Concerned Citizens of Se. Polk Sch. Dist. v. City Dev. Bd. of Iowa, 14–1317.

Decision Date11 December 2015
Docket NumberNo. 14–1317.,14–1317.
Parties CONCERNED CITIZENS OF SOUTHEAST POLK SCHOOL DISTRICT and Jessman Smith, Appellants, v. CITY DEVELOPMENT BOARD of the State of Iowa, Appellee, and City of Pleasant Hill, Iowa, Intervenor.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Gary D. Dickey of Dickey & Campbell Law Firm, PLC, Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Matthew Oetker, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

CADY, Chief Justice.

In this appeal, we must decide if the time to file a notice of appeal in an electronically filed case begins on the day the notice of filing is electronically transmitted or the day the court order from which the appeal is taken has been electronically filed. We conclude the notice of appeal from a final judgment or order of the district court must be filed within thirty days of the date the judgment or order was electronically filed, not the date of the notice of filing. We conclude the notice of appeal filed in this case was untimely. Consequently, we have no jurisdiction to consider the case and dismiss the appeal.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Jessman Smith and a citizens group named Concerned Citizens of Southeast Polk School District (collectively referred to as Concerned Citizens) petitioned for judicial review of an agency action in district court. Concerned Citizens sought review of a decision by the City Development Board. The Board approved the annexation of land near Southeast Polk High School by the City of Pleasant Hill. The City annexed the land to pursue the development of an industrial warehouse. The City intervened in the proceedings.

The district court affirmed the Board's decision. It electronically filed a written ruling with the clerk of court through the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) of the Iowa court system on July 11, 2014. An electronic filing stamp was placed on the ruling. The filing stamp read: "E–FILED 2014 JUL 11 2:45 PM POLK–CLERK OF DISTRICT COURT." On July 15, the electronic filing system transmitted a notice of filing. This was done after the clerk of court approved the filing, including the persons or entities designated to receive the notice. The notice was transmitted to the registered user account of each attorney representing the parties, as well as the attorney representing the intervenor. The transmitted notice stated across the top in red letters " * * * * *IMPORTANT NOTICE—READ THIS INFORMATION * * * * * NOTICE OF ELECTRONIC FILING OR PRESENTATION [NEF]." The notice clearly conveyed in a table format the case number, the judge, the official time stamp, the court, case title, what document had been submitted, and a designation of filed by or in behalf of. In this particular case, the notice clearly identified the time of filing: "Official File Stamp: 07–11–2014:14:45:38."

On August 12, Concerned Citizens filed a notice of appeal from the district court decision. It also filed a motion for extension of time to appeal. On August 18, the Board filed a motion to dismiss the appeal as untimely filed. It also filed a resistance to the motion for extension. We denied the motion for extension of time to appeal and ordered the parties brief and submit the motion to dismiss as an issue on appeal.

On appeal, Concerned Citizens claims the annexation was improper because the application was not entitled to a statutory presumption of validity and the Board refused to consider the effects of the proposed land use on the affected area. It also argues the appeal was timely filed because the time to file an appeal from the decision of the district court did not begin to run under the electronic filing process until the notice of filing was transmitted to the parties.

We conclude the appeal was not timely filed. We dismiss the appeal and do not review the other issues raised.

II. Motion to Dismiss Appeal.

When Iowa established its court system over 165 years ago, it created a clerk of court to keep all original papers filed in all court proceedings. See Iowa Code §§ 1560–1561 (1851) (providing all supreme court opinions and dissents must be written and filed with the clerk of court); id. § 1565 (providing each clerk of the supreme court "must keep a complete register of all proceedings of the court"); id. § 1577 (requiring each district court clerk "keep a record of the proceedings of the court"). Today, the clerk of court remains the depository of court records, but the means of transacting business in the courts has changed. See Iowa Code § 602.8104(2) (2013) (specifying the record books the clerk shall keep). In recent years, the Iowa court system has been transitioning into an electronic process in which paper is no longer the medium used to file documents and communications in court proceedings. The electronic transition began in 2009 and was completed statewide in June 2015. Polk County transitioned from paper to electronic transactions in civil cases in February 2013. As a result, all documents in this case have been electronically filed.

