Challenging Competency of An Attorney In Proceedings Under the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act

In People v. Lawton, 212 Ill. 2d 285, 818 N.E.2d 326, 334, 288 Ill. Dec. 638 (2004), the defendant had filed a section 2-1401 petition challenging the competency of the attorney who represented him in proceedings under the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act (725 ILCS 205/0.01 et seq. (West 2002)), as well as on direct appeal. The Lawton court first noted that the defendant could not raise his claim in a post-conviction petition, as proceedings under the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act are civil in nature and the Post-Conviction Hearing Act only applies to persons imprisoned pursuant to a criminal conviction. Having no recourse under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act, the court stated that the defendant was entitled to challenge the effectiveness of his attorney by means of a section 2-1401 petition. The court noted that, by allowing the defendant to do so, its holding gave effect to the purpose of section 2-1401, which is to grant relief when necessary to achieve justice. Lawton, 212 Ill. 2d at 297.