People v. Warren

Decision Date26 July 2017
Docket NumberAppeal No. 3-15-0085.
Citation2017 IL App (3d) 150085,84 N.E.3d 517
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Darron L. WARREN, Defendant–Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

Michael J. Pelletier, Peter A. Carusona, and Editha Rosario-Moore, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Ottawa, for appellant.

John L. McGehee, State's Attorney, of Rock Island (Patrick Delfino, Lawrence M. Bauer, and Laura DeMichael Bialon, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.


JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 Following his conviction for unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver, defendant, Darron L. Warren, filed a notice of appeal on January 27, 2015. The notice of appeal identified the judgment order entered on January 27, 2015, as the only order subject to defendant's notice of appeal.

¶ 2 On March 27, 2015, the circuit clerk prepared a written summary of the monetary consequences resulting from defendant's conviction. In this appeal, defendant requests our court to review and vacate portions of the circuit clerk's data entries placed in the record on March 27, 2015, subsequent to the notice of appeal filed in this case. Appeal dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.


¶ 4 A jury found defendant guilty of unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver ( 720 ILCS 550/5(d) (West 2014)) on October 31, 2014. On January 27, 2015, the trial court sentenced defendant to serve a term of four years' imprisonment and ordered defendant to pay costs only. When discussing whether to set a pay date for the costs of the proceedings, the court stated: "All monies in this case are reduced to judgment because I find you don't have [the] ability to pay, and Rock Island County is not a [place] where we track you down for the rest of your life in relation to making you pay these fines and fees and costs." Defendant filed a notice of appeal the same day.

¶ 5 The written judgment order sentencing defendant to the Department of Corrections was signed by the court on January 29, 2015, and file-stamped by the circuit clerk's office on January 30, 2015. The written judgment order does not address any monetary considerations.

¶ 6 The court signed a second written order on January 29, 2015, which was also file-stamped by the circuit clerk's office on January 30, 2015. The second order set out in a preprinted form reads as follows: "It is further ordered that the defendant is ordered to pay the costs of prosecutions herein. These fees, costs and restitution are reduced to judgment against the defendant and are declared a lien against the defendant's property." Aside from a potential $250 DNA analysis fee, the second court order does not include any determination of the amount for court costs or designate either a pay date or a date certain for the court to review defendant's ability to pay costs, undetermined as of the date of sentencing, after his release.

¶ 7 Defendant filed a notice of appeal on January 27, 2015, indicating that "An appeal is taken from the Order of Judgment and Sentence" dated January 27, 2015.

¶ 8 A document labeled as the "Record of Judgment" in defendant's case appears on the record after the notice of appeal. That document, which bears a circuit court file stamp of February 6, 2015, shows a "Total Amount of Judgment" of $729.01 and a "Judgment Entered" date of February 6, 2015. The document does not bear a judicial signature or include a breakdown of the amounts incorporated into the $729.01 sum total. A similar "Record of Judgment" document appears later in the record, following this court's scheduling order. This document bears a stamp from the Rock Island County Recorder, which indicates a recording date of February 9, 2015.

¶ 9 The final page of the common law record, entitled "Payment Status Information," documents the fines, costs, and fees comprising the sum total of $729.01. The top of this document bears the computer-printed date of March 27, 2015. The fines mistakenly incorporated into the total amount of costs include a $50 court system fine ( 55 ILCS 5/5–1101(c) (West 2014)), a $20 Violent Crime Victims Assistance Fund fine ( 725 ILCS 240/10(b) (West 2014)), a $10 medical costs fine ( 730 ILCS 125/17 (West 2014) ), a $5 youth diversion fine ( 55 ILCS 5/5–1101(e) (West 2014)), a $5 drug court fine ( 55 ILCS 5/5–1101(f) (West 2014)), a $10 State Police Services Fund fine ( 730 ILCS 5/5–9–1.17(b) (West 2014)), and a $15 State Police Operations Assistance Fund fine ( 705 ILCS 105/27.3a(1.5), (5) (West 2014)).1

¶ 10 To date, defendant has not voluntarily paid any portion of the $729.01 sum total of the judgment, as determined by the clerk, or been compelled to do so. Similarly, to date, defendant has not been compelled by any supplementary order signed by the trial court compelling defendant to pay any portion of the clerical data entries tabulating court costs.


¶ 12 On appeal, defendant does not challenge the trial court's order of judgment dated January 27, 2015, the subject of the notice of appeal filed on the same date. Instead, defendant asserts that the monetary amounts, compiled by the clerk on March 27, 2015, should be reduced by $115. In contrast, the State argues that this court should not exercise our jurisdiction to correct clerical entries based on the unique procedural posture of this appeal.

