Incomplete Appellate Record Defeats Appeal

In Cantrell v. Holland, No. 2080494 (Ala. Civ. App. Sept. 11, 2009), the Alabama Circuit Court of Appeals held that it was without sufficient information to decide the jurisdictional issue that the appellant raised because the record on appeal contained only one pleading.  It was the appellant’s responsibility to make certain that the record was complete.

Cantrell filed an unlawful detainer action against Weghorst in the Marion District Court, and Holland intervened in the action. On November 10, 2008, the circuit court ordered Cantrell to convey certain real property to Holland upon Holland’s payment of $5,800 to the Marion circuit clerk. “On January 14, 2009, the circuit court entered an amended order in which it ordered that title to a mobile home that was located on the property and in which Cantrell apparently held an interest be conveyed to Holland. Cantrell appeals from the January 14, 2009, order. Cantrell contends that the circuit court’s order of November 10, 2008, resolved the issues in the action and that the trial court maintained jurisdiction over the action for only 30 days following the entry of that order. She argues that the circuit court no longer had jurisdiction of the action on January 14, 2009, when it entered its order purporting to amend the November 10, 2008, order. Thus, she argues, the circuit court’s January 14, 2009, order is void for lack of jurisdiction.”

The Court of Civil Appeals held that it could not provide relief on the record before it: “The record does not contain a copy of Cantrell’s complaint, Weghorst’s answer, or Holland’s pleading in intervention. Indeed, the record contains only a single document from the district court: the district court’s order transferring the action to the Marion Circuit Court.”  Consequently, “[b] ecause the record does not contain the pleadings, this court has little knowledge of what issues were before the circuit court . . . Simply put, the record provides no basis for a determination by this court as to whether the November 10, 2008, order constituted a final judgment or whether the circuit court maintained jurisdiction over the action at the time of the entry of the January 14, 2009, order . . . [I]t is the appellant’s duty to ensure that the appellate court has a record from which it can conduct a review."