Rule 20: Filing and Service of Papers.



(a) Filing.  Papers required or permitted to be filed in the appellate court shall be filed with the clerk. Filing shall not be timely unless the papers are received by the clerk within the time fixed for filing or mailed to the office of the clerk by certified return receipt mail or registered return receipt mail within the time fixed for filing. Filing will also be timely if placed for delivery with computer tracking, either through a commercial delivery service or the United States Postal Service, within the time fixed for filing.  Official drop boxes for filing of papers shall be located at the Supreme Court Buildings in Knoxville, Nashville, and Jackson and shall be maintained by agents of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts. These boxes shall be opened at the beginning of each business day. Papers found therein will be deemed filed on the last business day preceding opening of the box.

(b) Service of All Papers Required.  Copies of all papers filed by any party shall, at or before time of filing, be served by a party or person acting for that party on all other parties to the appeal or proceeding. Service on a party represented by counsel shall be made on counsel.

(c) Manner of Service.  Service may be personal or by mail. Personal service includes delivery of the copy to a clerk or other responsible person at the office of counsel or, if a party is not represented by counsel, by leaving it at the party's residence with some person of the family of the age of ten years or upwards. Service by mail is complete on mailing.

(d) Several Parties Represented by the Same Counsel; Multiple Counsel.  If one counsel appeals for several parties, the counsel is entitled to only one copy of any paper served upon him or her by any other party. If more than one counsel appeals for a party, service upon one of them is sufficient.

(e) Proof of Service.  Papers presented for filing shall contain an acknowledgment of service by the person served or proof of service in the form of a statement of the date and manner of service and the names of the persons served, certified by the person who made service. Proof of service may appear on or be affixed to the papers filed. The clerk may permit papers to be filed without acknowledgment or proof of service but shall require such to be filed promptly thereafter.

(f) Number of Copies for Court Sitting in Sections.  Whenever these rules require copies for each judge of the appellate court and the appellate court sits in sections, copies are required only for each judge of the section.

(g) Filing by Pro Se Litigant Incarcerated in Correctional Facility.  If papers required or permitted to be filed pursuant to the rules of appellate procedure are prepared by or on behalf of a pro se litigant incarcerated in a correctional facility and are not received by the clerk of the court until after the time fixed for filing, filing shall be timely if the papers were delivered to the appropriate individual at the correctional facility within the time fixed for filing. This provision shall also apply to service of papers by such litigants pursuant to the rules of appellate procedure. “Correctional facility” shall include a prison, jail, county workhouse or similar institution in which the pro se litigant is incarcerated. Should timeliness of filing or service become an issue, the burden is on the pro se litigant to establish compliance with this provision.

[As amended by orders entered January 31, 1984, effective August 15, 1984, January 25, 1991, effective July 1, 1991, and January 28, 1993, effective July 1, 1993, January 28, 2000, effective July 1, 2000, and by order filed January 31, 2002, effective July 1, 2002.]

Advisory Commission Comments.

It is commonplace to require service of all papers filed with the clerk. Rules of some other jurisdictions provide for the service of papers only on "adverse" parties. In view of the simplicity of service by mail, and the difficulty in some circumstances of determining who is an "adverse" party, there seems to be no good reason why a party who files a paper should not be required to serve all other parties to the proceeding in the appellate court. The common requirement of proof of service is retained, but the rule permits it to be made by certification, which may be endorsed on the copy that is filed.

Whenever these rules require a copy for each judge of the appellate court, and the appellate court sits in sections, a party is required to furnish copies only for each judge of the section. Thus, for example, appeals to the intermediate court of appeals will generally require the filing of only four copies of a brief, one for the clerk and one for each judge of the section.

Advisory Commission Comments [2000].

Pro se litigants who are incarcerated in correctional facilities cannot ensure the timely mailing for their mail and, as a consequence, cannot control the timely filing of their legal papers. This amendment deletes the previous pro se prisoner-filing provision contained in Rule 20(a) and substitutes a clarified provision in the new Rule 20(g). The pro se prisoner-filing provision covers all "papers required or permitted to be filed pursuant to the rules of appellate procedure," including notices of appeal.

Advisory Commission Comments [2002].

Two changes are made to subdivision (a). Commercial delivery services are approved for transmitting filings, assuming computer tracking capacity. Also, official drop boxes can be utilized at the three Supreme Court Buildings.

Advisory Commission Comment [2021].

Subdivision (a) is amended to clarify that, as with commercial delivery services, filing is timely if placed for delivery with computer tracking with the United States Postal Service within the time fixed for filing.

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