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VC&M, Ltd. v. Andrews

Supreme Court of Illinois

June 20, 2013

VC&M, LTD., d/b/a Re/Max Elite, Appellant,
v.
CINDY ANDREWS et al., Appellees.

JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Freeman, Garman, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

THEIS JUSTICE

¶ 1 This appeal arises from two certified questions of importance from the appellate court, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 316 (eff. Dec. 6, 2006)), following a judgment in the circuit court of Du Page County. The circuit court dismissed with prejudice an amended complaint by plaintiff, VC&M, Ltd., against defendants, Cindy Andrews and Robert Andrews, for failure to state a claim. The appellate court subsequently dismissed plaintiff's appeal for lack of jurisdiction after plaintiff violated the 18th Judicial Circuit's local rule prohibiting the electronic filing (e-filing) of certain motions and all notices of appeal. 2012 IL App (2d) 110523, ¶ 24. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court dismissing the appeal for lack of jurisdiction and remand to the appellate court for further proceedings.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 On December 15, 2010, plaintiff filed a two-count amended complaint alleging breach of contract and account stated claims. Plaintiff alleged that on November 24, 2009, it entered into a contract with defendants to list their home in Hinsdale, Illinois, for sale at $1, 350, 000. On March 31, 2010, a prospective buyer submitted an offer to purchase the home for $1, 126, 000. Defendants rejected the offer and did not make a counteroffer. Instead, Cindy Andrews informed the listing agent employed by plaintiff that defendants would not be pursuing the offer because they were in the midst of a divorce and she intended to buy out Robert's interest in the home and remain living there herself. On April 6, 2010, the listing agreement expired.

¶ 4 A judgment for dissolution of marriage was subsequently entered in defendants' divorce case, which incorporated a marital settlement agreement. Concerning the marital home in Hinsdale, the settlement agreement provided that Cindy would buy out Robert's share of the home. For purposes of determining the interests of the parties in the property, defendants stipulated that the fair market value of the home was $1, 126, 005.

¶ 5 In count I of the amended complaint, plaintiff alleged breach of contract. Plaintiff sought payment of the real estate commission allegedly due and owing under the listing agreement based on the transfer of Robert's interest in the home to Cindy. In count II, plaintiff alleged that defendants had acknowledged that they owed the commission, which constituted an account stated under Illinois law.

¶ 6 Both defendants filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint, arguing that it failed to state a claim under section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2010)). Plaintiff e-filed its response to the motions to dismiss without objection. On February 23, 2011, following a hearing, the trial court granted defendants' motions to dismiss with prejudice.

¶ 7 On March 25, 2011, within 30 days of the dismissal order, plaintiff e-filed a motion to reconsider the trial court's order. On April 25, 2011, plaintiff filed a paper copy of the motion. At the hearing held the same day, defendants asserted that e-filing the motion to reconsider was improper, rendering the motion untimely, and the trial court consequently lacked jurisdiction to consider the motion. The trial court denied plaintiff's motion to reconsider on the erits without commenting on the manner in which the motion was filed.

¶ 8 On May 25, 2011, plaintiff e-filed its notice of appeal within 30 days of the denial of the postjudgment motion. During the pendency of the appeal, defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

¶ 9 The appellate court concluded that plaintiff improperly e-filed its motion to reconsider in violation of local rule 5.03 (18th Judicial Cir. Ct. R. 5.03(b) (eff. Jan. 2, 2007)). 2012 IL App (2d) 110523, ¶ 17. Therefore, the e-filed motion was a nullity and ineffective to toll the time for filing a notice of appeal. Id. The appellate court found that the untimely filing of a paper copy of the motion to reconsider did not extend the deadline for filing a notice of appeal. Id. The appellate court further held that plaintiff violated circuit court rule 5.03(d) (18th Judicial Cir. Ct. R. 5.03(d) (eff. Jan. 2, 2007)) by e-filing its notice of appeal, and noted that plaintiff never filed a paper copy. Id. ¶¶ 18, 19. The appellate court held that the clerk of the court's acceptance of a defective filing cannot confer jurisdiction on the court. Id. ¶ 21. For these reasons, the appellate court concluded that the appeal must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because it was untimely under Supreme Court Rule 303 (Ill. S.Ct. R. 303 (eff. May 30, 2008)). Id. ¶¶ 19, 25.

¶ 10 On its own motion, the appellate court issued a certificate of importance pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 316 (Ill. S.Ct. R. 316 (eff. Dec. 6, 2006)). The appellate court certified the following two issues for our consideration: (1) whether a postjudgment motion filed electronically in violation of a circuit court rule (18th Judicial Cir. Ct. R. 5.03 (eff. Jan. 2, 2007)) tolls the time for an appeal under Supreme Court Rule 303; and (2) whether local rule 5.03 prohibits the e-filing of a notice of appeal.

¶ 11 ANALYSIS

¶ 12 I

¶ 13 We first consider the question of whether plaintiff's e-filed motion to reconsider tolled the 30-day period for filing a notice of appeal under Supreme Court Rule 303(a). This issue presents purely a question of law and our review proceeds de novo. In re Estate of Boyar, 2013 IL 113655, ¶ 27.

¶ 14 On October 22, 2003, this court approved the 18th Judicial Circuit, Du Page County, as a site for the implementation of an e-filing pilot project. Ill. S.Ct., M.R. 18368 (Oct. 22, 2003); see also 18th Judicial Cir. Ct. R. 5.01(a) (eff. Jan. 2, 2007). The e-filing program is intended to reduce by tens of thousands of pages the number of paper documents that are filed in our court system each year. This is intended to make our courts more efficient and easier to use. It is also designed to save costs for both litigants and the court system.

¶ 15 Supreme Court Rule 21(a) vests the circuit courts with the power to adopt local rules governing civil and criminal cases (1) so long as they do not conflict with supreme court rules or statutes, and (2) so far as practicable they are uniform throughout the state. Ill. S.Ct. R. 21(a) (eff. Dec. 1, 2008); see also Vision Point of Sale, Inc. v. Haas, 226 Ill.2d 334, 357 (2007). As part of the pilot project, the 18th Judicial Circuit developed rules concerning e-filing. See 18th Judicial Cir. Ct. R. 5.01 et seq. (eff. Jan. 2, 2007).

ΒΆ 16 Rule 5.03, at issue in this appeal, governs the designation of e- filing cases in the 18th Judicial Circuit ...


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