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Gilchrist v. Snyder

July 23, 2004


[6] Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County. No. 03MR29. Honorable Dennis L. Schwartz, Judge Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cook

[8]  Plaintiff, Ranardo Gilchrist, appeals the dismissal of his mandamus action against defendant, Donald N. Snyder, Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC). We reverse and remand.

[9]  Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of DOC. On January 9, 2002, he was issued a disciplinary report charging him with violations of prison rules 105 (dangerous disturbance), 205 (gang activity), and 601 (aiding and abetting, attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy) in connection with a prison disturbance that took place on December 10, 2001.

[10]   According to the disciplinary report, plaintiff and an inmate named Harris are members of the Gangster Disciples, a gang. On the date in question, they entered a room with Kirby, a member of a different gang, and partially closed the door. Other inmates outside believed that plaintiff and Harris were attacking Kirby. Harris and Kirby emerged from the room arguing and exchanged blows in view of other inmates. This incident drew a crowd of approximately 50 inmates, composed of members of both gangs, before they were dispersed by prison staff.

[11]   Plaintiff's hearing on the allegations against him occurred on January 18, 2002, before the adjustment committee. A section of the disciplinary report allowed plaintiff to request witnesses, but he did not request any. He provided a written statement and pleaded not guilty. The adjustment committee found him guilty and recommended that he be disciplined with one year of segregation, one year at C-grade status, and the loss of one year of good time. The chief administrative officer approved the recommendation. At this point, plaintiff apparently filed a grievance, which does not appear in the record.

[12]   The administrative review board held a hearing on plaintiff's grievance on April 19, 2002. The board recommended as follows:

[13]   "Based on a review of all information and a compliance check of the procedural due process safeguards outlined in [DOC] Rule 504, this [c]hairperson is recommending that the disciplinary report be remanded to Hill Correctional Center to be rewritten to substantiate the charges. The disciplinary report is to be forwarded to Pontiac Correctional Center to be reserved and reheard within appropriate timeframes."

[14]   Defendant concurred in this recommendation.

[15]   Following the remand, plaintiff received a new disciplinary report on June 1, 2002. The hearing on this report was held on June 4, 2002. Plaintiff alleges that this time he requested that the adjustment committee call Harris and Kirby as witnesses. The committee did not allow these witnesses, noting that plaintiff had not requested witnesses when the first case was heard, and that plaintiff's grievance had asked "to have the ticket rewritten to substantiate the charges, not to list witnesses." The committee again found plaintiff guilty. By a letter dated July 30, 2002, the administrative review board informed plaintiff that it was approving the adjustment committee's recommendation but reducing the revocation of good-conduct credits to six months.

[16]   On January 16, 2003, plaintiff filed an action in mandamus to compel defendant to provide him with a new disciplinary hearing. Defendant moved to dismiss under section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure, arguing that plaintiff had received all the process he was due and thus failed to state a claim for relief. See 735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2002). The circuit court granted the motion. The docket sheet for March 31, 2003, reads: "Order dismissing case is entered. The [c]lerk is directed to send a copy of this entry and the [o]rder to ASA Straughn and to the [p]laintiff." The next entry is on June 30, 2003, and states: "copy of docket entry sent to plaintiff per request."

[17]   According to plaintiff, he received a copy of the order on July 8, 2003. He filed a document entitled "late notice of appeal" with this court on July 23, 2003. We granted leave to file late notice of appeal on August 4, 2003, and he filed a notice of appeal on August 5, 2003.

[18]   Defendant contends that we do not have jurisdiction to hear this appeal because plaintiff failed to comply with Supreme Court Rule 303 (155 Ill. 2d R. 303). Rule 303(a)(1) provides that the appellant must generally file a notice of appeal within 30 days after the entry of the final judgment appealed from. 155 Ill. 2d R. 303(a)(1). An appellant may file a late notice of appeal for good cause if leave is sought within 30 days of the expiration of the first 30-day period. 155 Ill. 2d R. 303(d). If the order dismissing the complaint in this case became final on March 31, 2003, as defendant argues, then the clock ran out on plaintiff at the end of May with the end of the late filing period. See 155 Ill. 2d R. 303(a)(1), (d).

[19]   The appellate court has jurisdiction over an appeal only if it is timely filed under Rule 303. In re Marriage of Wisniewski, 286 Ill. App. 3d 236, 242, 675 N.E.2d 1362, 1367 (1997). The supreme court has made clear that a lack of notice of when an order became final does not toll the period for filing a notice of appeal, "so long as the order appealed from was expressed publicly, in words and at the situs of the proceeding." Granite City Lodge No. 272, Loyal Order of the Moose v. City of Granite City, 141 Ill. 2d 122, 123, 565 N.E.2d 929, 929 (1990). The supreme court has also pointed out that the trial and appellate courts have no authority to excuse compliance with the supreme court rules governing appeals. Mitchell v. Fiat-Allis, Inc., 158 Ill. 2d 143, 150, 632 N.E.2d 1010, 1012 (1994).

[20]   Plaintiff argues that the order dismissing his complaint became final on June 30, 2003, the date the clerk mailed it to him. He relies on Graves v. Pontiac Firefighters' Pension Board, 281 Ill. App. 3d 508, 667 N.E.2d 136 (1996), in which the trial court entered an order taking the case under advisement and stating that the court would rule by mail. The court entered an order but inadvertently failed to mail it to the parties. When it discovered the error two months later, the court entered a second order providing that the earlier order would be final and appealable on the day it was finally mailed. On appeal, this court ...

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