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SUPREME COURT OF ALABAMA
OCTOBER TERM, 2007-2008
Ex parte J.C.C.
PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI
TO THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS
(In re: J.C.C.
State of Alabama)
(Jefferson Juvenile Court, JU-05-54163;
Court of Criminal Appeals, CR-05-1672)
J.C.C., a minor, petitioned this Court for the writ of
certiorari to review a decision of the Court of Criminal
The Court of Criminal Appeals held that J.C.C.'s
sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim was not preserved because
the trial court did not enter findings of fact and J.C.C. did
not file a postjudgment motion to preserve his challenge.
This case presents an issue of first impression -- whether a
adjudication may serve as "findings of fact" for purposes of
Rule 52(b), Ala. R. Civ. P.,1 and thereby preserve for appeal
a sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim.
We reverse the judgment
of the Court of Criminal Appeals, and we remand the case.
Facts and Procedural History
In December 2005, Officer J. Jones of the Birmingham
Police Department and another witness observed J.C.C. riding
in the front passenger seat of a stolen automobile.
Officer Jones stopped the vehicle, the driver fled on foot and
was captured and arrested.
J.C.C. remained in the vehicle,
Rule 52(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., exempts a party from the
requirement of making an objection or filing a postjudgment
motion in order to preserve for appeal a sufficiency-of-theevidence claim in a nonjury trial in which specific findings
of fact are made.
was arrested, and was charged, under § 13A-8-16(a), Ala. Code
1975, with receiving stolen property.2
Before trial, the parties filed a stipulation of facts in
the trial court, and no evidence was entered at J.C.C.'s
Based upon the stipulated facts, the
trial court adjudicated J.C.C. delinquent.
the trial court's ruling to the Court of Criminal Appeals,
claiming that the State did not prove a prima facie case of
receiving stolen property.
Specifically, J.C.C. alleged that
the State had failed to prove that J.C.C. had control over the
stolen car in which he had been a passenger.3
Section 13A-8-16(a) provides:
"(a) A person commits the crime of receiving
stolen property if he intentionally receives,
retains or disposes of stolen property knowing that
it has been stolen or having reasonable grounds to
believe it has been stolen, unless the property is
received, retained or disposed of with intent to
restore it to the owner."
In B.B. v. State, 778 So. 2d 258 (Ala. Crim. App. 2000),
the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed B.B.'s adjudication of
delinquency based on a charge of receiving stolen property
after B.B. was arrested for being a passenger in a stolen car.
The Court of Criminal Appeals held that, "[i]n this case, the
appellant was not the sole occupant of the vehicle and there
was no evidence that the appellant exercised any degree of
power or dominion over the automobile." 778 So. 2d at 260.
On June 29, 2007, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed
the trial court's judgment in an unpublished memorandum.
memorandum, authored by Judge Welch, stated that "[b]ecause
the [trial] court did not set forth its own written findings
in support of its judgment, J.C.C. was required to file a
sufficiency of the evidence."
J.C.C. applied for a rehearing
before the Court of Criminal Appeals.
The Court of Criminal
Appeals denied J.C.C.'s application for rehearing but withdrew
its June 29, 2007, unpublished memorandum, and again affirmed
the judgment of the trial court, this time in an unpublished
memorandum issued per curiam.
The substituted memorandum was
identical to the original unpublished memorandum. J.C.C. v.
State (No. CR-05-1672, August 31, 2007), ___ So. 2d ___ (Ala.
Crim. App. 2007).
Judge Welch, the author of the June 29,
2007, memorandum, dissented from the per curiam unpublished
memorandum, stating that J.C.C.'s challenge to the sufficiency
of the evidence had been preserved for review and that the
analysis in B.B. v. State, 778 So. 2d 258 (Ala. Crim. App.
2000), "requires that his conviction be reversed and judgment
We granted certiorari review to determine whether a
"stipulation of facts" operates as "findings of fact" under
the language of Rule 52(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., so as to allow a
juvenile appellant4 to raise the issue of sufficiency of the
evidence on appeal when the juvenile did not object to the
sufficiency of the evidence in the trial court or raise that
issue in a postjudgment motion.
Rule 52(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., provides:
"(b) Upon motion of a party filed not later than
thirty (30) days after judgment or entry of findings
and conclusions the court may amend its findings or
make additional findings or may amend the judgment
accordingly. The motion may be made with a motion
for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59. When findings
of fact are made in actions tried by the court
without a jury, the question of the sufficiency of
the evidence to support the findings may thereafter
be raised whether or not the party raising the
question has made in the court an objection to such
findings or has made a motion to amend them or a
motion for judgment or a motion for a new trial."
