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If your case goes to trial, make sure to get a court reporter

In Cook County, if your case goes to trial, you need to bring a court reporter and get a transcript of the trial. If you don’t’ have one, it is very difficult to appeal.

We were recently confronted with a family law trial where there is no transcript and no record of what exhibits were submitted. An appeal involves an argument that the trial court made an error. How can you argue that there was an error when there was no record of what happened? It becomes almost impossible.  Illinois Supreme Court Rule 321 provides:

The record on appeal shall consist of the judgment appealed from, the notice of appeal, and the entire original common law record, unless the parties stipulate for, or the trial court, after notice and hearing, or the reviewing court, orders less. The common law record includes every document filed and judgment and order entered in the cause and any documentary exhibits offered and filed by any party. Upon motion the reviewing court may order that other exhibits be included in the record. The record on appeal shall also include any report of proceedings prepared in accordance with Rule 323. There is no distinction between the common law record and the report of proceedings for the purpose of determining what is properly before the reviewing court.

Illinois case law holds that the appellant has the duty to prepare the record and cite to the record. The failure to prepare the record and include it in the appeal is usually fatal to any argument that there was an error.

A recent forcible entry and detainer case explains why the record on appeal is so important:

¶ 18 Further, even assuming that Jimenez’s arguments concerning the validity of Teton’s title were relevant to the trial court’s analysis, and thus ours, we would nevertheless be constrained to affirm the trial court, due to the insufficiency of the record on appeal. As the appellant, Jimenez’s failure to include within that recordany argument or evidence supporting the circuit court’s decision in favor of Teton must be construed against him.

¶ 19 It is well-established that, in Illinois, it is the appellant’s burden to support a claim of error by presenting a sufficiently complete record of the circuit court proceedings. Foutch v. O’Bryant, 99 Ill.2d 389, 391-92, 76 Ill.Dec. 823, 459 N.E.2d 958 (1984)Chicago City Bank & Trust Co. v. Wilson, 86 Ill.App.3d 452, 454, 41 Ill.Dec. 466, 407 N.E.2d 964 (1980). Accordingly, “in the absence of such a recordon appeal, it will be presumed that the order entered by the trial court was in conformity with law and had a sufficient factual basis.” Foutch, 99 Ill.2d at 392, 76 Ill.Dec. 823, 459 N.E.2d 958. Further, where any doubts arise from an ambiguity within the record, the reviewing court must resolve those issues against the appellant. Id. Though Jimenez appears before us as a pro se litigant, his status as such does not absolve him from this burden on appeal. Rock Island County v. Boalbey, 242 Ill.App.3d 461, 462, 182 Ill. Dec. 900, 610 N.E.2d 769 (1993).

¶ 20 In this case, Jimenez failed to include any record of Teton’s response to his motion to dismiss, or any record of the hearing on said motion. Thus, we have no reason to doubt that the evidence and arguments which Teton presented were sufficient to support the circuit court’s judgment that Teton was entitled to immediate possession.

The case is Teton Tack and Feed v. Jimenez 51 N.E.3d 996 (2016).

In sum, if you go to trial, you need a court reporter unless you want to essentially give up any appeal if you believe the trial court made an error. If there is no record, it is very tough to appeal.