Trial court erred by granting State’s motion to dismiss 2-1401 petition when petitioner did not have opportunity to respond

The appellant in People v. Allen, 2020 IL App (3d) 180317, appealed the decision of the trial court dismissing Allen’s petition for relief from judgment, arguing on appeal that the circuit court denied him his right to due process by granting the State’s motion to dismiss without notifying or giving Allen an opportunity to respond. The Third District ultimately vacated the circuit court’s order granting the State’s motion to dismiss and remanded for further proceedings.

John Allen Jr. was convicted of two counts of aggravated battery and sentenced to two concurrent terms of 22 years imprisonment. Id. at ¶ 3. On direct appeal, Allen’s convictions and sentences were affirmed, but the court remanded the case to conduct an inquiry into defendant’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Id. at ¶ 3. Allen filed a petition for relief from judgment pursuant to section 2-1401 while his direct appeal was pending. Id. at ¶ 4. In response, the State filed a motion to dismiss the petition on March 16, 2018. On March 27, 2018, the court granted that motion without a hearing. Id. at ¶ 4.

On appeal, Allen argued that the trial court violated his right to due process by granting the State’s motion to dismiss without providing him an opportunity to respond. Id. at ¶ 6. The State agreed that Allen’s petition was dismissed prematurely and without reasonable opportunity to respond, but maintained that the court’s error was harmless because defendant’s petition was meritless. Id. at ¶ 7. The defendant then argued that harmless error analysis was not applicable to the court’s error, even where his petition was meritless. Id. at ¶ 7.

Ultimately, the Third District Appellate Court sided with Allen. The Court determined that the circuit court’s error of granting the State’s motion to dismiss without providing adequate notice and opportunity to respond was a violation of the appellant’s due process. Id. at ¶ 9. The Appellate Court reached this conclusion because the core principle of due process was denied, which overrode any concern as to the merits of the petition. Id. at ¶ 10, 15. As such, the judgment from the Peoria County circuit court was vacated and remanded for further proceedings. Id. at ¶ 17.

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