Is the Time to Appeal Period Tolled Until Actual Notice of Trial Court's Final Order ?
In Mitchell v. Fiat-Allis, Inc., 158 Ill. 2d 143, 148, 632 N.E.2d 1010, 1011, 198 Ill. Dec. 399 (1994), the supreme court considered and rejected the argument that Rule 303(a)'s 30-day period in which to appeal is tolled until the parties have actual notice of the trial court's final order.
In Mitchell, the trial court signed its order disposing of the case on February 27, 1991.
The order was file stamped March 1, 1991, and included directions to the clerk of the circuit court to send a copy of the order to the attorneys of record. Mitchell, 158 Ill. 2d at 146, 632 N.E.2d at 1010.
On April 25, 1991, Mitchell's counsel learned that the court had entered a ruling in the case.
After conferring with opposing counsel and the court, Mitchell's counsel filed a petition under section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 110, par. 2-1401) to withdraw or vacate the February 27, 1991, order.
On April 29, 1991, the court granted Mitchell's petition, withdrew the judgment dated February 27, 1991, and reentered the same order, effective April 29, 1991. Mitchell, 158 Ill. 2d at 146-47, 632 N.E.2d at 1010-11. Mitchell filed a timely notice of appeal of that order, and the Industrial Commission Division of the appellate court upheld jurisdiction and considered Mitchell's appeal on the merits. Mitchell, 158 Ill. 2d at 147, 632 N.E.2d at 1011.
The supreme court reversed, concluding that the appellate court "improvidently took jurisdiction over Mitchell's appeal." Mitchell, 158 Ill. 2d at 148, 632 N.E.2d at 1012.
In so concluding, the court reiterated its holding in Granite City Lodge No. 272, Loyal Order of the Moose v. City of Granite City, 141 Ill. 2d 122, 123, 565 N.E.2d 929, 929, 152 Ill. Dec. 247 (1990), that "'actual notice [of the trial court's judgment] is not required, so long as the order appealed from was expressed publicly, in words and at the situs of the proceeding.'" Mitchell, 158 Ill. 2d at 148, 632 N.E.2d at 1012.
An order is deemed to have become public when it is filed with the clerk of the court (Granite City, 141 Ill. 2d at 127, 565 N.E.2d at 931), and "Rule 303 requires attorneys to monitor their cases to insure that appeals are timely filed" (Mitchell, 158 Ill. 2d at 150, 632 N.E.2d at 1013).
The Mitchell court also emphasized that trial courts lack the authority to extend the time for filing a notice of appeal. Mitchell, 158 Ill. 2d at 149, 632 N.E.2d at 1012.
The court explained, in part, as follows:
"The appellate court expressed concern over the unfairness of penalizing the litigant because his attorney relied on the circuit court's incorrect directive.
This court has general supervisory authority to oversee the administration of its own rules in the statewide system of courts.
The circuit court's attempt in the instant case to assist Mitchell's counsel is understandable and well-intentioned, but neither the trial court nor the appellate court has the 'authority to excuse compliance with the filing requirements of the supreme court rules governing appeals.'" Mitchell, 158 Ill. 2d at 150, 632 N.E.2d at 1012, quoting In re Smith, 80 Ill. App. 3d 380, 382, 399 N.E.2d 701, 702, 35 Ill. Dec. 635 (1980).