Alabama Court of Civil Appeals Dismisses Appeal from Order Entered By Lower Court Lacking Jurisdiction

In Darby v. Schley, the Court of Civil Appeals dismissed an appeal from an order entered by the circuit court in an unlawful-detainer action; because only district courts have jurisdiction over unlawful-detainer actions, the judgment was void and would not support an appeal.

In Darby, the plaintiff appealled from a summary judgment entered in favor of the defendant in an unlawful-detainer action by the Shelby County Circuit Court following transfer of the action to that court by the Shelby County District Court.  By statute, original jurisdiction over unlawful-detainer actions lies in the district courts. Ala. Code 6-6-30 states that "the forcible entry upon and detainer, or the unlawful detainer, of lands, tenements and hereditaments is cognizable before the district court of the county in which the offense is committed."  A circuit court may not exercise jurisdiction over an unlawful-detainer action until the district court has adjudicated the unlawful-detainer action and one of the parties has appealled to the circuit court. 

In this case, the proper court was the district court, not the circuit court.  Transfer to the circuit court would have been proper following the district court’s ruling and an appeal by one of the parties, but the district court had not adjudicated the matter and no appeal had been taken.  Therefore, the circuit court had no jurisdiction.  The judgment appealed from was void and would not support an appeal.