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Ex parte Madison County Department of Human Resources

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

November 17, 2017

Ex parte Madison County Department of Human Resources
v.
K.O.D., Sr. In re: Madison County Department of Human Resources

         Madison Juvenile Court, JU-11-1534.04 and JU-15-732.02

          PETITIONS FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

          DONALDSON, JUDGE.

         These mandamus proceedings involve the jurisdiction of the Madison Juvenile Court ("the juvenile court") to enter orders granting a new trial in actions after it had granted the petitions of the Madison County Department of Human Resources ("DHR") to terminate the parental rights of K.O.D., Sr. ("the father"). Because we determine that the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the father's untimely filed postjudgment motions seeking a new trial, we direct the juvenile court to vacate the orders granting a new trial.

         On June 20, 2017, the juvenile court entered separate judgments terminating the father's parental rights to two children. On July 6, 2017, the father, with the assistance of counsel, filed a motion in each case seeking a new trial in which he asserted the following:

"1) On May 20, 2017, this Honorable Court held a final hearing terminating the Father's parental rights in the above-styled matters.
"2) On June 20, 2017, this Honorable Court entered a final order terminating the Father's rights.
"3) The Father was not transported for the final hearing on May 20, 2017, and counsel for the Father was not aware the final order was entered until July 7, 2017, as she has been out of town since the week of June 17, 2017.[1]
"4) As the Father was not transported from the Limestone County Correctional Facility for any hearings, he respectfully requests a new termination hearing where he may be present and present testimony in support of his parental rights.
"Wherefore, above premises considered, the Father respectfully requests this Honorable Court set this matter for a new hearing on this the 6th day of July, 2017."

         On July 10, 2017, the juvenile court entered an order in each case setting the father's postjudgment motions for a hearing to be held on July 13, 2017. On July 14, 2017, the juvenile court granted the father's motions for a new trial and set the cases for a termination-of-parental-rights trial to be held on July 28, 2017.

         On July 18, 2017, DHR filed motions seeking to have the juvenile court set aside its orders granting a new trial. DHR asserted, in part:

"3. On July 14, 2017, this court entered an order granting the father's motion and scheduling a new hearing on July 28, 2017, which was electronically filed with the clerk's office on July 14, 2017.
"4. DHR maintains that this court's order of July 14, 2017, is improper and that the court lacked jurisdiction to enter same in that the court lost jurisdiction to do so after July 5, 2017.
"5. DHR maintains that the father's postjudgment motion was denied by operation of law after July 5, 2017, which was the last day for filing same. The 14 days allowed for filing said postjudgment motion would ordinarily have expired on July 4, 2017, but since that day was an Alabama state holiday and the court was closed to business the father would have been allowed an additional day, July 5, 2017, to file said motion. His failing to file same until ...

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