Premature Notice of Appeal Held in Abeyance Until Ripe; Date of Order Is Date It Is Entered on SJIS

Two common procedural issues – what happens when a notice of appeal is filed prematurely and what is the effective date of an order – were addressed in Landry v. Landry, [Ms. 2080171, 2080372] (Ala. Civ. App. Nov. 6, 2009).

In Landry, the trial court disposed of an action involving a petition to modify child support on Sept. 23, 2008.  The father filed a motion for relief from judgment on Sept. 29, arguing that the trial court improperly closed the action after it got confused with a related action.  Before the trial court ruled, the father filed a notice of appeal of the underlying judgment on November 4.  After the notice of appeal was filed, the trial court held a hearing and ruled against the father.  The order ruling against the father was via a handwritten note of the case action summary sheet on November 18, 2008. The father filed a second notice of appeal on Jan. 7, 2009, this time from the November 18 order.  But the trial court did not enter the November 18 order into to the State Judicial Information System ("SJIS") until Jan. 29, 2009.

The Court of Civil Appeals addressed the procedural issues sua sponte.  The court first held that the first notice of appeal, filed before the trial court ruled on the post-judgment motion, was held in abeyance until the post-judgment motion was ruled on or denied by operation of law.  Ala. R. App. P. 4(a)(5).

While the trial court rendered its order disposing of the post-judgment motion on Nov. 18, it did not enter the order into the SJIS until Jan. 29, 2009.  Under Rule 58(c), an order is not deemed to be entered until it is entered into the SJIS.  Although the order disposing of the motion was rendered in a timely manner, the motions had been denied by operation of law by the time it was entered into the SJIS.  Rule 59.1.

So, the initial notice of appeal became effective when the post-judgment motion was denied by operation of law, and the appeal was timely.  The second appeal was dismissed as being from a void judgment.  The Nov. 18 order, although rendered in a timely manner, was a nullity because the order was entered after the motion had been denied by operation of law.