Throughout my career, I have placed much of my focus on drafting and litigating appeals to the Appellate Court of Illinois. So what exactly is an appeal? In order to understand what an appeal is, it is important to know that there are three separate Courts in the State of Illinois that have different roles. There Courts are: (1) The Circuit Court; (2) The Appellate Court; and (3) The Supreme Court.
The Circuit Court is known as the court of “original jurisdiction” because the Circuit Court's role is to decide any cases that are properly brought before it. In other words, the Circuit Court is the first (and in most cases only) court that decides a case. For instance, when you file for a divorce, you are filing for a divorce in the Circuit Court. Once the Circuit Court makes a decision, a person has the right to review the Circuit Court's decision in the Appellate court. Thus, the Appellate Court reviews the decisions of the Circuit Court. This is where the appeal comes in: an appeal is the process by which a party to a case requests the Appellate Court to review the accuracy or the legality of a decision made by the Circuit Court. Once the Appellate Court makes their decision, a person may request the Supreme Court to review the Appellate Court's decision. Thus, the Supreme Court reviews the Appellate Court's decisions. In some cases, a party may skip the Appellate Court and have their Circuit Court decision immediately reviewed by the Supreme Court, but this is rare. The process by which a party requests the Supreme Court to review an Appellate Court decision (or Circuit Court decision, in limited circumstances) is also considered an appeal.
Although a request for the Appellate Court to review a Circuit Court's decision and a request for the Supreme Court to review an Appellate Court's decision are both considered appeals, the same rules do not apply to both appeals. For instance, a party has a right to request the Appellate Court to review a Circuit Court decision. This means the Appellate Court cannot refuse to review the decision, provided the appeal has been properly filed. On the contrary, a party does not have a right to appeal to the Supreme Court. Rather, a party must ask for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, which the Supreme Court has the authority to grant or to deny. If the Supreme Court grants permission to appeal, then the Supreme Court will review your case and make a final decision. If the Supreme Court denies permission to appeal, the Supreme Court will not review your case and the Appellate Court's decision will stand.
In the next part of this blog series, we will discuss when it may be appropriate to file an appeal of your case.