In re the Marriage of DAWN E. and PAUL E. MOSLEY.

The Fourth California Appellate District determined, December 10, 2010, that the 180-day time limit to appeal a Judgment or appealable order (per California Rules of Court 8.104(d)(3)) is measured from the date an order is filed in a publicly-accessible location, which is not necessarily the date it is file-stamped by a Court.

This decision was part of the Appellate Court’s denial of a motion to dismiss the appeal of an order of an Orange County Superior Court. The order had been file-stamped April 1, 2010 but was not entered into the Court’s computerized case management system until September 10, 2010. In fact, the Court had lost the order and did not relocate it until August 20, 2010.

The party, who ultimately appealed the order, made phone calls to the Court in June and July 2010 inquiring as to the status of the order. Both times, she was told that orders had been filed. On July 21, 2010, she went to the Courthouse to speak to a clerk in person. The clerk conceded that the order appeared to be lost, and she suggested that both sides resubmit all of their paperwork for review and a new order. Both sides complied, but by then the order had been found and was subsequently sent out to the opposing party, who received it on September 13, 2010. He then mailed it to the soon-to-be appellant on September 18.

The appealing party filed her appeal on October 1, 2010, and on October 19, the appellate Court indicated that it was considering dismissing her appeal as it had been filed 13 days outside the 180-day time limit. The appealing party filed a brief letter addressing the timeliness of her appeal along with a sworn declaration describing her efforts to ascertain the status of the Court’s order. A Superior Court supervisor chimed in with a declaration confirming that the order had been misplaced and that conformed copies had not been timely provided.

The Court determined that, for the purposes of establishing when the 180-day appeal clock starts, “a judgment or an appealable order is presumptively filed on the file-stamped date. This presumption, however, may be rebutted by evidence that the order was not accessible to the public in either paper or electronic form, and was not sealed by court order, or made confidential by law.” This construction was necessary, the Court stated, to preserve the constitutional right of appeal as, otherwise, trial courts would be able to shield judgments from appellate review by holding them in pectore until the 180-day appeal limit had run its course.

The appellate Court noted that its decision should not be broadly interpreted to determine when a document’s filing date for any other purpose. Its decision only applies to the 180-day time limit for appealing Judgments and orders.

Full transcript of the Court’s decision can be found here.