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Dismissal for failure to serve the notice of appeal

May 24, 2013 by in General

Timely filing of a proper notice of appeal is the only strictly jurisdictional step required to perfect an appeal. However, this decision illustrates that merely filing the notice of appeal is not enough to keep the appeal alive if the appelant violates other procedural rules.

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 303(c) requires that appellant “shall, within 7 days [after filing the notice of appeal], file a notice of filing with the reviewing court and serve a copy of the notice of appeal upon every other party and upon any other person or officer entitled by law to notice.” Failure to comply with that service requirement does not deprive the appellate court of jurisdiction and an appeal will not be dismissed if the opposing party was not served with a copy of the notice of appeal as long as there is no evidence of prejudice to the unserved party. A party who could file appellate briefs and argue orally is not prejudiced. However, the failure to serve a copy of the notice of appeal on parties who may be adversely affected by the appellate court’s decision may result in dismissal of the appeal.

In this case, the appellant timely filed the notice of appeal but failed to serve it on any of the parties. One of the appellees learned of the appeal in time to participate, but it appeared that two other appellees were unaware that the appeal had been filed, briefed, and argued. As a result, they were unable to protect their interests and were significantly prejudiced by the appellant’s failure to serve them.

Moreover, the case involved the sale of real estate, which had been purchased by persons who were not parties to the case in the circuit court. The appellate court observed that if the trial court’s judgment were reversed and the sale unwound, those individuals would be greatly disadvantaged. The court’s comment in this regard is especially instructive for practitioners: “Thus, not only did [the appellant] fail to notify the parties of record, he also failed to notify all parties in interest as best practices would dictate.” (Emphasis by the court.) Due to the appellant’s “blatant, unexplained violation of Rule 303(c) and the significant prejudice to the parties of record,” the court dismissed the appeal.

Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Zwolinski, 2013 IL App (1st) 120612.

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