Pro Se Chicago's Weblog

August 25, 2015

Sample appeal – Illinois small claims court – landlord steals items


Small claims court can be frustrating when judges look down on pro se plaintiffs and simply rubber stamp everything the defendant’s lawyer states.  This is a sample appeal of such an unjust ruling where the plaintiff lost due to I believe purposeful misconduct of an attorney and a judge. Read the Appellant’s brief here.

Note that appeals are not like trials. The Appellate Court may ONLY consider information on the record on appeal and in the transcripts. YOU CAN NOT ADD new evidence or information. Therefore, at trial in the local court, make a list and make sure you have all your witnesses and evidence or you won’t be able to add it later.  If the judge refuses to hear a witness or allow you to introduce evidence, then ask the judge to “make an offer of proof” (i.e. to have the  person testify or admit the evidence without it being considered just so that it is on the record). If you anticipate this will be a problem, then file the evidence or affidavit instead of as a motion, label it an “offer of proof” and file it in your case attached to this “offer of proof” where you state you are filing this offer of proof and why you are doing so.

The litigants names and case number were changed so they remain anonymous, except for the name of the corrupt landlord’s corporation and the judge.

Remember, in small claims, Illinois Supreme Court Rules 286(b) allows a small claims court to hear and view all relevant evidence, admit evidence with more relaxed rules of procedure and rules of evidence upon order of the court. This means the court may allow affidavits as evidence and not require the presence of a witness and may allow documents to be admitted without strict rules of authentication.

You must follow strictly all appeal rules, so don’t forget to read Illinois Supreme Court Rules for civil appeals and your local court rules also. Illinois Supreme Court Rules are here. If you don’t follow them, your appeal will be rejected.

Note strict rules such as:

  • 1 1/2 inch margin on left
  • requirement of certification page stating you followed the rules as to page limits
  • you use an appendix and not exhibits
  • the appendix must include an index to the record on appeal and the transcripts (if any), that the page number of testimony of specific witnesses must be indexed and that if you did not have a court reporter and made a “bystander’s report” instead that it is also in index, a copy of the order appealed from, and a copy of the notice of appeal
  • notice of filing and service and filing of record on appeal or record of proceedings (transcripts)
  • don’t forget to include your $50 filing fee or a petition for indigency (see Illinois Supreme Court web site and your local appellate court division’s rules)
  • bind the appeal brief securely on the left side (three staples is OK)

Note that you can not just make conclusory statements (“They ripped me off”).  You must back up all your statements, documents, testimony with evidence (testimony by witnesses, documents and reference to “authorities”), with case law (where a court has interpreted a law and said this is how the rules or statutes work and what they mean), or back it up with reference to other authorities (statutes, supreme court rule, administrative rules – note statutes are sent to administrative rules committee and then an administrative rule is made – many pro se litigants are not aware of this – see here; there are similar administrative rules in federal law and all state laws).

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August 5, 2015

Sample of Illinois Petition for Leave to Appeal & Petition to Appeal as a Right in Illinois Supreme Court


The Illinois Supreme Court is a real stickler for details. You MUST follow their rules. Rules for civil appeals. Rules for criminal appeals.

Appeals are a difficult nut to crack. Remember that every statement you make must be backed up by reference to where it is on the record, to case law, or to statute, rule, code, or administrative regulation. You should not make arguments that you have not backed-up in this manner. Do not make conclusions of fact or law in your argument that are not backed-up. Also remember that you CANNOT add evidence or use hearsay. You can ONLY APPEAL THAT WHICH IS ALREADY ON THE RECORD (in the record of proceedings = transcripts, or in the record on appeal = court file). If you did not preserve the issue for review = keep it on the record, object at the trial, in the post-trial motions, and on appeal, you cannot argue it.  There are VERY FEW issues that are not subject to the requirement to “preserve the issue for review”. This is a complex topic that you should read a bit about before writing your appeal.

Feel free to use this petition for appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court that was recently submitted. (I’ve changed the names and case numbers for privacy purposes). Read both the petition and the appendix to petition which has attached a blank court order that must be included, although you do not have to give them 20 copies of the order, just one.

I am not an attorney, just a paralegal, so if you use this petition as an example to follow, you do so at your own risk and should check the Illinois Supreme Court Rules for appeals, as well as with an attorney before you sign and submit your petition. There may be errors here that I have not caught.

Remember you have to pay a $50 filing fee as fee was recently raised so include a check or a petition for waiver of fees due to indigence.

You must sent an original and 19 copies of petition plus appendix, plus a stamped envelope and extra copy if you want the clerk to return a date-stamped copy.

Typeface must be 12-point or larger EVEN IN FOOTNOTES.

Page limit is 20 excluding cover sheet, affidavit of compliance with page limits, and notice of filing, although if you call the clerk, they may say that the signature or one sentence extra on 21st page is OK.

The margins must be 1 1/2 inches on the left and 1 inch on all other sides.

The document must be securely bound along the left side, not with just one staple. Three staples are OK.

You must discuss the standard of review for each point in your argument – de novo = only issues of law; abuse of discretion would include issues of fact, but this is a bit complicated so do some research on standard of review for your type of issue.

Appeal is a a right if the issues are issues of first impression, which means that they involve laws that have never before been interpreted by the Illinois Supreme Court = there is no previous opinion on an issue which is similar (i.e. “on point” with your issue).

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