In the Matter of the Welfare of the Child of: R.K., Parent.
of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
Kenneth R. White, Law Office of Kenneth R. White, P.C.,
Mankato, Minnesota, for appellant L.A.
Patrick R. McDermott, Blue Earth County Attorney, Mark A.
Lindahl, Assistant County Attorney, Mankato, Minnesota, for
respondent Blue Earth County Human Services.
appellant timely appealed from the district court's order
terminating his parental rights based on the court
administrator's service of notice by mail, the court of
appeals erred by dismissing the appeal as untimely.
appeal presents the question of how to calculate the filing
deadline for an appeal in a juvenile protection proceeding
when a party is served with notice of the filing of the
district court's order by two different forms of service
that result in two different deadlines for the filing of a
notice of appeal. Based on the plain language of the relevant
rules, we conclude that the deadline for this appeal is based
on the district court's service of notice by mail.
Because the appeal was filed by that deadline, we issued an
order on June 28, 2017, vacating the court of appeals'
order dismissing the appeal as untimely, with this opinion to
follow. This opinion confirms our order.
August 4, 2016, Blue Earth County Human Services filed a
petition, alleging that the child of appellant L.A. was in
need of protection or services (CHIPS). L.A. filed an
application with the district court requesting appointed
counsel to represent him, and on August 17, 2016, the
district court appointed an attorney to represent him in the
CHIPS proceeding. See Minn. R. Juv. Prot. P. 25.02,
subd. 2 (requiring appointment of counsel for a parent
"as soon as practicable after the request is
made"). Thereafter, the district court's orders from
the CHIPS proceedings that were filed between August and
December 2016 were served, separately, on both L.A. and his
November 16, 2016, Blue Earth County Human Services filed a
petition to terminate L.A.'s parental rights to the
child. The County personally served L.A. with a copy of the
petition on November 18, 2016, when he appeared, along with
his appointed attorney, for a previously scheduled hearing in
the CHIPS proceeding. The attorney appointed to represent
L.A. in the CHIPS proceeding continued to represent him in
the termination proceeding. The trial on the County's
petition was held on January 19, 2017; both L.A. and his
appointed attorney were present. In an order filed on March
2, 2017, the district court granted the County's petition
and terminated L.A.'s parental rights. On that same date,
the district court administrator electronically
served L.A.'s attorney with notice of the filing of the
district court's order. L.A. was separately served on the
same date, by mail, with the same
notice. See Minn. R. Juv. Prot. P. 10.03,
subd. 1 (requiring the court administrator to serve court
orders "upon each party").
appeal must be filed in a juvenile protection proceeding
within 20 days after service of notice of the district
court's order. Minn. R. Juv. Prot. P. 47.02, subd. 2
("Any appeal shall be taken within twenty (20) days of
the service of notice by the court administrator of the
filing of the court's order."). On March 21, 2017,
L.A. filed a request with the district court for appointment
of counsel for an appeal. See Minn. R. Juv. Prot. P.
25.02, subd. 2 (requiring appointment of appellate counsel
within three days of the request). On March 24, 2017, the
district court appointed a new attorney as L.A.'s
appellate counsel, and on March 27, 2017, L.A., through his
appellate attorney, filed a notice of appeal with the court
next day, the court of appeals directed the parties to
address whether the appeal was timely in light of the date
and method of service of the district court's
notice. L.A., in response, argued in part that the
appeal was timely because he was separately served with the
district court's March 2 order by mail, in addition to
the electronic service on his appointed trial counsel. Thus,
he contended, the appeal was timely based on the three
additional days allowed for mail service. See Minn.
R. Juv. Prot. P. 4.02 (stating that "three (3) days
shall be added to the prescribed period" when
"service of a notice or other document" is made by
mail). L.A. also argued that the appeal period in a juvenile
protection proceeding should be tolled once an application
for appointment of appellate counsel is filed, to allow time
to complete the attorney-appointment process.
court of appeals dismissed L.A.'s appeal as untimely,
concluding that "the appeal period expired on March 22,
2017, " five days before L.A.'s notice of appeal was
filed. In re Welfare of Child of R.K., No. A17-0497,
Order at 2 (Minn.App. filed Apr. 18, 2017). The court also
concluded that the appeal period "was not stayed by
[L.A.'s] motion for appointment of appellate
granted L.A.'s petition for review, directing the parties
to address in their briefs "the timeliness of the appeal
in light of the methods of service and the procedural history
of the case." In re Welfare of Child of R.K.,
No. A17-0497, Order (Minn.).
appeal requires us to interpret several provisions of the
Rules of Juvenile Protection Procedure. "We interpret
procedural rules de novo." In re Welfare of
S.M.E., 725 N.W.2d 740, 742 (Minn. 2007). We begin with
a review of the relevant rules.
district court's order terminating parental rights must
be filed "with the court administrator, " Minn. R.
Juv. Prot. P. 39.05, subd. 3(a), who must serve the order
"upon each party" by "U.S. mail, through the
E-Filing System, by e-mail or other electronic means agreed
upon in writing, . . . or as otherwise directed by the court,
" Minn. R. Juv. Prot. P. 10.03, subd. 1. "If a
party is represented by counsel, . . . service shall be upon
counsel, " Minn. R. Juv. Prot. P. 10.03, subd. 1, which
is deemed to be service on the party, Minn. R. Juv. Prot. P.
31.04 (stating that "service upon counsel for a party .
. . shall be deemed service upon the party"). Service
made through the district courts' eFile System "is
complete upon completion of the electronic transmission of
the document" to the system. Minn. Gen. R. Prac.
14.03(e); see also Minn. R. Juv. Prot. P. 31.06
(relying on Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 14.03(e) to define completion
of electronic service). Service made "by U.S. mail is
complete upon mailing, " Minn. R. Juv. Prot. P. 31.06,
but three additional days are added to the 20-day appeal
period when service is completed by mail, see Minn.