In April 2017, the General Assembly moved primary (i.e., initial) appellate jurisdiction in termination of parental rights appeals from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court.  That change (which went into effect in January 2019) required the appellate courts and Rule 3.1 practitioners to make significant adjustments.

Recently, the General Assembly changed its mind.   For notices of appeal filed on or after July 1, 2021 in these cases, primary appellate jurisdiction has been shifted back to the Court of Appeals.

Interestingly, the legislative change also comes with a new set of reporting requirements for termination of parental rights cases. The Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts must now send an annual report to the General Assembly and the Chief Justice detailing:

  • The date on which and the number of cases in which notice of appeal is properly filed in the trial court;
  • The filing dates for appellate records and final opinions in the Court of Appeals;
  • The dates when the records are transmitted to and final opinion are issued for cases heard in the Supreme Court; and
  • For both Supreme Court and Court of Appeals cases, the average case age measured both from the filing of the notice of appeal and the filing of the appellate record.

Extensions of time in Appellate Rule 3.1 cases have long been disfavored.  Moreover, the appellate courts traditionally have released opinions in these cases relatively quickly.  Does it seem like the General Assembly is seeking to turn up the pressure on Appellate Rule 3.1 practitioners and the courts to resolve these matters even faster? If so, why?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

–Beth Scherer