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People v. Trainor

May 24, 2001


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Fitzgerald

Docket No. 89350-Agenda 8-January 2001.

At issue in this appeal is whether, pursuant to a defendant's filing of an application for recovery under the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act (725 ILCS 205/3.01 (West 1998)), the State can obtain summary judgment. In the present situation, the La Salle County circuit court granted the State's motion for summary judgment following Timothy Trainor's application for recovery. The appellate court reversed the circuit court's decision, holding that "summary judgment is a civil remedy that has no place in sexually dangerous person proceedings." 312 Ill. App. 3d 860, 862. For the following reasons, we affirm the decision of the appellate court, which remanded the cause for a jury trial on defendant's application.


Defendant was adjudicated a sexually dangerous person in May 1984. A jury found that he was still dangerous and the circuit court denied his petition for recovery. In May 1995, defendant filed a second petition for recovery. The State filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted. The appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision. People v Trainor, No. 3-95-0629 (1997) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). Thereafter, in May 1998, defendant filed a third petition for recovery. In his petition, defendant stated that for the past 14 years he participated in therapy when it was offered to him and that he made significant progress in controlling his inappropriate sexual behavior. Defendant further stated in the petition that he had recovered to the point where he could be placed in a less restrictive environment as part of his reintegration into society. Along with the petition, defendant filed a motion for a jury trial and appointment of an independent expert to evaluate his progress. Defendant maintained that the psychologist retained by the Department of Corrections (Department) to evaluate defendant was biased against him.

In response, the Department filed a socio-psychological evaluation signed by the Department's administrative psychologist, psychiatrist, a social service worker, the assistant warden and the warden at Big Muddy River Correctional Center. The report described the method of treatment received by defendant and explained the stage of "recovery" that defendant had achieved. The report concluded that defendant was not "recovered." It further noted that defendant was at a high risk to reoffend if placed into mainstream society.

The State filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to section 2-1005 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-1005 (West 1998)) arguing that there was no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the State was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In support of the motion the State maintained that the Department's report indicated that defendant had not recovered and was still deemed sexually dangerous. The State further argued that defendant presented no credible evidence that would permit a determination on the petition that he is no longer sexually dangerous or that would create a genuine issue of material fact. Rather, the State argued, defendant merely presented his own allegation that he was recovered. Such an bald assertion, unsupported by other evidence, was insufficient to overcome a summary judgment motion.

In granting the motion for summary judgment the trial court stated:

"The law does state that Mr. Trainor can file an application showing recovery, however, on motion[s] for summary judgment the application for recovery can be dismissed before a jury is impaneled or before the issue goes to a jury. Courts have ruled that that is [a] permissible procedure.

The defendant has made significant progress in his therapy, is learning to control his sexually inappropriate behavior which led him to being a sexually dangerous person. Those are the allegations contained in Mr. Trainor's petition for recovery. However, when you look to the report which was ordered by this Court and the statute provides for ***there are several things that the report which was completed by the members of the Department of Corrections as far as the rehabilitations treatment program, there are several things contained in the report which state to the contrary.

I see no genuine issue of material fact, and in light of the Department of Corrections report I see no substantial change, and apparently it's just the same thing as before. There is no marked improvement. Mr. Trainor is not entitled to any court-appointed expert, independent of the Department of Corrections. If he wishes privately to obtain one, he can always do so; but it's never been done. So what I have in front of me is the Department of Corrections report. It does not indicate any genuine issue of material fact. The motion for summary judgment will be granted in this matter."

Defendant appealed. The appellate court reversed the decision of the trial court and remanded the cause for further proceedings. The appellate court concluded that summary judgment is inappropriate in sexually dangerous person proceedings because it deprives a defendant of his "statutory method of regaining his liberty." 312 Ill. App. 3d at 862. Additionally, the appellate court ruled that defendant was not entitled to an independent expert. This appeal followed.


I. Sexually Dangerous Persons Act

The question before us is whether the State is entitled to move for summary judgment under the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act (Act) (725 ILCS 205/0.01 et seq. (West 1998)). In order to answer that question, we must review the legislature's purpose and intent in creating the Act.

