Keep Appealing Orders Denying Post-Conviction Motions on Jurisdictional Grounds

People v. Picklesimer, case no. C056385 (3d Dist. July 2, 2008) reminds me of one of those time travel conundrums.  You know, the ones that go something like (to pick a grisly example), “If you go back in time and kill your mother before she even gets pregnant with you, how can you ever exist so that you can go back in time and kill her?”

In Picklesimer, the court of appeal dismisses an appeal because the appeal is taken from an order denying the defendant’s post-conviction motion for relief from the sex offender registration requirements, which the trial court denied on the ground that it lacked jurisdiction to grant the requested relief.  The court of appeal agrees that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because the motion was not made until after the judgment of conviction became final on the prior appeal from the judgment, and thus the appeal must be dismissed because the order did not affect the defendant’s substantial rights.

A criminal defendant may appeal from “any order made after judgment, affecting the substantial rights of the party.” (§ 1237, subd. (b).) Because the trial court lacked jurisdiction to grant the relief requested by defendant, the order denying defendant’s motion did not affect his substantial rights and was not appealable. (See People v. Chlad (1992) 6 Cal.App.4th 1719, 1725-1726 [because trial court lacked jurisdiction to modify sentence, order denying motion to modify was not an appealable postjudgment order].) The appeal must be dismissed.

It seems to me that this effectively makes appealability dependent on the outcome of the appeal.  The court of appeal’s reasoning suggests that had defendant prevailed on appeal by showing that the trial court had jurisdiction to entertain his motion — or even if he had lost on substantive grounds following a determination that jurisdiction existed — the order would have been appealable.

Thus, I think it would be a grave mistake for defense counsel to read Picklesimer to prohibit appeals from orders denying post-conviction motions on jurisdictional grounds.  The way I read it, appeal is only prohibited if the trial court was correct about its lack of jurisdiction.  And the only way you’ll find that out for sure is if you . . . appeal.