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Melvin D. Wood Estate v. Young

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

October 4, 2019

MELVIN D. WOOD ESTATE, MARGARET E. WOOD, ADMINISTRATOR APPELLANT
v.
DONALD E. YOUNG; SANDRA S. YOUNG; AND M.E. WOOD APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM HANCOCK CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE TIMOTHY R. COLEMAN, JUDGE ACTION NO. 16-CI-00022

          BRIEF FOR APPELLANT: Jack D. Wood Louisville, Kentucky

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEES DONALD E. YOUNG AND SANDRA S. YOUNG: Michael A. Fiorella Owensboro, Kentucky NO BRIEF FOR APPELLEE M.E. WOOD

          BEFORE: COMBS, JONES AND L. THOMPSON, JUDGES.

          OPINION

          THOMPSON, L., JUDGE.

         Melvin D. Wood Estate, Margaret E. Wood, Administrator ("Appellant"), appeals from an order of the Hancock Circuit Court setting the amounts which Appellant and another tax lien holder were entitled to recover after the judicial sale of a parcel of real property. Appellant argues that the order was improperly entered by the clerk because it did not contain the judge's handwritten or electronic signature. For the reasons stated below, we find no error and AFFIRM the order on appeal.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On October 25, 2016, the Hancock Circuit Court ordered the judicial sale of a parcel of real property situated in Hancock County, Kentucky. The order reserved for later adjudication the disposition of tax liens and attorney fees. On December 27, 2016, the circuit court confirmed the Master Commissioner's sale of the parcel and ordered the proceeds held for later distribution. Finally, on November 14, 2017, [1] the court entered an order setting forth the amounts Appellant and another party were entitled to recover on their claims. Specifically, the court awarded "MD Wood"[2] [sic] the sum of $1, 083.56[3] on Wood's claim for a tax lien payoff of $8, 149.28.

         On January 23, 2018, Appellant's motion to set aside, alter, or amend the order was heard and denied. The following day, the circuit court entered an order of distribution. This appeal followed.[4]

         Arguments and Analysis

         Appellant now argues that the November 14, 2017 order was improperly signed and entered, and that the Hancock Circuit Court erred in failing to so rule. Appellant directs our attention to Kentucky Supreme Court Amended Order 2015-02[5] addressing administrative rules of the Kentucky Court of Justice Electronic Filing Pilot Project in support of its argument that a judge must affix to electronically filed documents either: 1) a handwritten signature pursuant to Kentucky Rules of Civil Procedure (CR) 58, or 2) an electronic signature. The amended order defines "electronic signature" as "the electronic symbol '/s/ typed name' attached to or logically associated with a document and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the document." S.Ct. Amended Order 2015-02 Section 5(11). Appellant asserts that since the November 14, 2017 order contained neither a handwritten nor electronic signature, it was not a proper order under the civil rules and rules of the Kentucky Supreme Court and therefore could not be entered by the clerk. Appellant goes on to argue that the "eFiling" system did not generate a Notice of Electronic Filing nor a hyperlink as so required, did not contain the mandatory language that the order was electronically filed, and that the clerk erroneously marked "ENTERED" on the order. In sum, Appellant argues that what purports to be a properly-filed order is in fact not an order at all, and that the Hancock Circuit Court erred in failing to so rule.

         Appellees acknowledge that the November 14, 2017 order on appeal was not electronically filed. As there is no controversy on this issue, the sole question for our consideration is whether Judge Coleman's signature, if any, comports with CR 58(1). That rule states,

Before a judgment or order may be entered in a trial court it shall be signed by the judge. The clerk, forthwith upon receipt of the signed judgment or order, shall note it in the civil docket as provided by CR 79.01. The notation shall constitute the entry of the judgment or order, which shall become effective at the time of such notation[.]

CR 58 does not define the word "signed," and until 2013 there was no published Kentucky case law addressing this issue. In that year, a panel of this Court determined that a handwritten signature, faxed from the trial judge to the clerk, was sufficient to allow the clerk to enter the judgment. See McPherson v. Felker, 393 S.W.3d 40, 42 (Ky. App. 2013). The Court also noted the common practice in many Kentucky circuit courts of employing a rubber stamp to recreate the judge's signature. The McPherson Court found stamped signatures to be sufficient to allow for the clerk's entry of the order, so long as the signature was made by someone acting on the court's authority and the order was otherwise "regular on its face." Id. Such signatures, said the Court, are presumed to be valid. Id. The Court also noted that stamped and ...


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