Appeal From Non-Final Denial of Hearing Would Not Be Treated As Mandamus Petition

The juvenile court did not adjudicate "all matters in controversy," in a dependency case, by denying the mother’s request for a hearing. That denial therefore was not a final judgment that would support an appeal. Nor did the mother present evidence showing that the lower court had exceeded its discretion in refusing to grant a hearing. The appellate court thus declined to treat the appeal as a petition for mandamus. The mother’s appeal was consequently dismissed. J.W.K. v. Marshall County Dept. of Human Resources, No. 2071195 (Ala. Civ. App. Mar. 20, 2009).

The Marshall Counrty Department of Human Resources took custody of a mother’s minor children. The mother filed various motions to regain custody and, among these, asked the juvenile court to grant an additional hearing. The court declined and the mother appealed.

The Court of Civil Appeals ruled that the appeal was from a non-final order. Without specifying, the appellate court explained that the order denying a hearing "did not adjudicate ‘all matters in controversy between the litigants’ in the underlying, ongoing dependency cases." The order therefore was not final and did not yield appellate jurisdiction.

The appellate court "noted" that it has "discretion to treat an appeal from a non final order as a petition for writ of mandamus." It can do so "in an appropriate case," where "the evidence shows that the trial court exceeded its discretion by entering a reunification plan that is patently unreasonable or unfeasible." This was not such a case. The mother "merely alleged" that she could not undergo the behavioral therapy the juvenile court had ordered. She "did not present any evidence to support that allegation." On this record, the Court of Civil Appeals "could not determine whether the juvenile court exceeded its discretion by denying the requested relief." The court thus declined to treat the appeal as a mandamus petition.

The appeal was dismissed for want of jurisdiction.