August 26, 2016
In an opinion issued yesterday, the Kentucky Supreme Court takes a hard line regarding the substantial-compliance doctrine as applied to a notice of appeal. The opinion holds that a notice of appeal that lists only an order denying a recusal motion, and not listing the final judgment issued less than a month later, does not substantially comply with Kentucky's civil rules and deprives the appellate courts of jurisdiction. Cassetty v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 2014-SC-716. The Court explains that, under the substantial-compliance doctrine, dismissal of an appeal is not appropriate if "the judgment appealed from can be ascertained within reasonable certainty from a complete review of the record on appeal and no substantial harm or prejudice has resulted to the opponent." Even though both requirements were met in this case, the Court notes that the final judgment was ascertainable only because of a "quirk in the timing," whereby the recusal motion came late in the case. More often, a recusal motion comes early in a case. Thus, the Court holds that listing a clearly interlocutory order, such as the order denying recusal here, instead of the final judgment, is "simply no compliance at all."