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In re Welfare of J.R.

January 09, 2003

IN THE MATTER OF THE WELFARE OF: J.R., JR., AND A.I.R.


Office of Appellate Courts

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

The failure to serve timely a notice of appeal on the guardian ad litem in a termination of parental rights case is a jurisdictional defect requiring dismissal of the appeal.

Affirmed.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blatz, Chief Justice.

Concurring in part, dissenting in part, Anderson, Paul H., J., and Page, J.

Heard, considered and decided by the court en banc.

OPINION

Appellant, the mother of J.R., Jr. and A.I.R., appeals an order of the Minnesota Court of Appeals dismissing her appeal of the trial court order terminating her parental rights. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal because appellant failed to timely serve the guardian ad litem, a party to the matter, with the notice of appeal within the appeal period. Appellant argues that because termination of parental rights cases are such important cases, a technical violation of the rules of court procedure should not prevent the appeal from proceeding. While we agree that termination of parental rights cases are important, we disagree that the rules of court procedure can be ignored and affirm the court of appeals.

An order was filed by the trial court on February 5, 2002, terminating appellant's parental rights to J.R., Jr. and A.I.R. Because Rule 82.02, subd. 2 of the Rules of Juvenile Procedure requires that an appeal be taken within 30 days, the last day to perfect an appeal was March 7, 2002. On March 7, 2002, appellant timely filed a notice of appeal with the court of appeals and timely served the notice of appeal on respondent Meeker County. Appellant failed to serve the notice of appeal on the guardian ad litem until March 21, 2002, 14 days beyond the 30-day appeal deadline. See Minn. R. Juv. P. 82.02, subd. 3(a) (requiring service of notice of appeal on all parties within the appeal period). The court of appeals held that because the guardian ad litem was a party to a juvenile protection matter, dismissal of the appeal was required.

We are now asked to decide whether the failure to timely serve the guardian ad litem deprived the court of appeals of jurisdiction over appellant's appeal. Because jurisdiction is a question of law, the standard of review is de novo. Harms v. Oak Meadows, 619 N.W.2d 201, 202 (Minn. 2000).

Before answering the jurisdictional question, it is important to recognize the procedural framework governing juvenile protection matters and appeals. In Minnesota, the Rules of Juvenile Procedure govern the procedures for juvenile protection matters in the juvenile courts, including termination of parental rights. Minn. R. Juv. P. 37.01, 38.01(h)(4). As to appeals, the Rules of Juvenile Procedure state that the Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure will apply to appeals of juvenile protection matters, "[e]xcept as provided in Rule 82.02." Minn. R. Juv. P. 82.01.

Rule 82.02 of the Rules of Juvenile Procedure differs from the comparable Rules 104.01 and 103.01 of the Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure in two relevant ways. First, Rule 82.02, subd. 2 provides that in juvenile matters "[a]ny appeal shall be taken within thirty (30) days of the filing of the appealable order." Minn. R. Juv. P. 82.02, subd. 2. This is contrary to the general rule that in civil cases an appeal must be filed within 60 days. Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 104.01, subd. 1. Second, Rule 82.02, subd. 3 further states:

Within the time allowed for an appeal from an appealable order, the person appealing shall: (a) serve a notice of appeal upon the county attorney and all parties or their counsel if represented; and (b) file a notice of appeal, together with proof of service upon all parties, with the clerk of appellate courts and the court administrator. Minn. R. Juv. P. 82.02, subd. 3 (emphasis added).

In contrast, Rule 103.01 of the Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure requires only adverse parties be served with notice of the appeal within the appeal period. Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103.01, subd. 1.

In dismissing this case, the court of appeals did not apply Rules 82.01 and 82.02 of the Rules of Juvenile Procedure. Instead, the court relied on a statute, Minnesota Statutes section 260C.415 (2000), which provides that appeals from final orders in juvenile-protection matters must be taken within 30 days of the filing of the appealable order and that an appeal from juvenile court is taken to the court of appeals as in civil cases. The court of appeals then applied Rule 103.01, subd. 1 of the Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure, which provides that an appeal is made by filing a notice of appeal with the clerk of the appellate courts and serving the notice on the adverse party or parties within the appeal period. The court of appeals determined that the guardian ad litem was an adverse party and that the failure to timely serve the notice of appeal on an adverse party was a jurisdictional defect requiring dismissal.

While the result here is not affected by the court of appeals' application of the statute and Rule 103.01 (because the 30-day appeal period in statute and Rule 82.01, subd. 2 are identical and because there is no dispute that the guardian ad litem was an adverse party), we nonetheless note that the legal authority relied on by the court of appeals in the order issued in this case is not controlling. We have consistently held that the supreme court has the primary responsibility under the separation of powers doctrine to regulate matters of trial and appellate procedure. State v. Lindsey, 632 N.W.2d 652, 658 (Minn. 2001); State v. Olson, 482 N.W.2d 212, 215 (Minn. 1992). Therefore, the Rules of Juvenile Procedure should control over the statute in juvenile protection cases.*fn1 Accordingly, we hold that under Rule 82.02 of the Rules of Juvenile Procedure, the guardian ad litem should have been served with notice of appeal by March 7, 2002.*fn2 Because the guardian ad litem was not served until March 21, 2002, the appeal was not perfected.

Having concluded that the appeal was not timely served on a necessary party, we must then determine what consequences flow from such a failure. We have previously recognized that failure to abide by the rules of procedure deprives this court of jurisdiction to hear the appeal. See Tischendorf v. Tischendorf, 321 N.W.2d 405, 409 (Minn. 1982); Kenzie v. Dalco Corporation, 309 Minn. 495, 497, 245 N.W.2d 207, 208 (Minn. 1976); Schaust v. Town Bd. Of Hollywood Tp., Carver County, 295 Minn. 571, 573, 204 N.W.2d 646, 648 (Minn. 1973). While the rules do not expressly state that failure to timely file is a jurisdictional defect, the 1998 Advisory Committee Comment to Rule 103.01 of the Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure provides that "[t]imely filing the notice of appeal with the clerk of the appellate courts and timely service on the adverse party are the jurisdictional steps required to initiate an appeal."

Despite this case precedent and the comment to the rules, in a limited number of other cases we have recognized our inherent authority to take an appeal in the interests of justice even when the filing or service requirements set forth in a rule or statute have not been met. See Ruberg v. Skelly Oil Co., 297 N.W.2d 746, 749 (Minn. 1980); Krug v. Independent School Dist. No. 16, 293 N.W.2d 26, 29 (Minn. 1980); State v. M.A.P., 281 N.W.2d 334, 336-37 (Minn. 1979); E.C.I. Corp. v. G.G.C. Co., 306 Minn. 433, 435-36, 237 N.W.2d 627, 629 (Minn. 1976). While the seemingly conflicting language set forth in our decisions may create some confusion as to the effect of not following the rules, a review of the cases provides some clarity. When the court has deviated from the rules or statutes and instead relied on our inherent authority to allow an untimely appeal to go forward, it has been on the basis of peculiar facts, such as recent changes in the law or interpretation issues. See Ruberg, 297 N.W.2d at 749 (involving a recent rules amendment permitting appeals from orders for judgment); Krug, 293 N.W.2d at 29 (involving question of whether amended order raised a new, previously unappealable issue and whether the appeal period ran from the original order or the amended order); E.C.I. Corp., 306 Minn. at 435-36, 237 N.W.2d at 629 (involving issue of whether appeal began to run from the original order or as amended, corrected order). Importantly, in none of the ...


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