There’s No “E” Before “Mails” When it Comes to Triggering the Deadline to Appeal

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Modern communication and the California Rules of Court collide in Citizens for Civic Accountability v. Town of Danville, case no. A121899 (1st Dist. Oct. 27, 2008), and the winner is . . . the rules! At issue: whether the e-mailing of a notice that a judgment has been filed, with a link to access a copy of the judgment, triggers the deadline to appeal under rule 8.104(a), California Rules of Court, which provides that a 60-day deadline to appeal is triggered when the clerk “mails” a notice of entry of judgment or a file-stamped copy of the judgment.

The trial court designated the case complex litigation and ordered compliance with the court’s Electronic Case Filing Standing Order, which provided that orders filed by the court would be served electronically only, either by e-mail or through an electronic filing service provider (in this case, LexisNexis File & Serve). The order granting in part and denying in part the petition for writ of mandate was served as follows:

On April 1, 2008, LexisNexis File & Serve sent the parties a message by electronic transmission (an e-mail) stating, “You are being served documents that have been electronically submitted in [Citizens for Public Accountability v. Town of Danville] through LexisNexis File & Serve.” The e-mail identified the document as a Judgment on Petition for Writ of Mandate, and stated that it had been authorized for filing on April 1, 2008. To view the document, the parties had to visit a LexisNexis File & Serve website, sign in, and open a document file. The document so accessed bore an “electronically filed” file stamp dated April 1, 2008.

Respondents moved to dismiss the appeal on the ground that the notice of appeal was filed more than 60 days after that electronic service. The court of appeal denies he motion, holding that “the 60-day appeal period in California Rules of Court, rule 8.104(a)(1) is triggered only by the mailing of a judgment by the US Postal Service.” (Emphasis added.) Keys to this conclusion: resolution of ambiguities in the rules should be construed to preserve the right to appeal, statutory distinctions between mailing and other forms of service indicate that “mail” means the U.S. Postal Service.