Monday, August 21, 2017

Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Grants Wisconsin Justice Department's Request for En Banc Rehearing in Case of Brendan Dassey, of Netflix's "Making a Murderer" Fame

By Josh Wolff
Law Clerk to Hon. Eileen O'Neill Burke, Illinois Appellate Court, First District

The Netflix 10-episode documentary "Making a Murderer" detailed the story of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who had been wrongfully convicted of sexual assault and attempted murder. After serving 18 years in prison for the crimes, Avery was released in 2003. Two years later, however, Avery was arrested for allegedly murdering Therea Halbach. During the investigation, the police interviewed Avery's nephew, 16-year-old Brendan Dassey, who confessed to helping Avery commit the murder. 

Both Avery and Dassey were charged and eventually convicted of Halbach's murder. Dassey was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to review his case. 

In 2015, Dassey filed a writ of habeas corpus in federal court, seeking to be released from prison or a new trial. He alleged that various of his constitutional rights were violated, but in particular that his confession to the police had been coerced in violation of the fifth amendment. In 2016, a federal magistrate judge agreed, finding that his confession had been coerced. Accordingly, because his confession was unconstitutional, the judge ordered him to be released from prison.

The Wisconsin Justice Department appealed that decision to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which stayed Dassey's release pending the appeal. In June 2017, a panel of three judges in the Seventh Circuit affirmed the magistrate judge's decision. It further granted Dassey's writ of habeas corpus unless the State of Wisconsin elected to retry him within 90 days of the Seventh Circuit's final mandate. 

The Wisconsin Justice Department requested a rehearing en banc in front of the entire panel of the Seventh Circuit. The court granted the request and vacated its original decision. Now, on September 26, the full Seventh Circuit will hear Dassey's case. 

DISCLAIMER: The Appellate Lawyers Association does not provide legal services or legal advice. Discussions of legal principles and authority, including, but not limited to, constitutional provisions, statutes, legislative enactments, court rules, case law, and common-law doctrines are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

First District Appellate Court Announces: “The Time Has Come to Take a More Serious Look at this Problem” Involving Criminal Appeals

By Katherine A. Grosh
Partner, Levin Ginsburg

In People v. Griffin, 2017 IL App (1st) 143800, the First District Appellate Court declined to reach the merits of a case that the court characterized as “but one of hundreds of criminal appeals involving fines-and-fees issues that were overlooked at the trial court level and raised for the first time on appeal.” Id. ¶ 5. In the case, the defendant pled guilty to two crimes in two separate cases and was sentenced to concurrent prison terms in both cases, with fines and fees. Id. ¶¶ 1-2. The defendant did not file either a motion to withdraw his plea or to reconsider his sentence, nor did he file a direct appeal in either case. Id. ¶ 2.

More than 30 days after sentencing in both cases, the defendant filed a pro se motion to correct the mittimus to reflect a different custody date for purposes of calculating presentence detention credit, which the trial court denied. Id. ¶ 1. He appealed the denial of his motion, abandoning his initial claim as to the custody date, and instead contending for the first time that his fines and fees were erroneously assessed against him and that he was entitled to presentencing detention credit. Id. ¶¶ 1, 4.

The appellate court found that, because the defendant failed to file a motion pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (eff. Mar. 8, 2016) to withdraw his guilty plea and vacate the judgment or a motion to reconsider his sentence within 30 days of his sentencing, it could not consider his appeal on the merits. Id. ¶¶ 1, 11. The appellate court further found that the denial of his motion to correct the mittimus was not a final and appealable order over which it had jurisdiction because—unlike the sentencing orders—it did not determine the litigation on the merits. Id. ¶¶ 1, 13. Accordingly, the appellate court dismissed the appeal. Id. ¶¶ 1, 27.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Vermilion County Names its Courthouse in Justice Garman’s Honor

At a recent ceremony at the David S. Palmer Arena, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Garman was honored by having the county courthouse named in her honor—it will now be known as the Rita B. Garman Vermilion County Courthouse.

The Commercial-News reports the story.

At the ceremony, Justice Garman noted that early in her career opportunities “for a young woman lawyer were limited[.]” But she gained experience in both government and private practice. And eventually she became an associate judge, then an a circuit judge, then the presiding judge for Vermilion County. She was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2001 and served as the chief judge from 2013 to 2016. The Commercial-News reports that Justice Garman was the first chief justice to serve in every capacity in the state judiciary, and the first woman to hold each of those positions.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Chief Judge Wood Calls on Practitioners to Comply with the Appellate Rule for Jurisdictional Statements

By Louis J. Manetti
Attorney, Codilis and Associates, PC

Chief Judge Wood recently issued a call to comply with a rule that requires parties to summarize jurisdiction. In Baez-Sanchez v. Sessions, Nos. 16-3784 and 17-1438, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12306, at *1 (7th Cir. July 10, 2017), Chief Judge Wood released an opinion in two consolidated cases. Id. The chief judge expounds why the jurisdictional summary rule is important to the Court, explicitly reviews the rule’s requirements, and criticizes the widespread failure to follow all aspects of the rule. She states, “I am issuing this opinion in the hope that attorneys practicing in the Seventh Circuit, as well as our pro se litigants, will take heed and avoid these errors in the future.” Id. at *2.

