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The supreme court rule change allowing interlocutory appeals remedies "a systemic problem for both prosecutors and defendants for decades," a commentator says.
The Illinois Supreme Court has amended its rules - in the midst of ongoing litigation - to vest jurisdiction in the appellate court to hear interlocutory appeals of evidence-suppression orders in juvenile delinquency cases.
Having found that the state "presented a sufficiently compelling case that it has the same need for appeal of suppression orders in juvenile cases as in [adult] criminal cases," a 6-1 majority of the high court ruled that interlocutory appeals of such orders are now permitted and will be expedited pursuant to Rule 660(a), which previously allowed appeals only from final judgments in juvenile delinquency cases.
Counsel for the juvenile defendant in In re B.C.P., 2013 IL 113908, 990 N.E.2d 1135, argued that, if the rule was to be amended, the court should send the matter to its rules committee for further consideration. The court, however, denied that request and, pursuant to Rule 3(a)(2), used its constitutional powers to amend the rule on its own prerogative.
"The inability to do interlocutory appeals in juvenile cases has been a systemic problem for both prosecutors and defendants for decades," said Michael J. Dickman, the lead staff attorney for Chicago-based Legal Aid Society who is a former prosecutor and judicial hearing officer in Cook County's juvenile court system. "I give a lot of credit to the supreme court for finally recognizing this problem and allowing expedited interlocutory appeals in delinquency cases."
Dickman said that, without the ability to take interlocutory appeals from non-dispositive rulings, the state either had no remedy for erroneous rulings or was forced to wait for a final judgment before it could appeal potential errors in the limited situations permitted by the court rules.
"Appeals from final judgments don't enjoy the expedited briefing schedules and expedited treatment from the appellate courts that are required under interlocutory appeals rules, including Rule 660," Dickman said. "That all too often resulted in kids sitting in lockup for years waiting for a decision from the appellate courts, which defeats the underlying policy of the juvenile justice system. We want to give kids the rehabilitation they need and then get them back out into the real world as quickly as we can, without wasting away their youth in jail."
Making juvenile criminal proceedings more like adult counterparts
In addition to the impact on minor defendants, the court's majority decision in B.C.P., drafted by Justice Robert R. Thomas, took notice of legislative amendments to the Juvenile Court Act in 1998, in which the legislature "radically altered" those laws "to provide more accountability for the criminal acts of juveniles and, from all appearances, to make the juvenile delinquency adjudicatory process look more criminal in nature."
Rule 660(a) has since remained unchanged and its plain language does not allow interlocutory appeals from suppression orders, the court found; yet, rule 604(a)(1) allows the state to make interlocutory appeals in adult criminal cases when a court order (like the one at issue in B.C.P.) has the substantive effect of dismissing a charge.
"There are consequences to making juvenile delinquency proceedings more like criminal proceedings," Thomas wrote for the B.C.P. majority. "This court has repeatedly relied on the shift in policy [evident in the 1998 legislative amendments] to support providing juveniles with many of the same protections that criminal defendants receive."
In prior supreme court decisions involving the state's attempt to appeal trial court orders regarding the removal of cases from adult to juvenile court, and to sentence a juvenile under adult sentencing statutes, the court found that the state's inability to appeal those orders meant that the trial court's decision essentially "terminated a criminal prosecution prior to final judgment." Although the defendant could always appeal any issue after final judgment, the state was left without any right to appellate review of those trial court decisions.
"That is equally true of the granting of a motion to suppress" evidence in a juvenile delinquency proceeding, Thomas wrote. "If the State is not allowed to take an interlocutory appeal, then the court's order is insulated from review.…We now hold that another consequence of this shift in policy is that we recognize that the State has the same interest in appealing a suppression order in a juvenile case that it does in a criminal case."
Pursuant to its decision in B.C.P., the court officially amended Rule 660(a) to incorporate Rule 604(a)(1), effective as of July 1, 2013. Unless there is good cause for a delay, the appellate court is required to file its decisions in juvenile appeals within 150 days after the filing of the notice of appeal. "This rule change is going to benefit the prosecutors and the defendants," Dickman said. "Now the state gets a fair shot at insuring that trial court orders don't involve any reversible errors, and the juvenile defendants won't have to wait too long for an appellate court decision thanks to the expedited provisions of Rule 660."