William Mitchell Law Review

Publication Information

30 William Mitchell Law Review 647 (2003-2004)


Recently, in the case of In re Welfare of J.R., Jr., a proceeding involving the termination of a mother's parental rights, the Minnesota Supreme Court was faced with the issue of whether to affirm a court of appeals order dismissing the mother's appeal for failure to timely serve notice on the child's guardian ad litem, or to excuse the delay under an analysis similar to that required when a party seeks relief from a final judgment or order under Minnesota Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 (“Rule 60.02”). The appellant argued that in cases involving the termination of parental rights, a technical violation of the rules should not prevent the appeal from proceeding. However, the court refused to apply a Rule 60.02 type analysis and chose not to exercise its inherent power to hear an untimely appeal in the interests of justice. Basing its decision largely on the policy that child protection cases need to be handled expeditiously, the court held that an untimely appeal deprives the appellate court of jurisdiction and affirmed the court of appeals order. Part II of this note explores the primary legal concepts raised in J.R.: the application of a Rule 60.02 analysis, the effect that an untimely appeal has on jurisdiction of Minnesota appellate courts, and extensions for time to appeal under the federal rules. Part III reviews the pertinent facts of J.R. as well as the court's holding and stated policy for reaching that decision. Part IV analyzes the court's decision and current precedent from other jurisdictions that may provide insight and guidance. It also examines the policy behind J.R. and provides a context in which the effectiveness of that policy should be judged. Finally, this note suggests that in the case of J.R., the Minnesota Supreme Court should have recognized that in some civil cases, such as those involving termination of parental rights, the accepted civil remedy of allowing clients to recover for the failure of counsel through a malpractice suit is inadequate. The court should have used an excusable neglect analysis rather than a Rule 60.02 analysis to examine the reason for the attorney's failure to file a timely appeal. Upon satisfaction of the excusable neglect analysis, the court should have exercised its constitutional power to hear a late appeal in the interests of justice.

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