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Ex parte A.A.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

April 20, 2018

Ex Parte A.A., Sr.
v.
Jefferson County Department of Human Resources In re: A.A., Sr.

          Jefferson Circuit Court, Bessemer Division, DR-17-65, DR-17-69

          PETITIONS FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

          DONALDSON, Judge.

         A.A., Sr. ("the father"), seeks review of two orders of the Jefferson Circuit Court, Bessemer Division ("the circuit court"), transferring the appeals of the judgments entered in two juvenile cases to this court. The father seeks to set aside the transfer orders and to require the circuit court to conduct a trial de novo of each juvenile case. As the court that initially received the appeals, the circuit court had the responsibility to determine whether adequate records were available for this court's appellate review before transferring the appeals. Because that determination had not been made by the circuit court, there was no basis to order the appeals to be transferred to this court. We therefore grant the father relief insofar as he seeks to set aside the orders transferring the appeals. We deny the father relief insofar as he seeks to require the circuit court to conduct a trial de novo on appeal of the judgment entered in each juvenile case.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On November 10, 2016, the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources ("DHR") initiated proceedings, including the underlying juvenile cases, by filing petitions in the Jefferson Juvenile Court, Bessemer Division ("the juvenile court"), alleging, among other things, that the father's four children were dependent. A guardian ad litem was appointed for the children. On June 20, 2017, the juvenile court conducted a hearing on the issues of the dependency and the custody of the children. On July 13, 2017, the juvenile court entered judgments finding three of the four children to be dependent and determining the custody of those three children.

         On July 17, 2017, the father filed notices of appeal to the circuit court as to the juvenile court's judgments regarding two of the children. On July 20, 2017, the father filed motions for an expedited hearing on the custody of those two children. In the motions, the father asserted: "The transcript of [the juvenile court's June 20, 2017, ] hearing has been ordered and will be available to the [circuit court]." DHR and the guardian ad litem both filed motions to dismiss the appeals in the circuit court, arguing that this court had jurisdiction of the appeals because, they asserted, there was an adequate record pursuant to Rule 28, Ala. R. Juv. P. The father filed responses arguing that the appeals were properly in the circuit court because, he asserted, the juvenile-court judge never designated a court reporter to prepare a transcript pursuant to Rule 28(A)(1)(c)(ii), Ala. R. Juv. P.

         On October 3, 2017, the circuit court entered an order in each appeal, stating, in relevant part:

"It is undisputed by the parties that a dependency trial was held on June 20, 2017 before the Honorable Lorraine Pringle in the Juvenile Court of Jefferson County, Bessemer Division. It is further undisputed by the parties that the trial proceedings were recorded by a court reporter obtained by both [DHR] and [the father]. The only issue of contention relates to whether Judge Pringle designated a court reporter to transcribe a record of the proceedings in accordance with the provisions of Rule 10(b)(2) of the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure and Alabama Rule of Juvenile Procedure 20(B).
"....
"... This Court is not persuaded that it should make that determination. Instead, this Court is of the opinion that the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals is the court to make that determination or proceed as the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals did in W.R.C. v. State, 681 So.2d 1100 (Ala.Crim.App.1995) when it remanded the case to the juvenile court for a determination of whether the juvenile court could certify the record as adequate. Under either scenario, it is apparent that the circuit court should not make that determination. Accordingly, this Court lacks jurisdiction and must transfer this case to the appropriate court, which is the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals."

         Although the written orders of the circuit court purport in one place to "grant" the motions to dismiss filed by DHR and the guardian ad litem, the orders, in substance, transfer the appeals to this court.

         On October 3, 2017, the father filed notices of appeal to this court challenging the circuit court's October 3, 2017, orders. We have elected to treat those notices of appeal as petitions for the writ of mandamus. See F.L. Crane & Sons, Inc. v. Malouf Constr. Corp., 953 So.2d 366, 372 (Ala. 2006) ("[An appellate court] consider[s] the facts of the particular case in deciding whether to treat the filing as a petition [for a writ of mandamus] or as an appeal."); Ex parte MedPartners, Inc., 820 So.2d 815, 821 (Ala. 2001) (noting that a petition for the writ of mandamus is an appropriate means to seek to set aside an order transferring a case to another court).

         Standard of review

"Mandamus is a drastic and extraordinary writ, to be issued only where there is (1) a clear legal right in the petitioner to the order sought; (2) an imperative duty upon the respondent to perform, accompanied by a refusal to do so; (3) the lack of another adequate ...

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