After an Illinois circuit court issues a final judgment in a civil case, one or both parties involved may file an appeal if they believe there was a significant error made during the trial.
However, what if individuals or businesses file an appeal, but do not agree with the decision of the appellate court either? Are the decisions made by an appellate court final?
There are three outcomes of an appeal
In a civil case, an appeal can result in one of three outcomes:
- The appellate court affirms the final judgment. In this case, the circuit court’s original decision stands.
- The appellate court reverses the circuit court’s decision, ruling in the appellant’s favor.
- The appellate court dismisses the appeal, finding that the issues or moot, or that it does not have jurisdiction to consider the appeal.
A reversal usually, but not always, is accompanied by a remand order, which sends the case back to the circuit court with instructions to proceed in accordance with the appellate court’s decision. It is essential to note here that a remand requires further action by the circuit court, whether this action includes a new trial or modification due to a mistake. Sometimes, depending on the nature of the appeal, even an affirmance may require a remand for further action.
In some cases, the appellate court may affirm the judgment on some issues and reverse the judgment on others. This is especially common in family court cases where there are many issues to address.
The appellate court’s decision is not necessarily final
If the appellant disagrees with the outcome of their case, there are still options to consider. One option is to file a petition for rehearing under Supreme Court Rule 367. In Federal cases, a petition for rehearing is filed under Rule 40 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. A petition for rehearing in Illinois courts must be filed within 21 days after the written decision is filed. For Federal cases, the time limit is only 14 days, unless a party is the United States or one of its agencies or employees, in which case the time limit is 45 days. In either case, extensions are allowed only in extreme circumstances.
What must a petition for rehearing include?
A petition for rehearing is different from a motion to reconsider filed in trial courts. Under both Illinois and Federal rules, the petition for rehearing must include:
- A statement of the issues the appellant believes the court overlooked or misapprehended during the review of the case;
- Citation of the sections in the briefs and the record that the appellant believes the court overlooked; and
- Citations of the legal authorities that support their argument for the rehearing of the case.
Petitions for rehearing in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals must, like briefs, include a table of contents listing the cases and other authorities cited.
It is important to note that appellants should not attempt to re-argue their case in a petition for rehearing. Rather, a petition for rehearing should point out an important fact or legal principle that the court overlooked.
What happens next?
The other party must be served with a copy of the petition. However, the other party is not allowed to respond unless the court grants the petition or asks for an answer. If so, in Illinois cases the original filer has an opportunity to reply. Oral argument is rarely allowed in Illinois courts and not permitted in Federal courts. The appellate court may then deny the petition or grant the petition and modify the judgment, or even withdraw the judgment to reset the entire case for hearing. The Illinois rules specify that, once the appellate court rules on the petition for rehearing, no further petitions for rehearing may be filed in that court.
Once the appellate court’s ruling is final after a petition for rehearing, the only recourse is to ask the Illinois Supreme Court (or, in Federal cases, the United States Supreme Court) to review the matter. It is not necessary to file a petition for rehearing prior to asking the Supreme Court to hear the case. If a petition is filed, it delays, until the petition is decided, the running of the 35-day time period for filing a petition for leave to appeal.
Parties who think the Appellate Court’s decision was mistaken should carefully consider whether to file a petition for rehearing, and if so, what to include in it. Consulting an attorney experienced in appeals will help answer these questions.