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Kentucky Supreme Court Adopts Mailbox Rule Retrospectively

The Supreme Court of Kentucky, in a modified ruling, adopted the “mailbox rule,” allowing notices of appeal in criminal cases to be considered filed when they are placed in the prison’s internal mail system.

Joe B. Jones and Michael Allen Hallum, Kentucky state prisoners, each filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to RCr 11.42. Both motions were denied and Jones and Hallum separately filed notices of appeal and motions to proceed in forma pauperis. The Court of Appeals dismissed the motions because they and the notices of appeal arrived at the court and were filed more than 30 days after entry of the judgment being appealed, in contravention of RCr 12.04(3).

Both men had placed their pleadings in the prison’s internal mail system several days before the 30-day period had expired, but they were not received and filed by the Court of Appeals until after the expiration date had passed. Jones and Hallum appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which consolidated the cases.

While the cases were pending on appeal, the Supreme Court changed RCr 12.04(5) to read, “If an inmate files a notice of appeal in a criminal case, the notice shall be considered filed if its envelope is officially marked as having been deposited in the institution’s internal mail system on or before the last day for filing with sufficient First Class postage prepaid.”

Although the rule change would normally apply only prospectively, the Kentucky Supreme Court held that it should apply retrospectively to cases still pending when the rule was modified. Therefore, the decisions of the Court of Appeals were reversed and the cases returned to the trial courts for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. Jones and Hallum were represented by Frankfort Assistant Public Advocate Brandon Neil Jewell. See: Hallum v. Commonwealth, 347 S.W.3d 55 (Ky. 2011).

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Related legal case

Hallum v. Commonwealth