Appellate Jurisdiction

Walters v. Austin (Ind. Ct. App. April 18, 2012)

This case demonstrates the importance of knowing and following appellate procedural rules. In this case, the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The timeline that led to the dismissal is as follows:

May 3, 2011: trial court entered judgment for the defendant

May 20, 2011: plaintiff filed motion to correct error

May 23, 2011: trial court denied plaintiff’s motion to correct error

May 24, 2011: plaintiff, unaware of the trial court’s May 23 order, filed an amended motion to correct error and motion for amended motion to correct error to relate back to filing date of original motion to correct

May 24, 2011: the trial court granted motion to relate back but denied amended motion to correct

June 23, 2011: plaintiff filed notice of appeal

The June 23, 2011 notice of appeal was filed 31 days after the denial of the plaintiff’s motion to correct an error. Because the time limit is 30 days, the Court of Appeals held it did not have jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal. Indiana Appellate Rule 9(A)(5) is directly on point: “Unless the Notice of Appeal is timely filed, the right to appeal shall be forfeited except as provided by P.C.R. 2.” This mandatory rule led the majority (Judge Najam and Judge Riley) to dismiss the appeal. Judge Darden dissented, finding that the plaintiff’s amended motion to correct was not a repetitive motion meant to delay the proceedings, and therefore believed that May 24, not May 23, was the relevant date and that the notice of appeal was therefore timely filed. Judge Najam and Judge Riley clearly adhered to a strict reading of the appellate rules. Judge Darden, on the other hand, looked more to the spirit of the rules and the “interest of justice” to find that the appeal should be allowed.

This case demonstrates the importance of complying with appellate procedural rules. Any practitioner appealing a trial court judgment or order must know these rules. A practitioner who is not used to appellate practice would be well-served by either referring the appeal to another practitioner or, at least, consulting with an appellate specialist.

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