The opinion explains that the Seventh Circuit screens all of its appeals to make sure that there are no jurisdictional problems—either in the district court or on appeal. Id. at *1-2. To screen cases, the Court relies on jurisdictional information that the parties supply. Id. at *2. The Court must have full and accurate jurisdictional statements because “for centuries it has been recognized that federal courts have an obligation—to assure themselves of their own jurisdiction.” Id. at *8 (quoting Kelly v. U.S., 29 F.3d 1107, 1113 (7th Cir. 1994)). Cases like Belleville Catering Co. v. Champaign Market Place, LLC, 350 F.3d 691, 693 (7th Cir. 2003) stress how seriously the Court takes jurisdiction. There, the appellee suggested that the Seventh Circuit should simply rule on the appeal’s merits—even though it was discovered that diversity jurisdiction was lacking—because it would establish finality, and surely the court had ruled despite jurisdiction in the past. Id. The Court emphasized that this statement “leaves us agog . . . . [t]he proposition that the Seventh Circuit has [ruled without jurisdiction] in the past—a proposition unsupported by any citation—accuses the court of dereliction combined with usurpation.” Id. The jurisdictional summary acts as a bulwark against these threats.

Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 28, and its corresponding circuit rule unique to the Seventh Circuit, mandate what must be in a jurisdictional statement. Baez-Sanchez, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12306, at *3. The appellant or petitioner must establish four things. First, appellants must show the basis for the district court’s jurisdiction. Id. at *3. This includes identifying the specific statute if federal question jurisdiction is involved, and showing the jurisdictional amount and citizenship—not residence—of each party if the case concerns diversity jurisdiction. Id. at *3-4. The opinion cautions that to articulate citizenship for an organization the litigant must work back through the ownership structure until either an individual human being or a formal corporation is identified. Id. at *7. Second, the jurisdictional statement must demonstrate the appellate court’s jurisdiction. Id. at *3. Third, it must articulate the dates showing that the appeal is timely—including the specific dates to show the judgment, any postjudgment motions and when they were resolved, and when the notice of appeal was filed. Id. at *3-4. Last, the statement must provide facts establishing the judgment’s finality or an exception to the final-judgment rule. Id. at *3.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Chicago Bar Association's New Gun Violence Prevention Initiative

The Chicago Bar Association recently started a new initiative to help communities in Chicago suffering from pervasive gun violence. On November 3, 2017, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the CBA will host “A Call To Action: Communities Suffering From Gun Violence Meet Lawyers Offering Help.”
At the meeting, 20 community representatives from various Chicago neighborhoods will meet with lawyers, seeking legal assistance in four specific areas: (1) mental health services; (2) police/community relationships; (3) faith-based community services; and (4) jobs for high-risk men and women.
During the meeting, community representatives will speak about the four areas of need. The lawyers in attendance will then have an opportunity to speak to these representatives to better understand their needs and determine how they can help meet those needs.
Planning meetings about the initiative will take place on Wednesday, August 23 and 30 at 12:00 p.m. at the Chicago Bar Association building.
If you are interested in volunteering your services, please e-mail Terry Murphy ( and let him know the area you would like to volunteer with.

DISCLAIMER:  The Appellate Lawyers Association does not provide legal services or legal advice. Discussions of legal principles and authority, including, but not limited to, constitutional provisions, statutes, legislative enactments, court rules, case law, and common-law doctrines are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Illinois Appellate Court Holds It Lacks Jurisdiction to Vacate Erroneously Assessed Fines and Fees Raised on Appeal for First Time from Collateral Proceeding

By Andrew Kwalwaser
Law Clerk to Hon. Thomas E. Hoffman, Illinois Appellate Court, First District

In People v. Grigorov, 2017 IL App (1st) 143274, a panel of the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court granted a defendant's request for presentencing detention credit but found that it lacked jurisdiction over other claims that he raised for the first time on appeal.
In April 2014, the defendant, George Grigorov, pleaded guilty to aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol and driving on a revoked or suspended license. The circuit court sentenced him to concurrent prison terms of six and three years, respectively, with "all mandatory fines, fees, and court costs." He did not file a Rule 604(d) motion to reconsider his sentence or withdraw his plea, nor did he file a timely notice of appeal. In August 2014, however, he filed a petition pursuant to section 5-9-2 of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/5-9-2 (West 2014)), requesting that the circuit court vacate $6,000 in imposed "assessments" due to his inability to pay. In September 2014, the circuit court denied the petition.
On appeal, the defendant abandoned his claim that his fines should be revoked due to his inability to pay and argued, for the first time, that (1) he should receive $975 in presentencing detention credit against his fines pursuant to section 110-14 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/110-14 (West 2012)), and (2) certain fines and fees were erroneously assessed.

Friday, July 14, 2017

United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Speak in Chicago on September 11

On Monday, September 11, United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will speak at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago with United States Court of Appeals Judge Ann Claire Williams.

Justice Ginsburg, who has served on the Supreme Court since 1993, will discuss her life and judicial career. Judge Williams has served on the Seventh Circuit since 1999 and recently assumed senior status.

Individual tickets go on sale on July 28 at 10 a.m. and are $35 for the general public.

Please visit here for more information.