There is no such thing as a sure thing. And in three unpublished opinions, the North Court of Appeals reminded lawyers that a notice of appeal does not guarantee appellate jurisdiction.
In Deutsche Bank National Trust v. Gaydos, the plaintiff sued several defendants for declaratory relief and monetary damages. Some defendants did not respond, and the plaintiff obtained a default declaratory judgment against them. In time, the trial court granted the plaintiff summary judgment on its claim for its declaratory relief against the remaining defendants. Those defendants appealed the summary judgment order. They argued that the trial court rendered final judgments on the claims for declaratory relief, so the summary judgment order was final and could be appealed. The Court of Appeals disagreed. It ruled that because the trial court never resolved the bank’s claim for monetary relief, it never entered a final order. In turn, the court lacked appellate jurisdiction to review the summary judgment decision.
The lesson: an order granting summary judgment is not a final order unless it disposes with a party’s entire claim for relief.
In Hedgepeth v. Smoky Mountain Country Club Property Owners Association, the trial court granted the defense motion to dismiss by order signed June 30, 2022. The trial court did not file stamp the order though. The plaintiff filed a notice of appeal on August 3, 2022, and then filed an amended notice of appeal on August 8, 2022. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal as untimely. Rule 3 gives a party a 30-day timeframe to file a notice of appeal. The record established that the judge signed the order on June 30, 2022, and the plaintiffs filed notices of appeal more than 30 days later. Without a file-stamped order that was post-dated on June 30, 2022, the court could not find that the plaintiff appealed on time.
The lesson: always include a file-stamped copy of the order subject to appeal in your record. And make sure your appeal is timely!
Last, in Smith v. Greenwald, the plaintiff appealed an order that granted summary judgment for the defendants. The plaintiff’s record, however, did not include the record evidence presented to the court on summary judgment. Instead, the record included only the complaint, the answer, and the motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff’s brief, in turn, did not include record cites to the record evidence presented to the court on the motion for summary judgment. The court ruled that these missteps frustrated appellate review and warranted dismissal. In retort, the plaintiff pointed out that the defendant never served objections or amendments to the record, and as a result, the plaintiff’s record was binding. The court agreed. But the plaintiff still had an obligation to file a record that complied with the rules and allowed for appellate review. The defendant’s failure to respond did not excuse the plaintiff’s violations.
The final lesson: It is the appellant’s job to serve a comprehensive record on appeal, including Rule 9(d) documentary exhibits and a Rule 11(c) supplement. Do not count on the appellee to fix the record with its objections and amendments.
If you have questions about appellate jurisdiction or the rules of appellate procedure contact Steven Bader at email@example.com.