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K.P. v. Madison County Department of Human Resources

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

July 21, 2017

K.P.
v.
Madison County Department of Human Resources

         Appeals from Madison Juvenile Court (JU-15-218.02, JU-15-219.02, and JU-15-220.02)

          DONALDSON, Judge.

         K.P. ("the mother") appeals from judgments of the Madison Juvenile Court ("the juvenile court") terminating her parental rights to A.C., H.C., and B.C. The Madison County Department of Human Resources ("DHR") filed a motion to dismiss the mother's appeals as untimely. After initially entering orders terminating the mother's parental rights to the children, the juvenile court entered orders purportedly granting postjudgment motions filed by the mother after those motions had already been denied by operation of law. The juvenile court subsequently entered orders, again purporting to terminate the mother's parental rights to each child, and the mother filed her notices of appeal within 14 days of the entry of those termination orders. However, because the notices of appeal were filed more than 14 days after the postjudgment motions had been denied by operation of law, the mother's notices of appeal were not timely filed, and, therefore, and we dismiss the appeals. See Rule 2(a)(1), Ala. R. App. P.

         Relevant Procedural History

         On December 27, 2016, the juvenile court entered judgments terminating the mother's parental rights to all three children.[1] On January 9, 2017, the mother timely filed motions to alter, amend, or vacate the judgments, and she requested a new hearing ("the postjudgment motions"). See Rule 1(B), Ala. R. Juv. P. (providing that postjudgment motions must be filed within 14 days of the entry of the judgment). The mother also filed in each case an objection and a motion to strike two exhibits (namely, reports containing drug-test results) that were attached to the juvenile court's final judgments. The juvenile court scheduled the mother's postjudgment motions for a hearing to be held on January 23, 2017. On January 26, 2017, more than 14 days after the January 9, 2017, postjudgment motions were filed, the juvenile court rendered and electronically entered an order in each child's case in which it purported to grant the mother's postjudgment motions to the extent that it agreed to allow the parties an additional opportunity to present evidence related to the mother's drug-test results. On February 24, 2017, after an additional hearing, the juvenile court entered judgments purporting to terminate the mother's parental rights in each case. On March 8, 2017, the mother filed a notice of appeal to this court in each case. This court consolidated the appeals.

         DHR filed a motion to dismiss the mother's appeals. DHR argues that the mother's January 9, 2017, postjudgment motions were denied by operation of law on January 23, 2017. See Rule 1(B), Ala. R. Juv. P. (providing that "[a] failure by the juvenile court to render an order disposing of any pending postjudgment motion within [14 days], or any extension thereof, shall constitute a denial of such motion as of the date of the expiration of the period"). DHR argues that the juvenile court's orders of January 26, 2017, were void because, it asserts, the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction to render any orders in any of the cases after January 23, 2017. The mother responds that the juvenile court orally granted her postjudgment motions at a hearing held on January 23, 2017, and that the parties "constructively" agreed to extend the time to allow the juvenile court to rule on those motions. The mother also argues that the juvenile court had the authority to "correct" the date on the orders, pursuant to Rule 60(a), Ala. R. Civ. P., from January 26, 2017, to January 23, 2017, because, she asserts, the dates contained on the orders were clerical errors. On June 15, 2017, while these appeals were pending, the juvenile court, after holding an additional hearing, entered the following order in each child's case:

"Over the objections of [DHR], the Court hereby finds that due to a clerical error an order that was due to be entered on January 23, 2017 was erroneously entered on January 26, 2017. The appropriate date for this order to be entered was January 23, 2017. All records and transcripts from these proceeding[s] including the Clerk's record on appeal shall hereby reflect this corrected date of entry. In addition, this Court finds that the record on appeal shall be supplemented with this correct order."

         Thereafter, DHR filed a renewed motion to dismiss in which it asserted that the juvenile court could not use Rule 60(a) to "back-date" orders. The mother filed an amended response to which she attached the juvenile court's orders.

         Pursuant to Rule 1(B), Ala. R. Juv. P., a postjudgment motion

"shall not remain pending for more than 14 days, unless, within that time, the period during which a postjudgment motion may remain pending is extended:
"(1) By written order of the juvenile court on its own motion, or upon motion of a party for good cause shown, for not more than 14 additional days; or
"(2) Upon the express written consent of all the parties, which consent shall appear of record; or
"(3) By the appellate court to which an appeal of the judgment would lie.
"A failure by the juvenile court to render an order disposing of any pending postjudgment motion within the time permitted hereunder, or any extension thereof, shall constitute a denial of such motion as of the ...

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