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Ex parte A.L.F.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

May 26, 2017

Ex Parte A.L.F.
v.
A.L.F. In re: E.A.B.

         Jefferson Family Court, CS-14-900685

          PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

          PITTMAN, Judge.

         In this paternity and custody action, A.L.F. ("the mother") has petitioned this court for a writ of mandamus directing the Jefferson Family Court ("the juvenile court") to "certify [its] record for appeal." We deny the mother's petition.

         Procedural Background

         In May 2014, E.A.B. ("the father") filed a petition in the juvenile court requesting that he be declared the biological parent of the mother's then unborn child. It appears that the juvenile court held a two-day ore tenus trial in October 2015.

         In December 2015, the juvenile court entered a judgment declaring the father to be the child's biological parent, awarding him visitation with the child, and directing him to pay the mother child support. According to the mother's mandamus petition, the father filed a postjudgment motion that was, pursuant to Rule 59.1, Ala. R. Civ. P., denied by operation of law. The materials before this court indicate that, on January 25, 2016, the father filed a notice of appeal from the juvenile court's judgment, designating this court as the appropriate appellate court.

         The father's notice of appeal also indicated that a transcript of the proceedings would be ordered and designated Tracy Richardson as the court reporter who would create the transcript. In her mandamus petition, the mother describes Richardson as the juvenile court's regular "in-house" court reporter. The mother asserts, however, that Richardson was not present for the trial. Attached to the mother's mandamus petition is a portion of a trial transcript indicating that a different court reporter, Jennifer Gremmels, had been present for the trial. The mother asserts that, because of what she suggests was the father's failure to designate the correct court reporter, the juvenile-court clerk transferred the father's appeal to the Jefferson Circuit Court ("the circuit court") for a trial de novo. See generally Rule 28(B), Ala. R. Juv. P. (indicating that an appeal from a final judgment of a juvenile court shall be to the circuit court for a trial de novo when there does not exist an "adequate record" for a direct appeal to an appellate court).

         On March 16, 2016, the mother filed in the juvenile court a "request for certification of adequate record." In that request, she asserted: "[The mother] believes [that the juvenile court] has an adequate record from the trial of this case."[1] Alternatively, the mother asserted that a court reporter, Gremmels, had been present during the trial and had recorded the proceedings. In her prayer for relief, the mother requested the juvenile court to "certify the adequate record" or to direct the father to "bear the costs of providing a transcript of the trial to be certified as an adequate record."

         On March 23, 2016, the juvenile court, without explanation, denied the mother's motion. The mother asserts that, thereafter, she obtained from Gremmels a transcript of the trial testimony. On May 5, 2016, the mother filed a motion with the juvenile court, which was styled as a "request for certification of trial transcript as an adequate record." The mother purported to attach to that motion a copy of the transcript she had obtained from Gremmels, and she requested the juvenile court to "certify the trial transcript as an adequate record" for a direct appeal to this court. The next month, the mother filed a motion in the circuit court requesting that court to dismiss the father's appeal. Thereafter, the circuit court entered an order temporarily staying the proceedings in the circuit court, pending resolution of the issues raised by the mother in the juvenile court. On August 10, 2016, the juvenile court entered an order denying the mother's "request for certification of trial transcript as an adequate record."

         The mother did not file a mandamus petition or an appeal challenging the juvenile court's August 10, 2016, order. Rather, on October 12, 2016, the mother, having obtained new counsel, filed, in the juvenile court, a "renewed motion to dismiss/motion to reconsider."[2] In her motion, the mother asked the juvenile court to reconsider its prior rulings denying the mother's requests to "certify" the record as adequate. In her prayer for relief, the mother requested the juvenile court to "formally designate the court reporter present at [the] trial and/or to certify the transcript of the same as necessary to allow this matter to properly proceed to appeal." On March 10, 2017, the juvenile court entered an order denying the mother's motion. Fourteen days later, the mother filed her mandamus petition.

         Discussion

         The father argues that the mother's mandamus petition was not timely filed. The parties agree that the mother was required to file her petition "within a reasonable time" and that the presumptively reasonable time in a juvenile proceeding is 14 days from the entry of the order sought to be reviewed. See Rule 21(a)(3), Ala. R. App. P. (stating that the presumptively reasonable time for the filing of a mandamus petition is "the same as the time for taking an appeal"); and Rule 4(a)(1), Ala. R. App. P. (stating that an appeal from a final judgment entered by a juvenile court is to be filed within 14 days of the entry of that judgment).

         The juvenile court denied the mother's first motion, styled as a "request for certification of adequate record, " on March 23, 2016. On August 10, 2016, the juvenile court denied the mother's second motion, styled as a "request for certification of trial transcript as an adequate record, " after the mother apparently had submitted a copy of the trial transcript she had obtained from Gremmels. The mother does not dispute that she filed her mandamus petition more than 14 days after entry of the juvenile court's orders denying her first two motions. Rather, she points to her "renewed motion to dismiss/motion to reconsider, " which was denied within 14 days of the filing of the mother's mandamus petition.

         Motions to "reconsider" do not toll the deadline for seeking mandamus review. Ex parte Troutman Sanders, LLP, 866 So.2d 547, 549-50 (Ala. 2003). The mother, however, draws a distinction between the relief requested in her last motion and the relief requested in her earlier motions. Thus, she implies, the last motion was not merely a motion to reconsider. Specifically, the mother points out that, in her last ...


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