What Is the Appropriate Standard of Review for Section 2-1401 Petitions ?

In People v. Vincent, 226 Ill. 2d 1, 871 N.E.2d 17, 312 Ill. Dec. 617 (2007), our supreme court considered the appropriate standard of review for section 2-1401 petitions (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2006)). In doing so, the court looked at its prior decision that "a section 2-1401 petition 'invokes the equitable powers of the court, as justice and fairness require.'" Vincent, 226 Ill. 2d at 15, quoting Elfman v. Evanston Bus Co., 27 Ill. 2d 609, 613, 190 N.E.2d 348 (1963). The court noted that this statement was accurate "when such relief was available under the common law writs. When the legislature abolished the writs in favor of today's statutory remedy, it became inaccurate to continue to view the relief in strictly equitable terms." Vincent, 226 Ill. 2d at 15-16. Further: "Simply put, an abuse of discretion standard of review in cases where either a judgment on the pleadings or a dismissal has been entered does not comport with the usual rules of civil practice and procedure." Vincent. 226 Ill. 2d at 16. The court concluded, "We therefore hold that when a court enters either a judgment on the pleadings or a dismissal in a section 2-1401 proceeding, that order will be reviewed, on appeal, de novo." Vincent, 226 Ill. 2d at 18.