DeANGELO M. COWPER, Appellee,
RANDY NYBERG et al., Appellants
Appellate court judgment affirmed in part and reversed in part. Circuit court judgment affirmed as modified in part and reversed in part. Cause remanded with instructions.
Joseph A. Bleyer and James B. Bleyer, of Bleyer & Bleyer, of Marion, for appellants.
Andrew T. Flynn, of Tetzlaff, Flynn & Associates, P.C., of Marion, for appellee.
JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Kilbride, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] At issue is whether plaintiff stated a cause of action for negligence against the circuit court clerk and the sheriff, when the number of days plaintiff had been in custody and for which he was to receive credit against his sentence were calculated incorrectly, resulting in him being wrongfully incarcerated for over four months.
[¶3] Plaintiff, DeAngelo Cowper, was the named defendant in Saline County circuit court case No. 2003-CF-323. On May 12, 2011, plaintiff pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 27 months' imprisonment. The sentencing judgment entered on June 1, 2011, provided that plaintiff was to receive 275 days' credit for time served. Plaintiff was transported to the Department of Corrections on June 2, 2011.
[¶4] The record is silent on how plaintiff learned that his sentencing credits were calculated incorrectly, but on June 23, 2011, plaintiff filed a " Motion to Recalculate Time Served." On October 16, 2011, plaintiff was released from the Department of Corrections. On November 22, 2011, the State responded to defendant's motion. The State conceded in its response that defendant had not been given credit for time served between January 8, 2008, and February 2, 2008, and between November 29, 2010, and May 11, 2011.
The State thus agreed with plaintiff that he should have received credit for those days. On the same day that the State filed its response, the circuit court of Saline County entered an order granting defendant the additional credits and asking the State to prepare an amended mittimus. The court then entered an amended judgment that included all of the good time credits that plaintiff should have received.
[¶5] On January 20, 2012, plaintiff filed a two-count complaint against Keith Brown, the sheriff of Saline County, and Randy Nyberg, the Saline County circuit clerk. Each count was titled " Negligence," with count I directed against the clerk and count II against the sheriff. The basis of the duty alleged to have been breached by each is found in section 5-4-1(e)(4) of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/5-4-1(e)(4) (West 2012)), which provides as follows:
" (e) The clerk of the court shall transmit to the department, agency or institution, if any, to which the defendant is committed, the following:
* * *
(4) the number of days, if any, which the defendant has been in custody and for which he is entitled to credit against the sentence, which information shall be provided to the clerk by the sheriff[.]"
Plaintiff alleged that, because either the sheriff or the clerk transmitted the incorrect number of days he had been in custody, he ended up erroneously incarcerated for 137 days. Plaintiff had sufficient credits that he should not have spent any time in the Department of Corrections. Plaintiff alleged that as a direct and proximate cause of defendants' negligence, plaintiff suffered a loss of freedom, a loss of normal life, a loss of employment, a loss of ability to seek additional employment opportunities, and was unable to care for or to be with his family. Plaintiff asked for damages in excess of $50,000.
[¶6] Defendants filed a section 2-615 (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2012)) motion to dismiss. Defendants argued that plaintiff had not properly alleged any duty that had been breached by defendants. Defendants contended that there was no authority that section 5-4-1(e)(4) provides a private cause of action for its violation. Plaintiff filed a memorandum of law in response. Plaintiff argued that section 5-4-1(e)(4) imposed a ministerial duty on defendants, and that he had properly pleaded a breach of this ministerial duty. ...