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Illinois Supreme Court Announces Krankel’s Pro Se Posttrial IAC Procedure Applies to Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings and Clarifies That Krankel Procedure Applies to Both Appointed and Retained Counsel

by Mark Wilson

The Supreme Court of Illinois held that the Court’s pro se posttrial ineffective assistance of counsel (“IAC”) procedure applies to juvenile delinquency proceedings and extends to IAC claims against both retained and appointed counsel. The court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in failing to conduct the requisite inquiry.

In April 2018, prosecutors filed a juvenile delinquency petition against Johnathan T., alleging that when he was 15 and 16-years old, he committed ten acts of aggravated sexual assault against a 7-year-old girl. The trial court found Johnathan guilty of all counts on December 4, 2019. It then ordered a social investigation report (“SIR”) and sex offender evaluation.

When asked during the sex offender evaluation “What kind of job is your lawyer doing?” Johnathan responded: “We don’t talk. I’m never prepared for the stand. He does not answer calls.” The court reviewed the evaluation before a dispositional hearing.

In August 2020, the court conducted the dispositional hearing, adjudicated Johnathan a delinquent minor under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, and ordered him confined until his 21st birthday. The court did not make a Krankel inquiry into Johnathan’s IAC claim during the sex offender evaluation.

On appeal, the appellate court ruled that the Krankel procedure applies to juvenile delinquency proceedings but concluded that Johnathan’s vague statement in the SIR didn’t trigger a Krankel inquiry. Johnathan appealed.

The Court began its analysis by discussing People v. Krankel, 464 N.E.2d 1045 (Ill. 1984), in which the Illinois Supreme Court established a procedure that trial courts must follow when a criminal defendant makes a pro se posttrial IAC claim. The Krankel procedure requires the trial court to determine whether independent counsel is needed to argue a defendant’s pro se posttrial IAC at a full Krankel hearing. People v. Patrick, 960 N.E.2d 1114 (Ill. 2011).

The Krankel procedure is intended to promote consideration of pro se IAC claims in the trial court, create a record, and limit issues on appeal, according to the Court. See People v. Roddis, 161 N.E.3d 173 (Ill. 2020). It is triggered when a defendant brings a pro se posttrial IAC claim to the court’s attention. People v. Jackson, 162 N.E.3d 223 (Ill. 2020). There is no requirement that the defendant must file a written motion; a pro se defendant simply has to bring his claim to the court’s attention, which may be done orally or via a letter or note to the court. People v. Ayres, 88 N.E.3d 732 (Ill. 2017).

Turning to the present case, the Court addressed the issue of whether the Krankel procedure applies to juvenile delinquency proceedings. Although juvenile delinquency proceedings are civil in nature, minors in such proceedings have a constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel. In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967); People v. Austin M., 975 N.E.2d 22 (Ill. 2012). After reviewing the relevant statutes governing juvenile delinquency proceedings and the case law on due process rights in such proceedings, the Court held that “the Krankel procedure applies in juvenile delinquency proceedings.” 

The Court then turned to the State’s argument that a preliminary Krankel inquiry doesn’t apply to cases involving retained counsel, as opposed to appointed counsel, because the narrow purpose of a preliminary Krankel inquiry is to determine whether independent counsel should be appointed. The Court noted that there are conflicting conclusions among the appellate courts as to whether the Krankel procedure applies to private counsel or to what extent.

In concluding that it does apply to private counsel, the Court cited approvingly to the special concurrence in People v. Taylor, 927 N.E.2d 1172 (Ill. 2010). In the concurrence, Justice Burke observed that the majority opinion assumed, without actually deciding, that Krankel applies to privately retained counsel and stated that “I would address the conflict in the appellate court and [clarify]” the Supreme Court’s position on the issue. Burke also explained that concluding Krankel doesn’t apply to retained counsel would conflict with Cuyler v. Sullivan, 446 U.S. 335 (1980), in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the protections of the Sixth Amendment apply equally to defendants who retain their own counsel as well as those who have counsel appointed to them. Thus, the Court, agreeing with Burke, held that Krankel applies to appointed as well as retained counsel. 

Finally, the Court addressed the State’s alternative argument as to why Johnathan wasn’t entitled to a preliminary Krankel inquiry, viz., his statement during the sex offender evaluation was too vague to trigger the Krankel procedure. The Court flatly rejected the State’s position, stating “Johnathan clearly stated that his attorney was not doing something that he should have been doing.” And it noted that a “juvenile in a juvenile delinquency proceeding need do nothing more than bring his pro se claim to the attention of the court.” See Jackson. Johnathan met the requirements for a preliminary Krankel inquiry, the Court concluded, and thus, the court erred in failing to conduct the inquiry, the Court held.

Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court in part and reversed in part. See: In re Johnathan T., 193 N.E.3d 1240 (Ill. 2022). 

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