EX PARTE G.L.C.
C.E.C. III In re G.L.C.
Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Court of Civil Appeals
(Baldwin Juvenile Court, JU-17-164.01; Court of Civil
Appeals, 2160980). Carmen E. Bosch, Judge.
P. Coleman III, Robertsdale, for petitioner.
C. Enfinger, Jr., and Margaret Enfinger Pace of Law Office of
Floyd C. Enfinger, Jr., P.C., Montrose; and W. Donald Bolton,
Jr., Foley, for respondent.
("the mother") petitioned this Court for a writ of
certiorari seeking review of the judgment of the Court of
Civil Appeals dismissing her appeal as untimely. See
G.L.C. v. C.E.C. II I, 281 So.3d 392 (Ala.Civ.App.
2018). We granted the petition, and we reverse the judgment
of the Court of Civil Appeals and remand the cause.
Facts and Procedural History
March 6, 2017, C.E.C. III ("the father") filed a
petition in the Baldwin Juvenile Court ("the juvenile
court") seeking to terminate the parental rights of the
mother, alleging that the mother had abandoned their son,
A.B.C. ("the child"). The juvenile court appointed
an attorney to represent the mother, and the juvenile court
subsequently conducted a hearing on the fathers petition. On
August 16, 2017, the juvenile court entered a final judgment
terminating the mothers parental rights to the child. The
mother did not file a postjudgment motion challenging the
juvenile courts judgment; therefore, pursuant to Rule
4(a)(1)(E), Ala. R. App. P., and Rule 28(C), Ala. R. Juv. P.,
the mother had 14 days, or until August 30, 2017, to file her
notice of appeal. The notice of appeal and docketing
statement that appear in the record were stamped filed on
August 31, 2017, but that date had been changed by hand to
August 30, 2017. The notice of appeal and the docketing
statement are signed by the mother, not the court-appointed
attorney who represented her during the
The date next to the mothers signature on the notice of
appeal is August 31, 2017, but it had been changed to August
30, 2017; the date next to the mothers signature on the
docketing statement is August 31, 2017.
September 6, 2017, the Court of Civil Appeals docketed the
mothers appeal. The same day, the fathers attorney sent an
e-mail to Tina Hadley, a docket specialist in the Baldwin
County circuit clerks office ("the circuit clerks
office"), inquiring about the altered dates on the
mothers notice of appeal. Hadley responded immediately and
"[The mother] attempted to file Aug[ust] 30[th] which
was her 14th day. The girls in juvenile sent her upstairs to
me and security had locked the door as it was then 4:30 and
the door is actually on an automatic lock. I verified with
Juvenile that she had been here and been turned away. I
corrected the dates so that she met her time frame since it
was not her fault."
September 15, 2017, the father filed in the juvenile
court a motion to dismiss the mothers appeal as
untimely filed. After the mother filed a response, the
juvenile court conducted a hearing on the motion to dismiss
on October 31, 2017. The mother testified that she came to
the Baldwin County courthouse on August 30, 2017, and a
security officer "sent [her] upstairs ... to file the
appeal." The mother said that she went upstairs to the
circuit clerks office and waited for someone to help her.
The mother stated that "it was about time for them to
go" but she eventually told someone that she was there
"to file [a] juvenile appeal." The individual whom
she spoke to sent her "downstairs" -- apparently to
the juvenile division of the circuit clerks office -- but by
the time she got there the doors were locked. The mother
stated that she asked if she could leave the notice of appeal
in an envelope but that "they said ... [she] would have
to come the next day."
mother testified that she returned to the
"downstairs" clerks office the following day --
August 31 -- to file her notice of appeal because that was
where she had been told to go the previous day. But, when she
appeared at the clerks office downstairs, "they"
sent her back to the circuit clerks office upstairs to file
her notice of appeal. When the mother returned to the circuit
clerks office upstairs, someone finally accepted her notice
of appeal, and it was stamped filed on August 31.
testified that the mother came to the circuit clerks office
on August 31, 2017, with her notice of appeal already filled
out and filed her notice of appeal from the judgment
terminating her parental rights. Hadley agreed that all the
date stamps on the mothers notice of appeal had been changed
from August 31 to August 30 even though the mother had not
actually filed her notice of appeal on August 30. Hadley
indicated that she changed all the dates on the mothers
notice of appeal from August 31 to August 30 because the
mother had been to the circuit clerks office on August 30 to
file her notice of appeal but had been unable to do so.
conclusion of the hearing, the juvenile court stated:
"I think that I have to find that it was not timely
filed. Do I think the clerks office needs a better ...
standard operating procedure for dealing with folks that walk
up to this courthouse at 4:28 and 52 seconds? Yes. Yes, I do.
dont -- I dont know what their procedure is for that. There
probably is some procedure and somebody probably did not
follow it. But I dont know what it is. Because I know that
things can be filed when the physical building is locked. So
I know you can do it, that its possible. But Im not sure
what that procedure is, and I do think the clerks office
could have handled it better. But it wasnt filed in time,
ultimately, and the ...