People v. JohnsonAnnotate this Case
Johnson was convicted of first degree murder, armed robbery, aggravated vehicular hijacking, aggravated kidnapping and concealment of a homicidal death. He was sentenced to terms of natural life plus 70 years. The appellate court affirmed Johnson’s convictions and sentences and dismissal of his subsequent post-conviction petition,(725 ILCS 5/122-1. Johnson filed a section 2-1401 petition for relief from judgment in 2008, which the circuit court erroneously dismissed. The appellate court remanded. The state filed a motion to dismiss his amended petition and requested that Johnson be assessed filing fees and court costs as an inmate filing a frivolous petition, 735 ILCS 5/22-105(a). The trial court dismissed and assessed numerous fees and costs against Johnson, including a $50 fee under the Counties Code, which provides that a State’s Attorney may collect a $50 fee for each day actually employed in the hearing of a case of habeas corpus. The prosecution argued that the habeas corpus fee applies to all collateral proceedings. The appellate court held that the reference to habeas corpus was generic and applied to all collateral proceedings, in order to deter frivolous filings. The Illinois Supreme Court vacated the fee, stating that, although there are several different types of habeas corpus proceedings, the Counties Code provision applies only to those and is not generic.
This Cook County offender received a natural life term and other sentences for first degree murder and other offenses, and his subsequent postconviction petition was dismissed. The appellate court affirmed.
In 2008, Johnson began proceedings under section 2-1404 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which provides an avenue for seeking relief from a judgment. He was not successful in this regard. In the wake of his failure, the State sought recovery under the statute providing for the assessment of various fees and costs against prisoners who file frivolous lawsuits. The circuit court made the assessments requested and the appellate court affirmed.
Only one of the charges made is at issue here. The Counties Code provides that a State’s Attorney may collect a $50 fee for each day actually employed in the hearing of a case of habeas corpus. A charge was made under this provision, with the prosecution contending that the habeas corpus fee applies to all collateral proceedings, such as a petition for relief from judgment or a postconviction petition. In the appellate court, it was held that the reference to habeas corpus is generic and is meant to apply to all collateral proceedings, in order to deter frivolous filings.
The supreme court disagreed, stating that, although there are several different types of habeas corpus proceedings, the Counties Code provision applies only to them and is not generic. If the legislature intended otherwise, it could have said so.
Because the fee assessment challenged here was improper, the judgments of the circuit and appellate courts were reversed and the cause was remanded to the circuit court to vacate the fee and correct the mittimus.