Wednesday, January 04, 2006

S.C. Supreme Court issues opinion on timeliness of an appeal

In Upchurch v. Upchurch, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals on the issue of when an appeal is timely filed. At issue was a family court order signed on May 30, 2002. The following day, the court's administrative assistant mailed the original signed order to the clerk of court with a letter requesting that the clerk file the order and send certified copies to the attorneys of record. This letter, including copies of the signed order, was carbon copied to both attorneys of record. The order was not filed until June 12, 2002. Wife did not receive service of the filed order until August 23, 2002, and on September 11, 2002, Wife appealed.

The Court of Appeals held that the appeal was untimely. The time to appeal starts to tick once a party receives written notice of the entry of the order. The court of appeals thought that the May 31 letter was notice, but the supreme court disagreed. According to the court:

we hold that the time to file a notice of appeal pursuant to Rule 203(b), SCACR, begins to run when written notice that the order has been entered into the record by the clerk of court has been received. Therefore, the May 31st letter from the judge's assistant was not notice of entry of judgment; the very language of the letter indicated that the order had not yet been filed. Accordingly, the court of appeals erred in dismissing the appeal as untimely.

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