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COA: Trial judges can't expand timetable on filing appeal notice

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State trial judges do not have the power to expand the appeal filing timetable outlined by Appellate Rule 9, the Indiana Court of Appeals cautioned today.

In the four-page ruling of Anthony Mark Sewell v. State of Indiana, No. 73A01-1005-CR-194, the three-judge appellate panel dismissed the case after the Indiana Attorney General’s Office filed a cross-appeal requesting dismissal because the appellant’s notice of appeal wasn’t filed in time.

Special Judge Jack Tandy in Shelby Superior Court found Sewell guilty Oct. 19, 2009, of misdemeanor battery and misdemeanor criminal mischief, and on Nov. 17 the trial court received a handwritten letter from Sewell requesting an appeal and notifying the court he “may need” appointed appellate counsel. The trial court appointed an appellate attorney on Dec. 21, and on Jan. 5, 2010, that new attorney filed a notice of appeal. In total, that filing came about 50 days after Sewell’s conviction.

While Sewell is challenging his convictions based on evidence sufficiency, the AG’s Office argued on cross-appeal that Sewell failed to timely file notice of appeal within 30 days of a final judgment as required under Indiana Appellate Rule 9(A)(1). Though Sewell’s handwritten letter met that timetable, it did not comply with the rule requirements that it designate to which court the appeal is sought, direct the clerk to assemble the record or request a transcript, or specify whether this was a final judgment or interlocutory order.

“These significant, substantive deficiencies preclude us from concluding Sewell’s letter to the trial court was sufficient to preserve his right to appeal,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the panel. “Moreover, although the trial court purported to grant Sewell additional time to file a notice of appeal, no provision of the appellate rules permits trial courts to expand the time limit prescribed by Appellate Rule 9. Because the trial court lacked jurisdiction to grant Sewell additional time to file his notice of appeal, the Jan. 5 (2010) notice of appeal filed by Sewell’s appellate counsel was untimely.”

While the appellate court noted that Sewell’s conduct may qualify him to file a petition for permission for a belated notice of appeal under Post-Conviction Rule 2, this current appeal is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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