Should a Defendant Be Given a Notice and An Opportunity to Respond to Any Motion by the State ?
In People v. Gaines, the court rejected the State's argument that a section 2-1401 motion could be treated, procedurally, like a postconviction petition.
In that case, the trial court dismissed the defendant's section 2-1401 motion after considering a motion to dismiss filed by the State, and did not provide the defendant notice of the State's motion and did not allow the defendant a meaningful chance to be heard on the matter. Gaines, 335 Ill. App. 3d at 296, 780 N.E.2d at 825.
The court found that the procedures used to dispose of the defendant's motion did not conform to the procedural requirements of section 2-1401.
Unlike proceedings on a postconviction petition which allow the summary dismissal of a petition by the court if it is found to be "frivolous or patently without merit" (725 ILCS 5/122--2.1(a)(2)(West 2002)), section 2-1401 does not provide for an independent examination of the motion by the trial court, and the court is not authorized by section 2-1401 to summarily dismiss a motion brought pursuant to the provision. Gaines, 335 Ill. App. 3d at 296, 780 N.E.2d at 825.
The court in Gaines did not consider the merits of the defendant's motion, but concluded that the process followed by the trial court, in dismissing the motion without notice or a hearing, was "seriously flawed" and that "basic notions of fairness dictate that the defendant be afforded notice of, and an opportunity to respond to, any motion or responsive pleading by the State." Gaines, 335 Ill. App. 3d at 296, 780 N.E.2d at 825.
In People v. Pearson, 345 Ill. App. 3d 191, 196, 802 N.E.2d 386, 391, 280 Ill. Dec. 461 (2nd Dist. 2003) the court reasserted its conclusion that a summary dismissal of a section 2-1401 motion by the trial court was not allowed by statute.
The situation in Pearson differed from that in Gaines in two respects. First, the dismissal in Pearson was not the result of a pleading by the State.
Second, unlike in Gaines, the court in Pearson considered the merits of the defendant's motion and concluded that the defendant's claims were meritless and that the "trial court would almost certainly dismiss defendant's petition after proper proceedings." Pearson, 345 Ill. App. 3d at 196, 802 N.E.2d at 390.
Despite its conclusion that the defendant was not harmed by the summary dismissal of his motion, the court found that "the procedure by which the trial court dismissed the motion was simply too far removed from what defendant was entitled to for the court to review the matter as if defendant had been given notice and an opportunity to answer." Pearson, 345 Ill. App. 3d at 196, 802 N.E.2d at 391.