In an order this term, the Rhode Island Supreme Court held that the Family Court exceeded its authority when it vacated and reissued an order for the sole purpose of permitting a party sufficient time to file an appeal. In re Kyla C., No. 2011-98-Appeal.
In In re Kyla C., over a year after the Family Court had issued a decree terminating the respondent’s parental rights to his daughter, Kyla C., and after the respondent missed the deadline for filing an appeal, the Family Court vacated the termination of parental rights decree and issued a new termination decree to afford the respondent an opportunity to file a timely appeal. Id. at 1.
When the case came before the Supreme Court, the Court issued an order declining to entertain the appeal on the grounds that it was not properly before it. In doing so, the Court recognized that “‘courts of this state lack jurisdiction to vacate and then to re-enter a judgment as a means of extending the time allowed under the applicable statutory limitation for the claiming of an appeal.’” Id. at 2 (quoting Ferranti v. M.A. Gammino Construction Co., 289 A.2d 56, 57 (R.I. 1972)).
In the Court’s opinion, to hold otherwise and “permit a lower court justice to vacate and reenter an order to render an untimely appeal timely ‘would have the effect of enabling a . . . judge to modify and enlarge the applicable statute by judicial fiat. That is clearly beyond his power.’” Id. at 3 (quoting Ferranti, 289 A.2d at 57).