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In re Alex T.

August 15, 2007

IN RE ALEX T., ALLEGED TO BE A PERSON SUBJECT TO INVOLUNTARY ADMISSION
(THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
ALEX T., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 05--MH--155 Honorable Robert L. Janes, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Bowman

Published opinion

Alex T., the respondent to an involuntary admission petition, appeals from the grant of that petition by the circuit court of Kane County. He asserts that, because a felony charge was pending against him when the court entered the order, the order was void under section 3--100 of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code (Code) (405 ILCS 5/3--100 (West 2004)). We agree. Section 3--100 states that "[t]he circuit court has jurisdiction under this Chapter over persons not charged with a felony who are subject to involuntary admission." 405 ILCS 5/3--100 (West 2004). We read this to deny the court jurisdiction to involuntarily admit felony defendants, such as respondent. We therefore vacate the involuntary admission order as void.

Our primary concern here is to reconcile section 3--100 with section 9 of article VI of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, §9), which provides that "Circuit Courts shall have original jurisdiction of all justiciable matters except when the Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction." Recent supreme court cases, in particular People ex rel. Graf v. Village of Lake Bluff, 206 Ill. 2d 541, 552-54 (2003), Belleville Toyota, Inc. v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.,199 Ill. 2d 325, 337 (2002), and Steinbrecher v. Steinbrecher, 197 Ill. 2d 514, 529-30 (2001), have given article VI a broad construction in the general civil context, reading it to bar the legislature from setting conditions for the court's jurisdiction. However, the supreme court has also noted that "[c]riminal proceedings that involve the power to render judgments or sentences address a separate set of concerns" that are not implicated in an ordinary civil case. Steinbrecher, 197 Ill. 2d at 532. It thus has continued to recognize the principle of statutory limitation of jurisdiction in criminal cases, particularly where the legality of a sentence is at issue. E.g., People v. Thompson, 209 Ill. 2d 19, 23 (2004). The question we must address is whether the "separate set of concerns" is limited to criminal cases proper or whether the principle of statutory limitation of jurisdiction remains viable in involuntary admission cases. Taking our direction from People v. McCarty, 94 Ill. 2d 28, 37 (1983), we hold that an involuntary admission case, as one that can significantly restrict the liberty of a respondent, is subject to statutory limitation of jurisdiction.

A cursory procedural history of this case is all that is necessary to frame the issues we will discuss here. The State filed a petition for respondent's involuntary admission on December 1, 2005. The court heard the petition on December 16, 2005. At the hearing, neither party specifically mentioned that respondent was facing a felony charge, although the court did note that the events that had led to the petition for admission constituted a felony. The court found respondent to be a person subject to involuntary admission. Respondent timely appealed. This court, on the motion of respondent and without objection from the State, has taken judicial notice that the State filed a felony complaint (for aggravated assault (720 ILCS 5/12--2(a)(6) (West 2004))) against respondent on December 5, 2005.

We explain first why the involuntary admission of a person charged with a felony is void under section 3--100. We then discuss why we will not deem this case moot and why it is proper under the particular circumstances here for us to take judicial notice of respondent's felony charge.

The Belleville Toyota cases (Steinbrecher, Belleville Toyota, and Graf) put forward an understanding of the constitutional bases of jurisdiction deeply different from that which had long dominated. We must now look with great caution on any decision that holds an order to be void because the issuing court lacked authority to enter it. Our consideration of In re M.M., 156 Ill. 2d 53 (1993), a decision respondent first cited for the proposition that an order is void when entered by a court acting beyond the jurisdiction given it by statute, exemplifies the caution we must take with cases decided before the Belleville Toyota trio.

We deem the supreme court to have largely overruled M.M. in Steinbrecher, the earliest of the Belleville Toyota trio.*fn1 In Steinbrecher, the question before the supreme court was whether certain departures from statutorily mandated procedure in an action for the partition of land rendered the judgment void.

The dissent cited a group of cases, including M.M., for the proposition that a trial court lacks the inherent authority to enter an order--it lacks jurisdiction--when it exceeds the authority it has statutorily. Steinbrecher, 197 Ill. 2d at 544 (Freeman, J., dissenting). As M.M. put it, "[w]hen a court's power to act is controlled by statute, the court is governed by the rules of limited jurisdiction [citations], and courts exercising jurisdiction over such matters must proceed within the strictures of the statute." M.M., 156 Ill. 2d at 66.

The majority strongly disagreed. Noting that the dissent had cited M.M., among other decisions, it held that the 1964 amendments to the judicial article of the Constitution of 1870 had mostly abrogated the principle of statutorily limited jurisdiction:

"The dissent mistakenly relies upon a rule of law not applicable to the present circumstances. The 'inherent authority' requirement existed before reform to the judicial system in 1964. Effective January 1, 1964, an amendment to article VI replaced limited jurisdiction: 'Circuit Court[s] shall have unlimited original jurisdiction of all justiciable matters.' Ill. Const. 1870, art. VI, §9 (amended 1964); accord Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, §9 ('Circuit Courts shall have original jurisdiction of all justiciable matters except when the Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction'). This amendment created a single integrated trial court vested with jurisdiction to adjudicate all controversies. [Citation.] Thus, the 'inherent power' requirement applies to courts of limited jurisdiction and administrative agencies." Steinbrecher, 197 Ill. 2d at 529-30.

Further, "a circuit court is a court of general jurisdiction, which need not look to the statute for its jurisdictional authority." Steinbrecher, 197 Ill. 2d at 530. The Steinbrecher court thus held that M.M. and the other cases cited by the dissent are wrong to the extent that they suggest that the legislature can statutorily limit jurisdiction in the general run of civil cases.*fn2

The Steinbrecher court did not entirely close the door to the concept of statutory limits on jurisdiction. It noted that, in People v. Davis, 156 Ill. 2d 149, 156 (1993), it had stated that " 'the power [conferred by the statute] to render the particular judgment or sentence is as important an element of jurisdiction as its personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction.' " (The bracketed words are the Steinbrecher court's insertion.) Steinbrecher, 197 Ill. 2d at 531-32, quoting Davis, 156 Ill. 2d at 156. It distinguished Davis, reasoning that "[c]riminal proceedings that involve the power to render judgments or sentences address a separate set of concerns not at issue in the present matter." Steinbrecher, 197 Ill. 2d at 532.

Since the Steinbrecher decision, the supreme court has continued to reject the principle of statutorily limited jurisdiction in general civil cases while accepting it in criminal cases, at least those involving the trial court's authority to impose a specific sentence. On the civil side, the supreme court in Belleville Toyota and Graf reaffirmed its position that the legislature cannot limit the trial court's jurisdiction. On the criminal side, the supreme court, in cases such as People v. Harris, 203 Ill. 2d 111, 119 (2003), and Thompson, has held that a trial court lacks jurisdiction to impose a statutorily unauthorized sentence. It has not made explicit the analysis of article VI that underlies this distinct treatment. The question the criminal cases raise is whether the principle of statutorily limited ...


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