By Kerry J. Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender
In a unanimous decision, the Court reviewed the revestment doctrine. Since its first application in a criminal case in 1983 (in People v. Kaeding, 98 Ill. 2d 237), the revestment doctrine has always provided that a circuit court may be revested with jurisdiction over an untimely post-judgment motion where there is (1) active participation by the parties, (2) without objection, (3) in proceedings inconsistent with the merits of the earlier judgment. At issue was the meaning of the last element, "proceedings inconsistent with the merits of the earlier judgment." The Court clarified that the last element is met only in those circumstances where both parties assert positions that support setting aside at least part of the judgment. A failure to object on the basis of timeliness is not sufficient to revest the court with jurisdiction, rejecting the position asserted by the defendant.
The Court also clarified that the appropriate result in the case of improper revestment is not for the appellate court to dismiss the appeal. Rather, the appellate court should vacate the trial court's order addressing the merits of an untimely motion and should order that the untimely motion be dismissed.
This opinion confirms that the revestment doctrine is very narrow and will only apply in situations where both parties agree that there should be some modification to the final judgment. Thus, no party should rely on its ability to invoke the revestment doctrine and revest court with jurisdiction over an untimely pleading.