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Flood v. Rickey

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

September 22, 2016

MATTHEW V. FLOOD, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JEREMY RICHEY, Moultrie County State's Attorney, Defendant-Appellee The Department of State Police, Intervenor-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Moultrie County, No. 14-MR-18; the Hon. Dan L. Flannell, Judge, presiding.

         Reversed; cause remanded with directions.

          Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Chicago (Carolyn E. Shapiro, Solicitor General, and Christopher M.R. Turner (argued), Assistant Appeal Attorney General, of counsel), for appellant.

          Bradford A. Rau and Douglas K. Smothers (argued), both of Rau, Elder & Associates, of Sullivan, for appellee.

          JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Steigmann and Appleton concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          HARRIS JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The Illinois Department of State Police (Department) appeals the circuit court's orders denying its petition to intervene as of right and striking its motion to vacate the court's March 2015 order directing the Department to issue plaintiff, Matthew V. Flood, a firearm owner's identification (FOID) card. We reverse and remand with directions.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On October 31, 2014, Flood filed a petition in the circuit court of Moultrie County pursuant to section 10 of the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act (FOID Act) (430 ILCS 65/10 (West 2012)) seeking an order directing the Department to issue him a FOID card. Flood alleged that, on or about August 5, 2014, the Department denied his application for reinstatement of his FOID card on the ground that his 1999 conviction for battery qualified as a crime of domestic violence as defined by the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 (18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33)(A) (2012)), making it unlawful for him to possess a firearm under federal law. According to Flood's petition, his battery conviction resulted from an incident that "involved the spanking and leaving a mark on the buttocks of *** a minor child of his then girlfriend." Although originally charged with domestic battery, he later pleaded guilty to an amended charge of simple battery. Flood further asserted in his petition that section 10(c) of the FOID Act permitted the circuit court to grant him a FOID card because (1) he had not been convicted of a forcible felony, (2) the circumstances regarding his battery conviction indicate he was not likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety, and (3) granting relief would not be contrary to the public interest.

         ¶ 4 On March 2, 2015, the circuit court conducted a hearing on Flood's petition at which the Moultrie County State's Attorney, Flood, and Flood's attorney were present. The Department was neither named as a party respondent nor given notice of the hearing, and thus, it did not appear at the hearing. The court's docket entry for March 2, 2015, notes, "No objections on file. None made in open court. Petition allowed." On March 10, 2015, the court entered a written order directing the Department to issue Flood a FOID card. In its order, the court found "the State's Attorney of Moultrie County deferred to the discretion of the [c]ourt and stipulated to the [p]etition on file and Flood's [e]xhibits." The court further found (1) Flood had never been convicted of a forcible felony, (2) he was not likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety, and (3) ordering the Department to issue Flood a FOID card would not be contrary to the public interest.

         ¶ 5 On April 9, 2015, the Department filed (1) a petition to intervene as of right pursuant to section 2-408 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-408 (West 2014)) and (2) a motion to vacate the circuit court's March 2015 order pursuant to section 2-1203 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-1203 (West 2014)). In its petition to intervene, the Department asserted that intervention was appropriate because it was bound by the circuit court's March 2015 order following proceedings in which its interests were not adequately represented. Specifically, the Department contended that due to the State's Attorney's failure to object to Flood's petition, the court had not considered the Department's legal argument that the court lacked authority to grant Flood relief due to a federal firearm disability. In its contemporaneously filed motion to vacate the court's March 2015 order, the Department maintained that the court lacked the authority to grant Flood's petition for relief because his prior battery conviction prohibited him from possessing a firearm under federal law.

         ¶ 6 On April 21, 2015, Flood filed a motion to strike the Department's petition to intervene and a response to the Department's motion to vacate the circuit court's March 2015 order. In his motion to strike, Flood asserted that the State's Attorney adequately represented the Department's interests and that the Department's interests were insufficient to permit intervention because its "enforcement of the FOID Act is rote and ministerial: it either grants or denies applications with minimal exercise of discretion." In his response to the motion to vacate the March 2015 order, Flood asserted that if the Department were permitted to intervene, the court should nonetheless deny the motion to vacate because he did not commit a misdemeanor offense of domestic violence and, therefore, was not prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law. In particular, Flood asserted he was not the victim's parent or guardian, nor was he similarly situated to a parent or guardian.

         ¶ 7 On June 11, 2015, the circuit court conducted a hearing on the Department's petition to intervene and motion to vacate the court's March 2015 order. Regarding the petition to intervene, Flood argued the Department's right to intervene was discretionary rather than as of right, that the Department failed to establish that the State's Attorney did not adequately protect its interests, and that the court's March 2015 order directing it to issue Flood a FOID card was "a pretty ministerial act." In contrast, the Department argued its right to intervene was "as of right" because it was bound by the court's March 2015 order and its interests had not been adequately represented by the State's Attorney, who had simply deferred to the court's discretion.

         ¶ 8 The circuit court then heard argument on the Department's motion to vacate the March 2015 order. The Department argued that the court was precluded from issuing an order granting Flood's requested relief because Flood's battery conviction qualified as a misdemeanor domestic violence offense under federal law and prohibited him from owning a firearm. The Department maintained that at the very least, it "ha[d] presented [a] sufficient basis under which the [c]ourt should conduct an evidentiary analysis and legal analysis as to whether this statute would apply and whether [Flood] is prohibited under federal law [from possessing a firearm]." Accordingly, the Department requested that the court vacate its March 2015 order and, thereafter, hear ...


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