¶ 13 We conclude that the State's concern about the jurisdiction of this court merits further consideration. Defendant's notice of appeal focuses on the court's judgment dated January 27, 2015, but the issues presented for our review relate to the actions of the circuit clerk on March 27, 2015. Although notices of appeal are to be construed liberally, a notice of appeal does not confer jurisdiction on the appellate court unless it "fairly and adequately sets out the judgment complained of and the relief sought, thus advising the successful litigant of the nature of the appeal." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) People v. Smith , 228 Ill. 2d 95, 105, 319 Ill.Dec. 373, 885 N.E.2d 1053 (2008). In Smith , our supreme court held that the defendant's notice of appeal was deficient where it referenced only the final judgment of conviction, but the claimant was attempting to appeal a different judgment (a judgment denying the defendant's "motion to correct sentence") that was entered approximately 15 months after the judgment of conviction. Id. at 103–05, 319 Ill.Dec. 373, 885 N.E.2d 1053. We have serious concerns regarding whether the notice of appeal in this case allows our review of the clerical data entries dated March 27, 2015.

¶ 14 Next, we respectfully observe that the purported clerical errors at issue seem attributable to a common misunderstanding of what constitutes a true court cost.2 In fact, both sides to this appeal agree that this defendant owes $115 less than the unpaid balance of court costs contained in the clerk's data entries.

¶ 15 With this consensus in mind, we note that an actual controversy is a necessary prerequisite for the exercise of our appellate jurisdiction. La Salle National Bank v. City of Chicago , 3 Ill. 2d 375, 378–79, 121 N.E.2d 486 (1954). Although an "actual controversy" involves multiple variables, the United States Supreme Court astutely stated as follows:

"A justiciable controversy is thus distinguished from a difference or dispute of a hypothetical or abstract character; from one that is academic or moot. [Citation.] The controversy must be definite and concrete, touching the legal relations of parties having adverse legal interests. [Citations.] It must be a real and substantial controversy admitting of specific relief through a decree of a conclusive character, as distinguished from an opinion advising what the law would be upon a hypothetical state of facts." Aetna Life Insurance Co. v. Haworth , 300 U.S. 227, 240–41, 57 S.Ct. 461, 81 L.Ed. 617 (1937).

¶ 16 We must also consider whether "the harm that a [party] claims is merely speculative or contingent" and if so, the case law provides "the claim is unripe and a court should not decide it." Smart Growth Sugar Grove, LLC v. Village of Sugar Grove , 375 Ill. App. 3d 780, 789, 313 Ill.Dec. 725, 873 N.E.2d 20 (2007). The existence of an actual controversy incorporates a number of interconnected principles of justiciability, such as standing, ripeness, mootness, advisory opinions, and political questions. Morr–Fitz, Inc. v. Blagojevich , 231 Ill. 2d 474, 488, 327 Ill.Dec. 45, 901 N.E.2d 373 (2008). "The related doctrines of standing and ripeness ‘seek[ ] to insure that courts decide actual controversies and not abstract questions.’ " Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital , 237 Ill. 2d 217, 252, 341 Ill.Dec. 381, 930 N.E.2d 895 (2010) (quoting People v. $1,124,905 U.S. Currency & One 1988 Chevrolet Astro Van , 177 Ill. 2d 314, 328, 226 Ill.Dec. 627, 685 N.E.2d 1370 (1997) ).

¶ 17 The quest to ascertain the precisely correct but unpaid balance of costs in this case involves an abstract exercise of limited judicial resources that is meaningless. Even if we reduce the clerical balance due by $115 as defendant requests, this defendant has no present ability to pay any part of the corrected amount. Further, the trial court emphasized at the time of sentencing that "Rock Island County is not a [place] where we track you down for the rest of your life in relation to making you pay these fines and fees and costs." We do not dispute the truth of this judicial observation.

¶ 18 Significantly, as predicted by the trial judge at the time of sentencing, no one is attempting to collect any portion of the monetary component of the sentence announced by the trial court on January 27, 2015. When this defendant wins the lottery or inherits a large sum of money, the correct amount of defendant's unpaid balance may become an issue that is ripe for our review once defendant has the ability to pay...

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  • People v. Vara
    • United States
    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • June 1, 2018
    ...'s abolition of the void sentence rule, therefore, is of no consequence to the issue of whether the fines are void."); People v. Warren , 2017 IL App (3d) 150085, ¶ 35, 416 Ill.Dec. 535, 84 N.E.3d 517 (McDade, J., dissenting) ("there is not an open question as to whether clerk-imposed fines......

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