A sexually dangerous person is defined, under the Act, as a person who suffers from a mental disorder coupled with propensities to the commission of sex offenses and has demonstrated propensities toward acts of sexual assault or acts of sexual molestation of children. 725 ILCS 205/1.01 (West 1998). The Act's purpose is twofold: (1) to protect the public by sequestering a sexually dangerous person until such a time as the individual is recovered and released, and (2) to subject sexually dangerous persons to treatment such that the individual may recover from the propensity to commit sexual offenses and be rehabilitated. People v. Cooper,132 Ill. 2d 347, 355 (1989).

The Illinois legislature first created a civil commitment statute for sex offenders, known as the criminal sexual psychopathic persons act, in 1938. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1939, ch. 38, par. 820. The 1938 Act was revised in 1955 and thereafter became the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1955, ch. 38, pars. 820.01 through 825e. The revised act further provided that the proceedings be civil in nature. Despite being civil in nature, however, an accused was provided with some of the same procedural rights guaranteed in a criminal proceeding, such as the right to a trial by jury and the right to counsel. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1955, ch. 38, par. 822.01.

In 1963 the Act was amended to include a provision that quashed all outstanding indictments that served as the basis for an offender's civil commitment proceeding. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1963, ch. 38, par. 105-9. This change altered the aim of the Act because it focused on the rehabilitative treatment of the offender rather than punishment. Nearly two decades later, in 1982, the Act was again amended. This time the amendment added a requisite burden of proof. The amendment designated that before one could be committed as a sexually dangerous person, the State must prove the same beyond a reasonable doubt. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, pars. 105-3.01.

In creating and amending the Act, the Illinois legislature intended that, instead of being criminally punished for their criminal sexual offenses, sexually dangerous persons be committed to the Department for treatment until they are no longer considered sexually dangerous. People v. Cooper, 132 Ill. 2d 347, 355 (1989). The legislature classified sexually dangerous persons as people who suffer from a mental illness and need specialized care and commitment. Cooper, 132 Ill. 2d at 355. Thus, the Act does not promote traditional aims of punishment, such as retribution or deterrence. Rather, under the Act, the State has a statutory obligation to provide care and treatment for persons adjudged sexually dangerous. This care is designed to effect recovery in a facility set aside to provide psychiatric care. Allen v. Illinois, 478 U.S. 364, 92 L. Ed. 2d 296, 106 S. Ct. 2988 (1986).

II. The State's Motion for Summary Judgment

The question of whether the State can obtain summary judgment on defendant's application for recovery under the Act is a legal one which we review de novo. Berlin v. Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, 179 Ill. 2d 1, 7 (1997). The purpose of summary judgment is to determine whether there are any genuine issues of material fact. Purtill v. Hess, 111 Ill. 2d 229, 240 (1986). Summary judgment should be granted when "the pleadings, depositions, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." 735 ILCS 5/2-1005(c) (West 1998). If the party moving for summary judgment supplies facts which, if left uncontradicted, would entitle the party to a judgment as a matter of law, the opposing party cannot rely on its pleadings alone to raise an issue of material fact. Purtill, 111 Ill. 2d at 240.

Here, the State moved for summary judgment on the basis that, "The petitioner has no credible evidence *** pursuant to which could create or permit a determination that he is no longer sexually dangerous, nor which could create a genuine issue of material fact of the same." In support of this motion, the State cited to an appellate court case that upheld a trial court's ruling on a similar motion for summary judgment. People v. Savage, 277 Ill. App. 3d 63, 67 (1995). In Savage, the trial court noted that the defendant failed to offer any substantive evidence to support his allegation that he had recovered. The trial court, therefore, granted summary judgment after finding that " `[t]here is absolutely no basis whatsoever in the record to suggest that there is ***a triable issue of material fact in a civil proceeding.' " Savage, 277 Ill. App. 3d at 67.

As an initial matter, we note that the appellate court in Savage approached the recovery proceeding from the perspective that the defendant had the burden to establish that he had recovered from his sexual affliction and that he had failed to do so. The appellate court cited, with approval, the trial court's finding that " `the defendant has not offered any substantive evidence of any kind in support of his bald allegation that he is recovered.' " Failing to meet that burden, and create a triable issue of fact, the appellate court held that a motion for summary judgment was appropriate. Savage, 277 Ill. App. 3d at 67.

The State's reliance on the Savage case reveals a pervasive underlying issue that must be addressed, namely, whether the defendant or the State bears the burden of proof in a recovery proceeding. To answer this threshold question, ...

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