court found that the permanency goal of adoption had not been achieved and that it was in J.D.'s best interests to be immediately placed in an adoptive home. The court also terminated Jane Doe's visitation with J.D.

In December 1997, the Baby Fold, a private agency, placed J.D. with the Noes. In February 1998, the Noes filed a petition to adopt J.D. In May 1998, DCFS provided its written consent to J.D.'s adoption by the Noes. In June 1998, the Noes obtained an adoption judgment.

In December 1998, Jane Doe filed her first motion in the instant case (No. 98-AD-10) pursuant to section 2-1401 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 1998)), seeking to vacate the adoption judgment. She alleged that she had due process and equal protection rights that were violated because DCFS wrongfully removed J.D. from her and she was not notified of adoption proceedings. In March 1999, the trial court dismissed her motion, and she filed a notice of appeal, which we docketed as No. 4-99-0201. Later in March 1999, Jane Doe retained another counsel and filed a petition in the instant case (No. 98-AD-10) to obtain a writ of habeas corpus. In April 1999, the circuit court dismissed Jane Doe's habeas corpus petition, holding that the trial court had no jurisdiction while her appeal was pending. Jane Doe made a motion in this court to dismiss her appeal, and we granted that motion (No. 4-99-0201 (April 20, 1999) (dismissed upon appellant's motion)).

In June 1999, Jane Doe filed another habeas corpus petition, this time in a separate action involving J.D., case No. 99-MR-74 (Cir. Ct. McLean Co.). In December 1999, the circuit court dismissed that petition, and Jane Doe appealed (In re J.D., No. 4-00-0001 (November 21, 2000), ___ Ill. App. 3d ___, ___ N.E.2d ___).

In December 1999, Jane Doe filed another petition in the instant case (No. 98-AD-10) pursuant to section 2-1401 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 1998)), seeking relief from the adoption judgment. She requested that her December 1998 motion to vacate the adoption judgment be reopened to allow her to present additional evidence and arguments. She also sought reconsideration pursuant to section 2-1203 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-1203 (West 1998)) of the March 1999 order denying her December 1998 motion to vacate the adoption judgment. The Noes filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 1998)). In March 2000, the trial court granted the Noes' motion because Jane Doe lacked standing, and this appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Petition To Reconsider Denial of Original Section 2-1401 Motion

Jane Doe cannot succeed on a December 1999 motion for reconsideration under section 2-1203 because the trial court entered final judgment in March 1999 and that section requires that such motions be filed within 30 days of the entry of judgment. 735 ILCS 5/2-1203 (West 1998). After 30 days have passed, a court is without jurisdiction to vacate or modify its final judgment. Western States Insurance Co. v. Weller, 299 Ill. App. 3d 317, 322, 701 N.E.2d 542, 546 (1998). When a motion to vacate a judgment is brought more than 30 days after the entry of a final judgment, that motion will ordinarily be construed as a petition for relief from a final judgment under section 2-1401 of the Code. Lodolce v. Central Du Page Hospital, 216 Ill. App. 3d 902, 912, 576 N.E.2d 458, 465 (1991). Therefore, we can consider only whether Jane Doe was entitled to relief pursuant to section 2-1401.

B. Petition To Reopen Original Section 2-1401 Motion

Pursuant to section 2-1401 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 1998)), Jane Doe seeks to reopen her original section 2-1401 motion to ...


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