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CHALLENGE TO UNTIMELY MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL IN JUVENILE COURT - UNTIMELY MANDAMUS PETITION WHERE PETITION CHALLENGES TRIAL COURT'S SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION: EX PARTE MADISON DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES

Ex parte Madison Department of Human Resources, [Ms. 2160883 and 2160884, Nov. 17, 2017] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2017). This unanimous decision by Judge Donaldson (Thompson, P.J., and Pittman, Thomas and Moore, JJ., concur) vacates the juvenile court’s orders granting new trials in consolidated actions to terminate the father’s parental rights. The father filed motions for new trial more than 14 days after the orders terminating his parental rights were entered. Ms. *3. The father did not invoke Rule 60 or contend that the orders were void.

The court noted that while § 12-22-10 provides for an appeal “‘from an order granting or refusing a motion for a new trial by the circuit court,’ this court has held that § 12-22-10 is inapplicable to juvenile-court orders granting a new trial.” Ms. *5.

The court held that the proper method for challenging an order granting a new trial by a juvenile court is by filing a petition for the writ of mandamus. Accordingly, the court treated DHR’s notices of appeal as petitions for writs of mandamus. Ms. *6. The court then noted that DHR’s petitions were filed outside the presumptively reasonable time and that no statement of good cause was included in the petition as required by Rule 21(a)(3), Ala. R. App. P. Ms. *7. The court further noted that DHR’s post-judgment motions in the juvenile court did not toll the presumptively reasonable time for DHR to file a petition for writ of mandamus. Ms. *7, citing Ex parte Troutman Sanders, LLP, 866 So. 2d 547, 549-50 (Ala. 2003).

Even though DHR’s petitions for writs of mandamus challenging the orders granting a new trial were untimely, the court considered the merits of the petitions because DHR challenged the juvenile court’s subject matter jurisdiction to grant motions for new trial filed more than 14 days after the juvenile court’s order terminating the father’s parental rights. Ms. *7-8.

Because the father’s motions for new trial were filed beyond the 14-day jurisdictional time limit for the filing of a motion for new trial in juvenile court, the court granted DHR’s petitions for writs of mandamus and directed the juvenile court to vacate its orders granting new trials entered without jurisdiction. Ms. *10.

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