from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Rock
Island County, Illinois, Appeal No. 3-15-0085 Circuit No.
14-CF-442 Honorable F. Michael Meersman, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Holdridge concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Following his conviction for unlawful possession of
cannabis with intent to deliver, defendant, Darron L. Warren,
filed a notice of appeal on January 27, 2015. The notice of
appeal identified the judgment order entered on January 27,
2015, as the only order subject to defendant's notice of
2 On March 27, 2015, the circuit clerk prepared a written
summary of the monetary consequences resulting from
defendant's conviction. In this appeal, defendant
requests our court to review and vacate portions of the
circuit clerk's data entries placed in the record on
March 27, 2015, subsequent to the notice of appeal filed in
this case. Appeal dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
4 A jury found defendant guilty of unlawful possession of
cannabis with intent to deliver (720 ILCS 550/5(d) (West
2014)) on October 31, 2014. On January 27, 2015, the trial
court sentenced defendant to serve a term of four years'
imprisonment and ordered defendant to pay costs only. When
discussing whether to set a pay date for the costs of the
proceedings, the court stated: "All monies in this case
are reduced to judgment because I find you don't have
[the] ability to pay, and Rock Island County is not a [place]
where we track you down for the rest of your life in relation
to making you pay these fines and fees and costs."
Defendant filed a notice of appeal the same day.
5 The written judgment order sentencing defendant to the
Department of Corrections was signed by the court on January
29, 2015, and file-stamped by the circuit clerk's office
on January 30, 2015. The written judgment order does not
address any monetary considerations.
6 The court signed a second written order on January 29,
2015, which was also file- stamped by the circuit clerk's
office on January 30, 2015. The second order set out in a
preprinted form reads as follows: "It is further ordered
that the defendant is ordered to pay the costs of
prosecutions herein. These fees, costs and restitution are
reduced to judgment against the defendant and are declared a
lien against the defendant's property." Aside from a
potential $250 DNA analysis fee, the second court order does
not include any determination of the amount for court costs
or designate either a pay date or a date certain for the
court to review defendant's ability to pay costs,
undetermined as of the date of sentencing, after his release.
7 Defendant filed a notice of appeal on January 27, 2015,
indicating that "An appeal is taken from the Order of
Judgment and Sentence" dated January 27, 2015.
8 A document labeled as the "Record of Judgment" in
defendant's case appears on the record after the notice
of appeal. That document, which bears a circuit court file
stamp of February 6, 2015, shows a "Total Amount of
Judgment" of $729.01 and a "Judgment Entered"
date of February 6, 2015. The document does not bear a
judicial signature or include a breakdown of the amounts
incorporated into the $729.01 sum total. A similar
"Record of Judgment" document appears later in the
record, following this court's scheduling order. This
document bears a stamp from the Rock Island County Recorder,
which indicates a recording date of February 9, 2015.
9 The final page of the common law record, entitled
"Payment Status Information, " documents the fines,
costs, and fees comprising the sum total of $729.01. The top
of this document bears the computer-printed date of March 27,
2015. The fines mistakenly incorporated into the total amount
of costs include a $50 court system fine (55 ILCS 5/5-1101(c)
(West 2014)), a $20 Violent Crime Victims Assistance Fund
fine (725 ILCS 240/10(b) (West 2014)), a $10 medical costs
fine (730 ILCS 125/17 (West 2014)), a $5 youth diversion fine
(55 ILCS 5/5-1101(e) (West 2014)), a $5 drug court fine (55
ILCS 5/5-1101(f) (West 2014)), a $10 State Police Services
Fund fine (730 ILCS 5/5-9-1.17(b) (West 2014)), and a $15
State Police Operations Assistance Fund fine (705 ILCS
105/27.3a(1.5), (5) (West 2014)).
10 To date, defendant has not voluntarily paid any portion of
the $729.01 sum total of the judgment, as determined by the
clerk, or been compelled to do so. Similarly, to date,
defendant has not been compelled by any supplementary order
signed by the trial court compelling defendant to pay any
portion of the clerical data entries tabulating court costs.
12 On appeal, defendant does not challenge the trial
court's order of judgment dated January 27, 2015, the
subject of the notice of appeal filed on the same date.
Instead, defendant asserts that the monetary amounts,
compiled by the clerk on March 27, 2015, should be reduced by
$115. In contrast, the State argues that this court should
not exercise our jurisdiction to correct clerical entries
based on the unique procedural posture of this appeal.
13 We conclude that the State's concern about the
jurisdiction of this court merits further consideration.
Defendant's notice of appeal focuses on the court's
judgment dated January 27, 2015, but the issues presented for
our review relate to the actions of the circuit clerk on
March 27, 2015. Although notices of appeal are to be
construed liberally, a notice of appeal does not confer
jurisdiction on the appellate court unless it "fairly
and adequately sets out the judgment complained of and the
relief sought, thus advising the successful litigant of the
nature of the appeal." (Internal quotation marks
omitted.) People v. Smith, 228 Ill.2d 95, 105
(2008). In Smith, our supreme court held that the
defendant's notice of appeal was deficient where it
referenced only the final judgment of conviction, but the
claimant was attempting to appeal a different judgment (a
judgment denying the defendant's "motion to
correct sentence") that was entered approximately 15
months after the judgment of conviction. Id. at
103-05. We have serious concerns regarding whether the notice
of appeal in this case allows our review of the clerical data
entries dated March 27, 2015.
14 Next, we respectfully observe that the purported clerical
errors at issue seem attributable to a common
misunderstanding of what constitutes a true court
cost. In fact, both sides to this appeal agree
that this defendant owes $115 less than the unpaid balance of
court costs contained in the clerk's data entries.
15 With this consensus in mind, we note that an actual
controversy is a necessary prerequisite for the exercise of
our appellate jurisdiction. La Salle National Bank v.
City of Chicago, 3 Ill.2d 375, 378-79 (1954). Although
an "actual controversy" involves multiple
variables, the United States Supreme Court astutely stated as
"A justiciable controversy is thus distinguished from a
difference or dispute of a hypothetical or abstract
character; from one that is academic or moot. [Citation.] The
controversy must be definite and concrete, touching the legal
relations of parties having adverse legal interests.
[Citations.] It must be a real and substantial controversy
admitting of specific relief through a decree of a conclusive
character, as distinguished from an opinion advising what the
law would be upon a hypothetical state of facts."
Aetna Life Insurance Co. v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227,
16 We must also consider whether "the harm that a
[party] claims is merely speculative or contingent" and
if so, the case law provides "the claim is unripe and a
court should not decide it." Smart Growth Sugar
Grove, LLC v. Village of Sugar Grove, 375 Ill.App.3d
780, 789 (2007). The existence of an actual controversy
incorporates a number of interconnected principles of
justiciability, such as standing, ripeness, mootness,
advisory opinions, and political questions. Morr-Fitz,
Inc. v. Blagojevich, 231 Ill.2d 474, 488 (2008).
"The related doctrines of standing and ripeness
'seek[ ] to insure that courts decide actual
controversies and not abstract questions.' "
Lebron v. ...