Notice Filed in Wrong Court, And Not on Form ARAP-1, Nonetheless Secured Appeal

A homeowner filed a notice of appeal that was not on the Form 1 contained in the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure. Moreover, she mistakenly filed her notice in the county’s district rather than circuit court. However, her notice contained all the information required by law, and the district and circuit courts shared the same clerk. Her notice thus effected a timely appeal. Whorton v. Bruce, No. 2070501 (Ala. Civ. App. Feb. 20, 2009).

The homeowner hired a worker to install carpet and tile in her home. When she did not pay the balance due, the worker sued her in district court. The homeowner counterclaimed for an amount over the district court’s jurisdictional ceiling, and the case was transferred to circuit court. The circuit judge ruled for the worker on all claims.

The homeowner then filed an appeal. In fact, she filed two notices of appeal. On the day her notice was due, February 19, she filed a self-drafted “notice of appeal” in the district court. This notice was not on the Form ARAP-1 that appears in Appendix I to the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure.

One week later — on February 26, and thus after the time for appealing had passed — the homeowner filed a notice of appeal that “resemble[d]” Form ARAP -1. This document she filed in the circuit court.

The Court of Civil Appeals held that the homeowner had effected a timely appeal. Though not on Form ARAP-1, her initial notice contained all the information that the law requires in such a notice. Rule 3(c) of the appellate rules provides that a notice of appeal “shall specify the party or parties taking the appeal; shall designate the judgment, order or part thereof appealed from; and shall name the court to which the appeal is taken.” The February 19 notice included all of these items. Nor was that notice hobbled by being filed in the district court, “because the clerk of the circuit court with whom the notice . . . should have been filed is also the clerk of the district court.”

The court concluded that the homeowner had filed a timely appeal, and went on to address the merits of the case.