FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT
[NO. 66FCV-15-30] HONORABLE STEPHEN TABOR, JUDGE
Pinnacle Law Firm, PLLC, by: Matthew D. Campbell, for
& Woods, P.L.L.C., by: Colby T. Roe and Wyman R. Wade,
Jr., for appellee.
M. GLOVER, Judge.
Paul Bales appeals from the Sebastian County Circuit
Court's dismissal of his wrongful-termination lawsuit
against the City of Fort Smith (the City). The circuit court
determined that it was without jurisdiction to hear
Bales's case because he had not timely filed his notice
of appeal with the Fort Smith Civil Service Commission
(Commission). In his appeal to our court, Bales contends 1)
the trial court had jurisdiction under Rule 9 of the Arkansas
District Court Rules; 2) Arkansas Code Annotated section
14-51-308 (Repl. 2013) is not jurisdictional; and 3) even if
the filing requirements of section 14-51-308 are
jurisdictional, his notice of appeal to the Commission was in
fact timely because the City had previously conceded its
timely filing and because the Commission's initial
decision and order occurred after the close of business on
November 4, 2014, making November 5 the critical date for
purposes of filing his appeal with the Commission. Finding no
error, we affirm the trial court's dismissal of this case
for lack of jurisdiction.
was fired by the Fort Smith Police Department on October 20,
2014. He appealed his termination to the Commission. Hearings
were held before the Commission on November 3 and 4, 2014.
The termination was affirmed by oral announcement from the
Commission and preparation of an order on November 4, 2014.
states that he sent his notice of appeal to the Commission,
Fort Smith counsel, and the court reporter by mail postmarked
December 4, 2014, and that he e-mailed a courtesy copy to the
Commission chairman and counsel on December 5, 2014, at 5:35
a.m. The Commission's findings of fact, conclusions of
law, and final order are dated December 11, 2014. On January
12, 2015, Bales filed his complaint in circuit court seeking
reinstatement as sergeant with the police department. He
attached, inter alia, to his complaint both his original
notice of appeal to the Commission and an amended notice of
appeal, which he filed after the Commission's December
11, 2014 order had been entered. The Commission transcript
was lodged in the trial court on February 2, 2015.
January 22, 2015, the City filed its first motion to dismiss.
In it, the City contended that Bales had not complied with
Rule 9 in appealing the Commission's decision to circuit
court because neither the complaint (notice of appeal) nor
the lodging of the record had been timely under the rule. The
parties responded to each other's arguments, and on March
10, 2015, the trial court entered its order denying the
City's motion to dismiss, determining that Bales had
timely filed his complaint (notice of appeal) and timely
lodged the Commission record as required by Rule 9.
August 19, 2015, the City filed another motion to dismiss,
this time arguing that the trial court was without
jurisdiction to hear the case because Bales's initial
December 5 notice of appeal to the Commission was not timely.
Bales countered by arguing, in part, that the City had
conceded in various ways the timeliness of his notice of
appeal to the Commission. He further argued that the
requirements for filing a notice of appeal with the
Commission pursuant to section 14-51-308 were not
jurisdictional; rather, it was satisfaction of Rule 9's
requirements that established jurisdiction in circuit court.
On October 19, 2015, the trial court entered an order
concluding that it was without jurisdiction to hear
Bales's case because he did not file his notice of appeal
with the Commission within thirty days of the
Commission's decision as required by section 14-51-308.
This appeal to our court followed.
three points of appeal are interrelated and can best be
discussed together. His basic contention is that the filing
requirements of Arkansas Code Annotated section 14-51-308 are
not jurisdictional; that section 14-51-308 merely embodies
the right to an appeal and the procedure for obtaining a
written ruling and a record from the Commission; and that
Rule 9 then governs the procedure for establishing
jurisdiction in the circuit court. Alternatively, he contends
that even if our court should agree that the failure to
satisfy the filing requirements of section 14-51-308 deprives
a circuit court of exercising jurisdiction over a Commission
case, his notice of appeal was, in fact, timely filed with
the Commission. We disagree.
Rule 9(f) of the Arkansas District Court Rules provides in
RULE 9. APPEALS TO CIRCUIT COURT
. . . .
(f) Administrative ...