The Illinois Supreme Court will hear arguments next month over an appeals panel’s decision to vacate an East Alton attorney’s conviction for driving on a suspended license.
This case – People v. David K. Elliott –is one of nine the justices will hear during their November term. Arguments in these cases, the majority of which are criminal in nature, will take place on Nov. 13, 19 and 20.
The upcoming term will mark the second time the court will meet in Chicago as renovations continue to its Springfield building. It will also be the first term under the leadership of Chief Justice Rita Garman, who took over the reins of the high court from Justice Thomas Kilbride earlier this week.
In November 2010, David K. Elliott, an attorney at Tomerlin Law Office in East Alton, was convicted of driving on a suspension license, ordered to pay a fine and serve 10 days in jail or 30 days of community service.
His conviction stemmed from two traffic stops that occurred between August and October 2009, during which time Elliott was a law student.
The first traffic stop resulted in a Jackson County notice of statutory summary suspension after Elliott refused to submit to testing for driving under the influence. The notice stated that his license would be suspended in 46 days.
Before that took effect, Elliott’s attorney filed a petition for recession of statutory summary suspension.
The state’s Vehicle Code allows drivers to petition the court for a hearing to contest the suspension within 90 days of notice and requires courts to hold a hearing within 30 days of the petition of first appearance date for the DUI citation.
Prosecutors filed a confirmation of the suspension and set it to begin on Oct. 11, 2009. A hearing on the matter was originally scheduled for Sept. 21, but it was twice delayed, first to Oct. 5 and then to Oct. 19.
Elliott’s suspension commenced on Oct. 11 and about a week later, the circuit court heard his petition, granted it and ordered the recession of his suspension. The Secretary of State entered a “Notice/Order of Rescind” later that month.
While Elliott was dealing with court proceedings over his Jackson County traffic stop, he was issued a citation in Perry County for driving on a suspended license.
That stop occurred after the Oct. 11 commencement of the summary suspension, but before the hearing and the Oct. 19 order to rescind in Jackson County.
After the trial court convicted Elliott of driving on a suspended license, he appealed to the Fifth District Appellate Court.
In November 2012, a panel comprised of Justices Richard Goldenhersh, Thomas Welch and Melissa Chapman reversed the lower court and vacated Elliott’s conviction.
The appeals panel focused its analysis on the language of Section 2-118.1 of the Vehicle Code, which states that trial courts hearing petitions to rescind have two possible options: to sustain or rescind the suspension, and the meaning of the term “rescind.”
Reversing Elliott’s Perry County conviction “on the ground that the suspension was rescinded a few days after the citation was issued,” the appeals panel explained that “even though the suspension commenced shortly before the citation was issued, … the rescission of the suspension constituted a finding that the suspension was void from its inception.”
In its opinion, the appellate court noted that it was aware its decision appeared to conflict with decisions handed down in People v. Focia (1997) and People v. Ciechanowski (2008).
Those cases, according to the appellate court opinion, indicate “that a conviction for driving with a suspended license may stand even if the suspension is rescinded.” A dissent in Focia, however, offered the same reasoning as the Fifth District in Elliott’s case.
Elliott’s attorney, Edward Unsell, said in February that he assumed the conflict between appellate districts spurred the Supreme Court to accept the state’s appeal in his client’s case and expected arguments would revolve around the meaning of “rescind.”
The Illinois Supreme Court will also hear arguments in the following civil cases next month:
- Home Star Bank and Financial Services, etc., et al. v. Emergency Care and Health Organization Ltd., et al.,(First District), a negligence action against an emergency room physician in which the appellate court determined the lower court improperly entered summary judgment for the physician on grounds he was immune from liability under the Good Samaritan Act.
- Gillespie Community Unit School District No. 7, etc. v. Wight & Company, etc., (Fourth District) a suit in which a school district accused an architectural firm of providing inadequate information about the building site of a school, which was later destroyed when a coal mine subsided. The issue before the court, however, deals with whether the lower courts were right in finding the district’s actions against the architect were contractually time-barred.