Rule 1(A), Ala. R. Juv. P., provides, in pertinent part,
that "[if] no procedure is specifically provided in these
rules or by statute, the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure
shall be applicable to the extent not inconsistent herewith."
Standard of Review
"'"This Court reviews pure questions of law in criminal
cases de novo."'" Ex parte Jett, [Ms. 1060281, July 20, 2007]
___ So. 2d ___, ___ (Ala. 2007) (quoting Ex parte Morrow, 915
So. 2d 539, 541 (Ala. 2004), quoting in turn Ex parte Key, 890
So. 2d 1056, 1059 (Ala. 2003)).
affirmance of his conviction raises a question
impression for this Court.
He frames the issue as "whether a
Stipulation of Facts[,] when no other testimony or evidence is
presented, operates as findings of fact under the language of
Rule 52(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., so as to allow an appellant to
raise the issue of sufficiency of the evidence for the first
time on appeal."
Petition at 2.
The language of Rule 52(b) suggests that the purpose of
the rule is to allow the parties to move the trial court to
"amend its findings or make additional findings or ... amend
The Committee Comments on 1973 Adoption of Rule 52, Ala.
R. Civ. P., further clarify the amendatory purpose of Rule
In this case, it is clear that both J.C.C. and the State
were satisfied with the stipulated facts because neither party
moved, pursuant to Rule 52(b), to amend those facts.
trial court's adjudication of delinquency in connection with
the criminal charges against J.C.C. implies that the trial
court considered the stipulated facts sufficient to support
its conclusion of law.
Therefore, J.C.C. has preserved the
sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim, and the sole issue for
review by the Court of Criminal Appeals is J.C.C.'s claim
"that the State did not prove a prima facie case of receiving
stolen property" because "the State failed to prove that he
had 'control' over the stolen automobile."
The Court of Criminal Appeals rejected J.C.C.'s appeal
and affirmed the trial court's judgment based solely on its
determination that "[b]ecause the court did not set forth its
"Subdivision (b) of Rule 52 seems to provide
adequate safeguards to all parties and to the court
for the amendment of findings after judgment. The
time limit for a motion to accomplish that objective
is 30 days after judgment, which is the time limit
for filing motions for new trial, although motions
for new trial are not prerequisite to appeal if all
grounds for review have already been presented to
the trial court, in a doubtful case it would be good
practice to do so. See 6A Moore's Federal Practice,
¶ 59.14 (2d ed. 1971)."
own written findings in support of its judgment, J.C.C. was
challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. This he did not
Although J.C.C.'s appeal is framed by the Court of
Criminal Appeals as a challenge to the sufficiency of the
evidence to support the trial court's findings of fact, we
note that the parties submitted no evidence; instead, the
parties submitted the case on a stipulation of facts. Because
there was no evidence to be weighed in this case, there was no
need for the trial court to make any findings of fact.
trial court had only to apply the law to the facts as
stipulated by the parties; therefore, J.C.C.'s appeal does not
implicate Rule 52(b) but presents a pure question of law.6
See Ex parte Clemons, [Ms. 1041915, May 4, 2007] ___ So.
2d ___, ___ (Ala. 2007) ("'[W]hen the facts are undisputed and
an appellate court is presented with pure questions of law,
the court's review in a Rule 32[, Ala. R. Crim. P.,]
proceeding is de novo.'" (quoting Ex parte White, 792 So. 2d
1097, 1098 (Ala. 2001)));
Town of Cedar Bluff v. Citizens
Caring for Children, 904 So. 2d 1253, 1255-56 (Ala. 2004)
("'Because no material facts are disputed and this appeal
focuses on the application of the law to the facts, no
presumption of correct[ness] is accorded to the trial court's
judgment. Therefore, we review de novo the application of the
law to the facts of this case.'" (quoting Allstate Ins. Co. v.
Skelton, 675 So. 2d 377, 379 (Ala. 1996))).
We hold that J.C.C.'s appeal to the Court of Criminal
pure question of
law rather than a
challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence; therefore, we
reverse the Court of Criminal Appeals' affirmance, which was
based on J.C.C.'s failure to file a postjudgment motion
challenging the sufficiency of the evidence.
We remand the
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
REVERSED AND REMANDED.
Murdock, JJ., concur.
Cobb, C.J., recuses herself.