Luther, Collier, Hodges & Cash, LLP – Attorneys at Law

ALABAMA – Appeals – Timeliness as a Jurisdictional Requirement

The Supreme Court of Alabama recently led out some of the nuance in appeals filing stemming from a will contest. The contest involved a brother and sister attempting to probate two separate wills for their deceased mother. The probate court transferred the contest to circuit court, which found the sister’s will to be the valid one in 1999. For reasons undiscussed by the Court, the sister then moved the circuit court to continue the case on its administrative docket in 2005, and the court continued the case on its administrative docket until 2010, asking for a status from the parties before that time.

The case then sat until May 1, 2018, when the circuit court dismissed the case from its administrative docket for failure to submit a status report, and this is where the procedural issues began. On May 22, 2018, the brother filed a motion to reconsider the dismissal; the Court considered this to be a motion to alter, amend, or vacate a judgment pursuant to ARCP 59, which was timely filed under the rule. However, the circuit court did not specifically rule on the motion until January 14, 2019, for which the brother filed a notice of appeal on February 25, 2019.

The issue with the February 2019 notice of appeal is that it was untimely. After the brother’s May 22, 2018 motion to reconsider the dismissal, interpreted to be an ARCP 59 motion, the circuit court had 90 days to rule on the motion per ARCP 59.1. This time period ran out on August 20, 2018, the true date of the circuit court’s denial of the ARCP 59 motion, rather than January of 2019. From August 20, 2018, the brother had 42 days to file a notice of appeal under ARAP 4, which time period ran on October 1, 2018. The brother’s February 2019 notice of appeal was therefore untimely, irrespective of when the circuit court openly stated the ARCP 59 motion was denied. The Court noted that the timeliness of a notice of appeal is the only jurisdictional requirement in the appellate process, and ARAP 2 clearly states that an untimely notice of appeal shall be dismissed.

Beatty v. Beatty


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