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In re O.H.

April 18, 2002

IN RE O.H., L.M., B.M., B.L., MINORS
(THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND, FAMILY SERVICES, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.)



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit Peoria County, Illinois Nos. 00-JD-518, 99-JD-446, 99-JD-455, 00-JD-141, 99-JD-64, 99-JD-425 Honorable Chris Fredericksen Judge, Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McDADE

UNPUBLISHED

In these consolidated cases, the trial court found O.H., L.M., B.M. and B.L., all of whom are minors, delinquent and made them wards of the court. Following separate sentencing hearings, the trial court sentenced each to a term of probation and ordered each to complete his or her placement at a residential facility to be designated by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). DCFS now appeals those orders, claiming the court was without jurisdiction to require such placements. We affirm.

FACTS

In separate delinquency proceedings, O.H. was convicted of retail theft and residential burglary; L.M. was adjudicated delinquent for the offense of resisting a peace officer; B.M. was convicted of burglary; and B.L. was found delinquent for violating his probation terms by testing positive for cannabis. In each case, the court appointed DCFS as guardian, sentenced the minor to a term of probation, and directed DCFS to place each in a residential facility.

Following the entry of the circuit court's orders, DCFS filed a motion in each case to vacate the court's probation order asserting that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. All of the motions were denied.

DCFS appeals the circuit court's orders in all four of the aforementioned cases. The appeals have been consolidated for the purposes of deciding whether a trial court has subject matter jurisdiction to direct a delinquent ward's placement after it has appointed DCFS as the ward's guardian. We find that it does.

ANALYSIS

Appellate Jurisdiction

The State begins by asserting that this matter must be dismissed for want of appellate jurisdiction. DCFS' appeal was filed pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 301 (155 Ill. 2d R. 301), which provides for appeals from final judgments in civil matters. The State maintains that this appeal is a criminal matter falling within the ambit of Rule 604 (188 Ill. 2d R. 604) and interprets that rule to mean that only defendants and the State possess standing to appeal. Because DCFS was neither, the State submits that DCFS lacked the requisite standing to raise its claim.

We review questions concerning rule construction de novo. In re Estate of Rennick, 181 Ill. 2d 395, 692 N.E.2d 1150 (1998).

We agree with the State that this appeal is a criminal matter. Rule 660(a) states that, unless otherwise specifically provided, appeals from final judgments in delinquent minor proceedings will be governed by the rules applicable to criminal cases. 134 Ill. 2d R. 660(a). Here, all the minors involved were adjudicated delinquent by the trial court, and the sentencing orders from which these appeals were taken are final.

However, our jurisdiction to hear this matter does not derive solely from a party's invocation of the correct supreme court rule. Pursuant to Rule 603, our appellate jurisdiction has arisen because an appeal has been taken in a criminal matter. Rule 603 specifically directs all appeals in criminal cases, other than where a statute has been held invalid or where a death sentence has been imposed, be taken to the appellate court. 134 Ill. 2d R. 603; In re J.R., 307 Ill. App. 3d 175, 717 N.E.2d 468 (1999). Because those exceptions do not apply in these cases and because the State has not been prejudiced by DCFS's selection of Rule 301 rather than Rule 604, we hold that appellate jurisdiction has been properly invoked.

Contrary to the State's contention, Rule 604 does not limit standing to defendants and the State. Although that rule deals with criminal appeals, it is not a comprehensive rule designed to govern the entirety of all criminal appeals. The rule is entitled "Appeals from Certain Judgments and Orders," and its purpose is to set out appeal rules that defendants and the State must ...


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