The change to electronic transmission of documents in the Iowa court system has been accompanied by new rules to govern the new process. Interim rules pertaining to the use of electronic filing were adopted in January 2007 and have been periodically revised to incorporate recommendations from court users and advisory groups. These interim rules continue to govern the electronic process today and remain the governing rules pending adoption of final rules. Generally, the electronic filing rules sought to continue the court practices that governed paper filing, not to change them. See Interim Iowa Ct. R. 16.308, http://www.iowacourts.gov ("eFiling" tab; then "overview"; then "Chapter 16, Iowa Court Rules") (last visited Dec. 4, 2015) (indicating an electronic filing has the same force and effect as filings time stamped in a nonelectronic manner once it receives an electronic file stamp).

Our rules of appellate procedure require a notice of appeal to "be filed within 30 days after the filing of the final order or judgment."

Iowa R.App. P. 6.101(1)(b ). This rule captures the long-standing practice in Iowa and remains the rule today. Consequently, the period of time to appeal a judgment, order, or decree in Iowa commences on the date it was properly entered with the clerk of court. Lau v. City of Oelwein, 336 N.W.2d 202, 204 (Iowa 1983) (holding the period of appeal from a small claims case "would commence on the date the judgment is made final by being properly entered").

Once a judgment, order, or decree is properly entered with the clerk, our rules have also historically required the clerk to "promptly mail or deliver notice of such entry, or copy thereof, to each party appearing, or to one of the party's attorneys." Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.453. This process is consistent with the concomitant requirement for the clerk to "immediately" serve notice of the entry of an order or judgment upon each unrepresented party and the attorney representing a party, together with a certificate of service. Id. rs. 1.442(6)-(7), .443(2). These rules have worked together to provide prompt notice of the filing of a judgment or order and support the use of the filing date as a firm and clear point to commence the thirty-day period to appeal. Id. r. 1.443(2). Additionally, the rules have sought to ensure that the thirty-day time period would not be shortened by certain events that could occur after the time period commences to run. If the final date of the thirty-day time period lands on a weekend, legal holiday, or any other time when the office of the clerk of court is closed by court order, the deadline extends to include the next day the office is open. Iowa Code § 4.1(34) ; Root v. Toney, 841 N.W.2d 83, 89–90 (Iowa 2013).

The rules governing the " ‘time for appeal are mandatory and jurisdictional.’ " Root, 841 N.W.2d at 87 (quoting In re Marriage of Mantz, 266 N.W.2d 758, 759 (Iowa 1978) ). If a deadline is missed, even by a single day, the court has no jurisdiction to hear the appeal. Mantz, 266 N.W.2d at 759. An appeal taken after the deadline must normally be dismissed. Ahls v. Sherwood/Div. of Harsco Corp., 473 N.W.2d 619, 621 (Iowa 1991). We may extend the time to file a notice of appeal only if the clerk of court failed to notify a party of the filing of the final order or judgment. Iowa R.App. P. 6.101(5).

Concerned Citizens does not argue that the electronic filing rules have changed our venerable appellate rule that begins the time to file an appeal on the day the court ruling is filed. However, the interim rules define the phrase "electronic filing" as "the electronic transmission of a document to the electronic document management system together with the production and transmission of a notice of electronic filing." Interim Iowa Ct. R. 16.201. Similarly, they declare that "[t]he electronic transmission of a document to the electronic document management system consistent with the procedures specified in these rules, together with the production and transmission of a notice of electronic filing constitutes filing of the document." Id. r. 16.307(2).

Concerned Citizens seizes on the meaning of the term "electronic filing" under interim rule 16.201 to support its claim that the appeal in this case was timely because the filing of the court ruling was not complete under the electronic rules until the notice of filing was transmitted. It also relies on rule 16.307(2) pertaining to the acts that constitute the filing of an electronic document. Because the concept of filing now includes the production and transmission of the notice of electronic filing, Concerned Citizens argues that the act of filing a court order under the new electronic filing system only begins with the act of electronically transmitting the document to the EDMS, but filing is not complete until the notice of filing is transmitted. Thus, it asserts that the time period to file an appeal from a court order does not commence until the notice of...

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