By Katherine A. Grosh
Partner, Levin Ginsburg
In People v. Griffin, 2017 IL App (1st) 143800, the First
District Appellate Court declined to reach the merits of a case
that the court characterized as “but one of hundreds of criminal appeals
involving fines-and-fees issues that were overlooked at the trial court level
and raised for the first time on appeal.” Id.
¶ 5. In the case, the defendant pled guilty to two crimes in two separate cases
and was sentenced to concurrent prison terms in both cases, with fines and fees.
Id. ¶¶ 1-2. The defendant did not
file either a motion to withdraw his plea or to reconsider his sentence, nor
did he file a direct appeal in either case. Id.
More than 30
days after sentencing in both cases, the defendant filed a pro se motion to correct the
mittimus to reflect a different custody date for purposes of calculating
presentence detention credit, which the trial court denied. Id. ¶ 1. He appealed the denial of his
motion, abandoning his initial claim as to the custody date, and instead
contending for the first time that his fines and fees were erroneously assessed
against him and that he was entitled to presentencing detention credit. Id. ¶¶ 1, 4.
court found that, because the defendant failed to file a motion pursuant to
Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (eff. Mar. 8, 2016) to withdraw his guilty
plea and vacate the judgment or a motion to reconsider his sentence within 30
days of his sentencing, it could not consider his appeal on the merits. Id. ¶¶ 1, 11. The appellate court further
found that the denial of his motion to correct the mittimus was not a final and
appealable order over which it had jurisdiction because—unlike the sentencing
orders—it did not determine the litigation on the merits. Id. ¶¶ 1, 13. Accordingly, the appellate court dismissed the
appeal. Id. ¶¶ 1, 27.
The most noteworthy
aspect of the opinion was the appellate court’s express recognition that the
raising of fines-and-fees issues for the first time on appeal has become a
“routine” issue in criminal appeals—one that “could easily be discovered and
resolved at the trial court level with more diligent oversight by prosecutors
and defense attorneys alike.” Id. ¶¶ 5-6.
According to the court’s own Westlaw search, in 2016 alone, there were 137
appeals where a defendant challenged the imposition of fines and/or fees, and
83 cases in which a defendant asserted error in the application of per diem credit against his fines, “all
for the first time on appeal.” Id. ¶ 5.
The court stated
that “[t]he time has come to take a more serious look at this problem, both for
the sake of preserving proper appellate jurisprudence and for the sake of
judicial economy.” Id. ¶ 7. The court
continued: “Copious amounts of time, effort, and ink are spent resolving these
issues at the appellate level when many of them are more appropriately resolved
at the trial level through (i) routine review of judgment orders after their
entry—a task that would take at most minutes—and (ii) cooperation between the
parties to correct any later-discovered errors by means of agreed orders.” Id. (citations omitted). The court “encourage[d]
both the State’s Attorney and the public defender to review judgment orders
upon entry to ensure that fines and fees are properly assessed,” and “further
encourage[d] an open line of communication between the public defender’s office
and the State’s Attorney’s office, so that when defense counsel discovers an
obvious clerical error in the imposition of fines and fees, he or she can
contact the State’s Attorney, and the error can be corrected expeditiously at
the trial court level by means of an agreed order.” Id.
The court then
went on to support its well-reasoned and amply supported determination of no
jurisdiction with a historical discussion of the void judgment rule, abolished
by the Illinois Supreme Court in People
v. Castleberry, 2015 IL 116916, followed by a rejection of the plain error
doctrine as a vehicle for appellate review due to its inapplicability to
clerical mistakes. Id. ¶¶ 8-9. The
court then outlined what it termed a “three-step analysis,” followed
immediately by its determination that it need not proceed beyond step two
because the defendant’s appeal from the trial court’s denial of the motion to
correct the mittimus was not properly before the court due to the defendant’s
failure to file the Rule 604(d) motion—“a condition precedent to any appeal
from a judgment on a plea of guilty.” Id.
¶¶ 10-11 (quoting People v. Flowers,
208 Ill. 2d 291, 300-01 (2003)).
the well-established rule that “a trial court retains jurisdiction to correct
clerical errors or matters of form at any time after
judgment [such as the inadvertent use of the wrong custody date, as Griffin
claimed occurred in this case], so as to make the record conform to the actual
judgment entered by the court” notwithstanding a lack of compliance with Rule
604(d), the appellate court clarified that “[t]hat jurisdiction, though, does
not automatically extend to this court.” Id. ¶
12. Stating, “it is axiomatic that not
every denial of a motion gives rise to a right of appeal,” the court explained
that the denial of the motion to correct the mittimus was not a final and
appealable order because “there no longer was any pending litigation to resolve
when that motion was filed” and the trial court merely affirmed the correctness
of an existing judgment. Id. ¶¶ 13-15.
The court also summarily rejected any application of the revestment doctrine,
since: (i) a Rule 604(d) motion was never filed (id. ¶ 20, citing People v.
Henderson, 395 Ill.App.3d 980 (2009)), and (ii) parties may not “revest” a
reviewing court with jurisdiction over issues that were never raised in the
trial court (id. ¶¶ 21-22).
dismissed the defendant’s appeal, the appellate court noted that he was not
left without recourse, noting that he could still petition the trial court for
the relief that he seeks because “trial courts retain jurisdiction to correct
nonsubstantial matters of inadvertence or mistake.” Id. ¶ 26.
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