Ex parte G.L.C.
C.E.C. III In re: G.L.C.
Baldwin Juvenile Court, JU-17-164.01; Court of Civil Appeals,
PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CIVIL
("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. III, [Ms. 2160980, May 25, 2018] So.3d
(Ala. Civ. App. 2018). We granted the petition, and we
reverse the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals and remand
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 father's
petition. On August 16, 2017, the juvenile court entered a
final judgment terminating the mother's parental rights
to the child. The mother did not file a postjudgment motion
challenging the juvenile court's 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
termination-of-parental-rights proceeding. The date next to
the mother's signature on the notice of appeal is August
31, 2017, but it had been changed to August 30, 2017; the
date next to the mother's signature on the docketing
statement is August 31, 2017.
September 6, 2017, the Court of Civil Appeals docketed the
mother's appeal. The same day, the father's attorney
sent an e-mail to Tina Hadley, a docket specialist in the
Baldwin County circuit clerk's office ("the circuit
clerk's office"), inquiring about the altered dates
on the mother's notice of appeal. Hadley responded
immediately and stated:
"[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 mother's 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 clerk's 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
clerk's 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" clerk's 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 clerk's office downstairs,
"they" sent her back to the circuit clerk's
office upstairs to file her notice of appeal. When the mother
returned to the circuit clerk's 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 clerk's
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 mother's 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
mother's notice of appeal from August 31 to August 30
because the mother had been to the circuit clerk's 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 clerk's 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.
But I don't -- I don't know what their procedure is
for that. There probably is some procedure and somebody
probably did not follow it. But I don't 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 it's
possible. But I'm not sure what that procedure is, and I
do think the clerk's office could have handled it better.
But it wasn't filed in time, ultimately, and the remedy
for that is not to change the date on the paperwork. So
I'll have to grant the motion to dismiss."
October 31, 2017, the juvenile court entered an order
dismissing the mother's appeal. On April 4, 2018, the
Court of Civil Appeals, citing Ex parte Madison County
Department of Human Resources, [Ms. 2160883,
November 17, 2017] So.3d __(Ala. Civ. App. 2017), and
D.V.P. v. T.W.P., 905 So.2d 853, 856 (Ala. Civ. App.
2015), issued an order stating that the juvenile court did
not have jurisdiction to enter an order dismissing the
mother's appeal and that, therefore, that order was void.
However, the Court of Civil Appeals reinvested the juvenile
court with jurisdiction for 14 days "for the limited
purpose of making a factual determination as to the date the
notice of appeal was filed." On April 12, 2018, the
juvenile court entered an order stating that, "[a]fter
reviewing the facts, pleadings, and transcripts available, it
is hereby determined that [the mother] filed her notice of
appeal on August 31, 2017. This was 15 days after this
Court's final order."
Court of Civil Appeals subsequently issued an opinion
dismissing the mother's appeal as untimely filed. See
G.L.C., supra. The mother filed a timely petition for a
writ of certiorari in this Court seeking review of the Court
of Civil Appeals' decision.
certiorari review, this Court accords no presumption of
correctness to the legal conclusions of the intermediate
appellate court. Therefore, we must apply de novo the
standard of review that was applicable in the Court of Civil
Appeals."'" Ex parte S.L.M., 171 So.3d
673, 677 (Ala. 2014) (quoting Ex parte Helms, 873
So.2d 1139, 1143 (Ala. ...