SCOA: Certified Docket Sheet Requirement for District Court Appeal is Jurisdictional

In Duffy v. Little, 2011 Ark. 16, decided on April 14, 2011, a homeowner filed a breach-of-contract action in district court against a contractor over an alleged breach of contract for renovation work.

Following a hearing, the district court awarded the homeowner $5,000.00 plus costs. The judgment was entered on April 17, 2009.

For his appeal of the district court judgment, the contractor on April 16, 2009 filed his notice of appeal and a certified copy of the hearing transcript. The contractor did not file his circuit court complaint until the circuit court’s August 28, 2009 order granting his request to proceed in forma pauperis.

The homeowner then filed a motion to dismiss because the contractor did not comply with the District Court Rule 9 requirement that a complaint be filed within 30 days the district court appeal.

The circuit court did not grant the homeowner’s motion to dismiss. Instead, the circuit court granted a request by the contractor for voluntary dismissal (nonsuit).

On appeal, the Supreme Court of Arkansas held that the contractor’s appeal to circuit court had never been perfected. Rule 9 of the Arkansas District Court Rules states that a party attempting to appeal to circuit court must file “a certified copy of the district court’s docket sheet.”

In this case, the contractor filed a notice of appeal and a certified copy of the district court hearing, but did not file a certified copy of the docket sheet. As such, the appeal to circuit court was not perfected, and the circuit court never acquired jurisdiction.

Since the circuit court lacked jurisdiction, the supreme court also lacked jurisdiction. The appeal was dismissed.

Arkansas Judiciary link (pdf).