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Notice of Judgment Must Be Received By U.S. Mail

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - In the age of electronic filing, a notice of judgment must still arrive through the U.S. Postal Service in order to trigger a 60-day appeal period, a California appeals court ruled.

The Contra Costa Superior Court had mandated electronic filing and service in a residential development dispute between the Citizens for Civic Accountability and the town of Danville.

The court clerk e-mailed the parties a notice of judgment that directed them to a LexisNexis Web site, where they could sign in and open an electronic copy of the file-stamped judgment.

When the citizens group appealed the judgment two months later, Danville moved to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that the group failed to file a notice of appeal within 60 days of receiving the clerk's e-mail.

Justice Dondero held that the clerk's e-mail failed to trigger the appeal deadline, because the phrase "by mail" in civil procedural codes refers to postal delivery.

"To allow a clerk's e-mail to trigger the appeal period ... would create a trap for the unwary," Dondero wrote. "The right to appeal could too easily be forfeited due to a lack of clarity in what acts trigger the time to appeal."

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