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Ohio Rules That Knowledge Of A Judgment Does Not Trigger Time To Appeal

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By Holly Marie Wilson

February 10, 2015

Ohio Rule of Appellate Procedure 4 affords litigants 30-days in which to file a notice of appeal from a trial court judgment. Until recently, there was a split in Ohio’s courts of appeal as to when this 30-day clock began to run. The Ohio Supreme Court recently resolved this conflict when it ruled that, without exception, the 30-day appellate window does not begin to run until (1) the clerk of courts serves all interested parties and attorneys with the decision; and (2) the clerk records notice of service on the docket.

In Clermont Cty. Transp. Improvement Dist. v. Gator Milford, L.L.C., Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-241, the Ohio Supreme Court reviewed an appeal concerning a trial court’s November 27, 2012, denial of a request for attorney fees. The trial court’s bailiff noted on the entry that copies of the court’s decision had been sent by fax, email, or regular mail to the involved parties and their attorneys. The entry did not, however, contain instructions to the clerk of court to serve the entry or note the service of the entry on the court’s docket. 

While the attorneys for the defendant were aware of the ruling, they sent a letter to the trial court requesting that the judge inform the clerk to serve the decision and note it on the docket. This did not happen until January 30, 2013. Four days later, defendant filed a notice of appeal. Plaintiff petitioned to have the appeal dismissed as untimely because it was not filed within 30 days of the November date of judgment. The Twelfth District Court of Appeals agreed and dismissed the appeal as untimely.

In reversing the appellate court, the Ohio Supreme Court explained that actual knowledge of a judgment is not a sufficient substitute for service of notice of the judgment by the clerk of court’s office. The Court noted that “if we open the door to an exception when the parties have actual knowledge of the judgment, we would be forcing the appellate courts into the murky area of deciding whether actual knowledge has been established.” The Court went on to clarify that nothing in the rules permits a bailiff, administrative assistant, law clerk, or any of the trial court judge’s other staff to serve the documents.

Relying upon the need for consistency and clarity in the appellate rules, the Court held that maintaining a strict 30-day time period eliminates any doubt as to when the notice of appeal is due. Specifically, Justice O’Neill, writing for a unanimous Court stated, “The attorneys, the parties, and most importantly the court of appeals know whether the appeal has been filed timely. There is no guessing... The requirement of service by the clerk of courts brings certainty to the appellate process.”

The Court’s holding underscores the need to strictly adhere to the appellate rules when navigating the appellate process. Skilled appellate counsel are trained and experienced in the highly specialized practice of appellate advocacy and best suited to assist in practice before the appellate courts.    

For a copy of this opinion or more information concerning its application, or any other question with respect to any appellate issues, please contact one of Reminger’s Appellate Advocacy Practice Group members listed below. 

This has been prepared for informational purposes only. It does not contain legal advice or legal opinion and should not be relied upon for individual situations. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between the Reader and Reminger. The information in this document is subject to change and the Reader should not rely on the statements in this document without first consulting legal counsel.

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