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People v. Easton

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

March 28, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JORDAN EASTON, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kendall County. Nos. 13-CF-333 14-CF-24 14-CF-53 14-CF-138 14-CF-139 14-CF-140 Honorable Timothy J. McCann, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE JORGENSEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Hudson and Justice McLaren concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          JORGENSEN, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Jordan Easton, pleaded guilty to aggravated unlawful possession of a stolen motor vehicle (625 ILCS 5/4-103.2(a)(7)(A) (West 2012)), unlawful possession of a stolen motor vehicle (625 ILCS 5/4-103(a)(1) (West 2012)), and four counts of unlawful use of a credit card (720 ILCS 5/17-36 (West 2012)). The trial court sentenced him to 10 years' imprisonment for aggravated unlawful possession of a stolen motor vehicle and lesser terms for the other convictions, with the sentences to run concurrently.

         ¶ 2 Defendant moved to reconsider the sentences. Defense counsel filed a certificate pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (eff. Feb. 6, 2013), stating in pertinent part as follows:

"1. I have consulted with the Defendant in person to ascertain his contentions of error in the imposition of the sentence or the entry of plea of guilty[.]"

         The trial court denied the motion, and defendant timely appealed. We vacate and remand.

         ¶ 3 Defendant contends that counsel's certificate is insufficient because it states that she consulted with him about his contentions concerning the "imposition of the sentence or the entry of plea of guilty." (Emphasis added.) Defendant acknowledges that the use of the word "or" tracked the rule as it was then written. See People v. Mineau, 2014 IL App (2d) 110666-B, ¶¶ 16-19. However, he notes that the supreme court has since amended the rule to require that a certificate state that counsel has consulted with the defendant about his or her "contentions of error in the sentence and the entry of the plea of guilty." (Emphasis added.) Ill. S.Ct. R. 604(d) (eff. Mar. 8, 2016). He contends that the amendment is a procedural one that applies retroactively to cases on direct appeal. The State disagrees.

         ¶ 4 On October 29, 2014, when defendant filed his motion to reconsider the sentences, Rule 604(d) required defense counsel to

"file with the trial court a certificate stating that the attorney has consulted with the defendant either by mail or in person to ascertain defendant's contentions of error in the sentence or the entry of the plea of guilty, has examined the trial court file and report of proceedings of the plea of guilty, and has made any amendments to the motion necessary for adequate presentation of any defects in those proceedings." Ill. S.Ct. R. 604(d) (eff. Feb. 6, 2013).

         Strict compliance with Rule 604(d) is required. People v. Janes, 158 Ill.2d 27, 35-36 (1994). Compliance with supreme court rules is reviewed de novo. People v. Dismuke, 355 Ill.App.3d 606, 608 (2005).

         ¶ 5 In Mineau, 2014 IL App (2d) 110666-B, the defendant, after pleading guilty to unlawful possession of a stolen motor vehicle and receiving an eight-year sentence, moved to withdraw his plea or, alternately, to reconsider the sentence. His counsel certified that he had consulted with the defendant " 'to ascertain defendant's contentions of error in the sentence or the entry of the plea of guilty.' " Id. ¶ 4. We rejected the defendant's contention that the certificate did not strictly comply with Rule 604(d), noting that the certificate comported exactly with the rule's text. Id. ¶ 16. We stated, "Courts have repeatedly held that a certificate need not recite verbatim the rule's language. [Citation.] However, we are aware of no case finding a certificate insufficient for following the rule's language too closely." Id.

         ¶ 6 Shortly after we issued our initial opinion in Mineau, the supreme court decided People v. Tousignant, 2014 IL 115329. There, the court held that, to effectuate the rule's intent, "or" should be construed to mean "and." Id. ¶ 20. The court noted that the rule's purpose is " 'to eliminate needless trips to the appellate court and to give the trial court an opportunity to consider the alleged errors and to make a record for the appellate court to consider on review in cases where defendant's claim is disallowed.' " Id. ¶ 13 (quoting People v. Wilk, 124 Ill.2d 93, 106 (1988)). Requiring counsel to file a certificate ensures that counsel has reviewed the defendant's claim and " 'considered all relevant bases for the motion.' " (Emphasis in original.) Id. ¶ 15 (quoting People v. Shirley, 181 Ill.2d 359, 361 (1998)).

         ¶ 7 The court observed that a literal reading of the rule would require counsel to consult with a defendant about contentions of error in either the plea proceedings or in the sentencing, depending upon which type of motion was being filed. Such a construction, however, was inconsistent with the rule's ...


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