The Court of Appeals on June 18, 2020, denied and dismissed notice of appeal from a final decree and judgment of divorce in Deloatch v. Deloatch as filed untimely.

Procedurally, the trial court had issued a judgment of absolute divorce settling various claims between Dwight G. Deloatch and his former wife, Robin Sessoms-Deloatch, in May 2015 and had denied motion to vacate the judgment on March 30, 2016. Subsequently in January 2020, Mr. Deloatch filed an appeal from the underlying judgment.

The Court of Appeals issued an order directing him to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed as untimely where it was filed nearly four years after the time permitted by Rules 4(a)(1) & 4(a)(4)(A)(iii).

Specifically the pertinent Rules provide:

Rule 4.

Appeal in a Civil Case.

  • Time for Filing a Notice of Appeal: the notice of appeal in a civil case must be filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court within 30 days after entry of the judgment or order from which the appeal is taken unless a different time is specified by these Rules or the provisions of the District of Columbia Code.

Effect of a Motion on a Notice of Appeal.

If a party timely files in the Superior Court any of the following motions under the rules of the Superior Court, the time to file an appeal runs for all parties from the entry of the order disposing of the last such remaining motion:

  • For judgment as a matter of law;
  • To amend or make additional factual findings, whether or not granting the motion would alter the judgment;
  • To vacate, alter, or amend the order or judgment;

Here the appellant had filed his notice of appeal, which was due 30 days from the date in which the trial court had denied motion to vacate (March 30, 2016), some four years later and in January 2020.  The Court of Appeals made it clear that such long delay would not be excused and Rule 4 must be complied with.

There is however a mechanism to extend time to file a notice of appeal, specifically:

Extension of Time.

The Superior Court may extend the time for filing the notice of appeal if:

  • A party files the notice of appeal no later than 30 days after the time prescribed by Rule 4 (a) expires; and
  • That party shows excusable neglect or good cause.

However, the extension of time motions have to show a very good reason for delay in filing the notice of appeal, must cause no prejudice to the other side, and even then are rarely granted.

It is imperative to strictly abide by the timeline restriction on appeal to preserve appellate rights as often times the trial court decisions may not be legally sufficient or justified necessitating an effective appeal.

Refer to our Washington DC Divorce Lawyer page for more details on this subject matter.

Categories: Family Law.