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For want of a file stamp

The case of a Forsyth County man who has been fighting a clerk of court’s ruling that his sister is incompetent turned on a bit of irony in the Court of Appeals: The clerk who declared the sister incompetent forgot to have the order stamped.

In 2007, assistant clerk of court Theresa Hinshaw declared Mary Ellen Brannon Thompson incompetent and appointed a guardian for her. The guardian has since filed bankruptcy on behalf of Thompson’s estate.

Thompson’s brother, Calvin Brannon, has been fighting the incompetency determination since at least 2009. Last week, Brannon prevailed when the Court of Appeals found that Hinshaw had written the order and dated it, but the document had no stamp anywhere on it and nothing that indicated a filing date.

Brannon first appealed to the Forsyth County superior court clerk, who ruled that Brannon had waited too long to file his appeal. But the appeals court held that the clock didn’t start ticking on the time to file an appeal until the order was stamped.

Appeals Court Judge Rick Elmore also agreed with the appellant that an oral ruling announced in open court is “not enforceable until it is entered” and that the trial court was in error when it declared the ruling the law of the case.


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