Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Illinois Supreme Court Clarifies When Oral Judgment is "Entered of Record"

By Rosa Tumialán
Member, Dykema Gossett

The Illinois Supreme Court’s opinion in Williams v. BNSF Railway Co., 2015 IL 117444, clarified when an oral judgment is “entered of record” for purposes of Rule 272, thereby triggering the 30-day appeal period.

The supreme court accepted BNSF’s petition for leave to appeal from the appellate court’s order dismissing the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Williams, 2015 IL 117444, ¶¶ 2, 24. The appellate court dismissed the appeal, concluding that the oral ruling on April 18, 2012 denying BNSF’s posttrial motion was the final order that triggered BNSF’s time to appeal. Id. ¶¶ 21-22. The appellate court deemed BNSF’s appeal untimely because it was filed within 30 days of the written order entered on June 6, 2012 relating to one posttrial motion issue taken under advisement following the April 18 hearing. Id. ¶¶ 18, 21.

Before petitioning the supreme court for leave to appeal, BNSF petitioned for rehearing in the appellate court. Williams, 2015 IL 117444, ¶ 23. BNSF explained that the appellate court misapprehended that the April 18, 2012 oral ruling was entered of record on that date and then attempted to supplement the record with a certified copy of the law record, which reflected that the April 18, 2012 oral ruling was entered in the record on June 6, 2012. Id. ¶ 23. The petition for rehearing and motion to supplement the record were denied. Id. ¶ 24. 

BNSF’s petition for leave to appeal was accompanied by the motion to supplement the record with the law record. Williams, 2015 IL 117444, ¶ 26. The motion and objections thereto were taken with the case. Id. ¶ 28.

The supreme court rejected the objections to BNSF’s motion to supplement, finding that BNSF was not remiss in seeking leave to include the law record. The supreme court also observed that there was no contention that the proffered law record was inaccurate. Id. ¶¶ 33-34. The court then turned to the merits.

The supreme court first found that the April 18, 2012 oral ruling was not entered of record until June 6, 2012, as reflected in the law record. Williams, 2015 IL 117444, ¶ 45. The court examined Rule 272 as well as case law construing the phrase “entered of record” to conclude that rendering an oral ruling did not constitute entering the judgment of record for purposes of Rule 272. Id. ¶¶ 35-45.

The supreme court court next considered when the time to appeal began to run. Id. ¶ 46. The plaintiff claimed that Rule 272 did not apply to posttrial motions but instead only final judgments. Id. The high court disagreed, observing that, since a timely postjudgment motion tolls the time to appeal until disposition of that motion, it was necessary to look to Rule 272 to determine that date. Id. ¶¶ 47-48. The court held that a ruling on a postjudgment motion constitutes a judgment under Rule 272. Id. ¶ 49. The court then found that BNSF’s notice of appeal filed within 30 days of the June 6, 2012 order was timely. Id. ¶¶ 50-52. The court however, declined BNSF’s invitation to consider issues briefed but not decided by the appellate court and instead remanded the case to the appellate court to consider the merits of BNSF’s appeal.

Recommended Citation: Rosa M. Tumialán, Illinois Supreme Court Clarifies When Oral Judgment is "Entered of Record"The Brief, (February 11, 2015),

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