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People v. Baller

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

June 27, 2018

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DAVID F. BALLER, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois, Appeal No. 3-16-0165 Circuit No. 05-CF-510 Honorable Amy M. Bertani-Tomczak, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court. Justice Holdridge specially concurred, with opinion. Justice Schmidt dissented, with opinion.

          OPINION

          WRIGHT JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Defendant, David F. Baller, appeals from the trial court's order denying his motion for leave to file a successive postconviction petition. On appeal, defendant argues the State erroneously filed an objection to his motion for leave and the court erroneously considered the State's objection in denying defendant leave. We vacate and remand with directions.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 Defendant entered an open plea of guilty to one charge of aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(8) (West 2002)). The trial court admonished defendant that he could receive a potential sentence of 6 to 30 years' imprisonment and the sentence would be served consecutive to the prison sentence defendant was then serving. Defendant indicated he understood the potential sentence. The court sentenced defendant to 30 years' imprisonment. The court ordered the sentence to run consecutively to the sentence imposed in Cook County case No. 05-CR-0778501.

         ¶ 4 On November 18, 2011, defendant filed a pro se postconviction petition, which raised claims of ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The court summarily dismissed the petition. On appeal, we affirmed the court's dismissal. People v. Baller, 2014 IL App (3d) 120214-U.

         ¶ 5 On June 19, 2015, defendant filed a pro se motion for leave to file a successive postconviction petition. The State filed a written objection to defendant's motion. At a subsequent court date, when only the State was present, the court denied defendant's motion, stating:

"I've had a chance to review the defendant's petition for leave to file a successive post conviction [sic]. I also had a chance to read the State's motion to-or your objection, and I'm going to grant your objection. I'm not going to allow him to file a successive petition for post-conviction relief."

         Defendant appeals from the trial court's denial of his motion for leave to file a successive postconviction petition.

         ¶ 6 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 7 Defendant argues the court impermissibly relied on input from the State before denying defendant's motion for leave to file a successive postconviction petition. Defendant requests a reversal of the order denying his motion for leave and asks this court to remand the matter for the trial court to consider defendant's motion anew, without input from the State. The State agrees the trial court should not have considered the State's position before denying defendant's request to file a successive postconviction petition. However, the State asserts that remand is unnecessary. On appeal, the State requests this court to affirm the trial court's order because defendant's motion did not adequately allege cause and prejudice.

         ¶ 8 The issue of whether reversible error arises when a trial court takes the State's position into consideration before ruling on a defendant's motion seeking leave to file a successive postconviction petition was recently addressed in People v. Bailey, 2017 IL 121450. In Bailey, the supreme court held "it is premature and improper for the State to provide input to the court before the court has granted a defendant's motion for leave to file a successive [postconviction] petition." (Emphasis added.) Id. ¶ 20. Ultimately, the supreme court found section 122-1(f) of the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1(f) (West 2016)) requires the trial court to conduct an independent inquiry, without input from the State, before determining whether a defendant is entitled to receive the requested leave necessary to file a successive postconviction petition. Bailey, 2017 IL 121450, ¶ 24.

         ¶ 9 In People v. Munson, 2018 IL App (3d) 150544, this court had an opportunity to apply Bailey to set aside a trial court's decision granting the State's motion to dismiss the defendant's motion for leave to file a successive postconviction petition. We further found that section 122-1 of the Act expressly contemplates the filing of the petition in the" 'trial court.'" Id. (quoting 725 ILCS 5/122-1 (West 2014)). Therefore, consistent with the spirit of Bailey and plain language of the Act, we remanded the cause with directions for the trial court to conduct ...


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