Friday, December 10, 2010

Appeals from the "Juridical Sock Drawer"

Our own 4/3 answers the question:  "what happens when a file-stamped appealable order disappears into the juridical equivalent of a sock drawer?

The case turns on fascinating facts.  "Here, the appealable order was signed and file-stamped (fittingly enough) on April Fool’s Day.  But it was not served on the litigants, and did not make its way into the public records.  Appellant, who repeatedly (and physically) checked the court files to determine whether any order had been entered, came away empty-handed.  Not until late summer was the order 'located' (we do not know where or why), placed in the court file, entered into the computerized case management system, and served upon the parties.  Appellant thereupon promptly filed her notice of appeal."

So is the appeal timely?  Or did the 180-day jurisdictional period expire?

Answer:  "A judgment or an appealable order is presumptively filed on the file-stamped date.  This presumption, however, may be rebutted by evidence that the order was not accessible to the public in either paper or electronic form, and was not sealed by court order, or made confidential by law.  We hold appellant has rebutted the presumption regarding the date of filing, and her appeal is timely."