People v. Vara, 2018 IL 121823 (June). Episode 511 (Duration 8:45)
Supreme Court says appellate courts don’t have jurisdiction to fix improper fines imposed by the circuit clerk.
18 months after his conviction the circuit clerk imposed certain fines on defendant. He challenged them on appeal because they were not court ordered.
Clerk Exceeded Authority
As set forth above, the clerk of the circuit court of Stephenson County exceeded his statutorily prescribed authority by recording mandatory fines against defendant that were not imposed by the trial judge at the time of sentencing.
Fines and fees are authorized by the Illinois sentencing code.
That action was not the entry of a judgment but was, instead, the erroneous recording of the circuit court’s judgment.
Because the circuit clerk had no authority to levy any fines against defendant, the recording of the additional fines was invalid and unenforceable.
However, the fact that the clerk’s action was improper does not mean that defendant can challenge the unauthorized fines through the appeal process. The appellate court is constitutionally vested with jurisdiction to review final judgments entered by circuit courts.
The recording of a fine is a clerical, ministerial function and is not a judgment—void or otherwise. Therefore, the improper recording of a fine is not subject to direct review by the appellate court.
Accordingly, we agree with the State that the appellate court lacked jurisdiction to review the clerk’s recording of mandatory fines that were not included as part of the circuit court’s final judgment.
Where the appellate court has addressed the merits of a case over which it had no jurisdiction, we must vacate that court’s judgment and dismiss the appeal. Any questions as to the accuracy of the data entries included in the payment status information must be resolved through the cooperation of the parties and the circuit clerk or by the circuit court in a mandamus proceeding. See People ex rel. Senko v. Meersman, 2012 IL 114163, ¶ 9 (recognizing that a writ of mandamus is a judicial order used to compel a public official to perform a nondiscretionary, ministerial duty); see also Dennis E. v. O’Malley, 256 Ill. App. 3d 334, 346 (1993) (holding that an action for mandamus can be used to compel a circuit clerk to comply with statutory duties).
Another Admonishment To Clerks
However, we take this opportunity to firmly reiterate our admonishment to circuit clerks that they may not, on their own initiative, assess any criminal fines or fees that must be imposed by a court. See Gutierrez, 2012 IL 111590, ¶ 26. Such overstepping by circuit clerks of their statutory authority cannot be condoned.
Holy crap read the strong dissent saying the majority has set defendant’s back unnecessarily.
In applying these principles to the question of appellate jurisdiction here, it is essential to bear in mind what defendant challenged in his appeal and what he did not. Defendant sought relief as to certain fines that were recorded by the circuit clerk on the payment status information sheet but were not referenced by the circuit court. Defendant did not attack the validity of his conviction, his prison sentence, or the fines imposed by the circuit court at the time of sentencing. Thus, this case presents the anomalous circumstance in which a defendant has filed an appeal seeking to uphold the judgment entered by the circuit court.
See Also These Cases With Fines & Costs Chart
- People v. Williams, 2013 IL App (4th) 120313 (June)
- People v. Johnson, 2015 IL App (3d) 140364 (December)