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The strange doctrine of revestment

December 15, 2012 by in General

As a general rule, the parties may never waive a defect in subject matter jurisdiction or bestow subject matter jurisdiction by agreement where it is lacking. But there is an exception to that rule. Another general rule is that the trial court loses jurisdiction over a matter once 30 days have passed after the case is concluded by final judgment (other than to enforce the judgment and correct clerical errors). There is also an exception to that rule. The exception to both rules is the revestment doctrine.

Under the revestment doctrine, jurisdiction over a case may be “revested” in the trial court when the parties (1) without objection, (2) actively participate (3) in further proceedings that are inconsistent with the merits of a prior final judgment after the 30-day period has run. Revestment is a somewhat peculiar concept in that it is a common law “exception” that seems to contradict provisions of statute and Illinois Supreme Court rules.

The Second District Appellate Court recently confronted the revestment doctrine as it intersects with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(d), which governs appeals from guilty pleas in criminal cases. Over 3-1/2 years after sentencing on an open guilty plea, the defendant filed an untimely motion to vacate his plea and sentence, without complying with Rule 604(d). The State did not challenge the timeliness of the motion but opposed it with arguments on the merits.

After the trial court denied the motion (on grounds other than coming too late), the defendant appealed. Did the appellate court have jurisdiction to hear the appeal?

The Second District panel conducted an extensive analysis of decisions applying the revestment doctrine, ultimately concluding that it did not have appellate jurisdiction because the trial court was never revested with jurisdiction to entertain the defendant’s motion. The court held that the State’s participation “by arguing against a postplea motion is not inconsistent with the prior judgment and does not function to revest the trial court with jurisdiction. To the extent that we improperly applied the doctrine of revestment in other cases, those cases are erroneous and should not be followed.”

People v. Bailey, 2012 IL App (2d) 110209.

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