Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Importance of Timing and Preserving Issues for Appeal

In November 2010 the talk around the high conflict parenting campfire was that the Indiana Court of Appeals in Paternity of CH had granted trial judges the authority to appoint a Level II parenting coordinator over the objection of parents. A reading of the opinion though revealed that Mother’s basis for appeal was her contention that the court lacked authority to appoint the PC without a request by either party. What the mother, Kristy A. Lamm, failed to acknowledge was that the trial court on its own volition suggested PC to the parties and she, contrary to her assertion that she did not agree to the appointment of a parent coordinator, had stated during the hearing, “absolutely . . . that would be great,” when the trial court announced that it was going to appoint a PC.

I was reminded of that when I read the 07 August 2014 opinion in Rippe v Rippe. In that appeal counsel for Appellant Jeanne Rippe, Timothy Logan, challenges three trial court orders. The final of the three addressed the issue of wife’s contempt for failing to disperse about a half million dollars to husband as ordered by the court. Instead of having a hearing Mr. Logan and counsel for husband on the record stipulated that they agreed to proposed findings and conclusions on the outstanding matters, including wife’s contempt finding, which the trial court adopted as its order ver batim.

The Court rightly opined, citing a long held standard, that the issue was waived by Mr. Logan failing to object to the agreement at the trial court level. The opinion states, “To the extent Wife’s arguments challenge the November 2013 order, we note that Wife agreed to the provisions in this order at the November 2013 hearing and did not raise any objections to it. She cannot challenge the agreement for the first time on appeal. See Northern Indiana Public Service Co. v. Sloan, 4 N.E.3d 760, 766 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied. The issues in this order are waived. See Einhorn v. Johnson, 996 N.E.2d 823, 828, n. 4 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013), trans. denied, (finding waiver where a party failed to make an argument to the trial court).”

As to the other two trial court orders, both of which were final appealable orders when issued in 2011 the Court also rightly noted that it lacked jurisdiction because a Notice of Appeal was not filed within 30 days. I take this opportunity to stress the importance of the time limitations in the Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure. Time limits are not discretionary. Failure to file on time in a jurisdictional sense means that the document does not exist. Mr. Logan and all attorneys who file appeals should be aware of these most basic of rules but it is always an ongoing display of incompetence that I see when reading the opinion in Indiana child custody cases.

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