456 S.E.2d 16 (W.Va. 1995), 22545, James M.B. v. Carolyn M.

Docket Nº:22545.
Citation:456 S.E.2d 16, 193 W.Va. 289
Opinion Judge:CLECKLEY, Justice:
Party Name:JAMES M.B. and Lawrence E.B., Plaintiffs Below, Appellants, v. CAROLYN M. and William M., Defendants Below, Appellees.
Attorney:James M.B., pro se. David R. Karr, Ravenswood, for appellees.
Judge Panel:BROTHERTON, J., did not participate.
Case Date:February 17, 1995
Court:Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
 
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456 S.E.2d 16 (W.Va. 1995)

193 W.Va. 289

JAMES M.B. and Lawrence E.B., Plaintiffs Below, Appellants,

v.

CAROLYN M. and William M., Defendants Below, Appellees.

No. 22545.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

February 17, 1995

Page 17

Submitted Jan. 11, 1995.

Page 18

[193 W.Va. 291] Syllabus by the Court

1. A court of limited appellate jurisdiction is obliged to examine its own power to hear a particular case. This Court's jurisdictional authority is either endowed by the West Virginia Constitution or conferred by the West Virginia Legislature. Therefore, this Court has a responsibility sua sponte to examine the basis of its own jurisdiction.

2. Where neither party to an appeal raises, briefs, or argues a jurisdictional question presented, this Court has the inherent power and duty to determine unilaterally its authority to hear a particular case. Parties cannot confer jurisdiction on this Court directly or indirectly where it is otherwise lacking.

3. Under W.Va.Code, 58-5-1 (1925), appeals only may be taken from final decisions of a circuit court. A case is final only when it terminates the litigation between the parties on the merits of the case and leaves nothing to be done but to enforce by execution what has been determined.

4. Rule 59(e) of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure provides the procedure for a party who seeks to change or revise a judgment entered as a result of a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment.

5. "A motion to amend or alter judgment, even though it is incorrectly denominated as a motion to 'reconsider', 'vacate', 'set aside', or 'reargue' is a Rule 59(e) motion if filed and served within ten days of entry of judgment." Syllabus Point 1, Lieving v. Hadley, 188 W.Va. 197, 423 S.E.2d 600 (1992).

6. "Calling a Rule 59(e) motion a motion to 'reconsider', 'vacate', 'set aside', or 'reargue' is confusing to a trial court, and where such motions are filed within ten days of judgment they should be correctly styled as Rule 59(e) motions to alter or amend judgment." Syllabus Point 2, Lieving v. Hadley, 188 W.Va. 197, 423 S.E.2d 600 (1992).

7. A motion for reconsideration filed within ten days of judgment being entered suspends the finality of the judgment and makes the judgment unripe for appeal. When the time for appeal is so extended, its full length begins to run from the date of entry of the order disposing of the motion.

James M.B., pro se.

David R. Karr, Ravenswood, for appellees.

CLECKLEY, Justice:

This case is brought pro se by the plaintiffs below and appellants herein, James M.B. and Lawrence E.B. 1 The plaintiffs appeal the June 30, 1994, order of the Circuit Court of

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[193 W.Va. 292] Jackson County, which granted a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' action against the defendants below and appellees herein, Carolyn M. and William M. Subsequently, on July 7, 1994, the plaintiffs filed a "motion for reconsideration" with the circuit court. The circuit court did not rule on this motion prior to the plaintiffs' filing a notice of an intent to appeal the June 30, 1994, order to this Court. As a result of the pending motion, we find the petition for appeal was improvidently granted and this appeal must be dismissed.

It is, of course, axiomatic that a court of limited appellate jurisdiction is obliged to examine its own power to hear a particular case. This Court's jurisdictional authority is either endowed by the West Virginia Constitution or conferred by the West Virginia Legislature. Therefore, this Court has a responsibility sua sponte to examine the basis of its own jurisdiction. Louisville & Nashville R.R. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 29 S.Ct. 42, 53 L.Ed. 126 (1908). As occurred in this case, where neither party to an appeal raises, briefs, or argues the jurisdictional question presented, this Court has the inherent power and duty to determine unilaterally its authority to hear a particular case. Parties cannot confer jurisdiction on this Court directly or indirectly where it is otherwise lacking. Thus, it is irrelevant that the parties have not disputed jurisdiction. Accordingly, we address as a threshold matter whether there is an appealable order in this case.

Under W.Va.Code, 58-5-1 (1925), appeals only may be taken from final decisions of a circuit court. Parkway Fuel Service, Inc. v. Pauley, 159 W.Va. 216, 219, 220 S.E.2d 439, 441 (1975) (" W.Va.Code, 58-5-1, permits a party to a controversy to obtain an appeal ... when the matter in controversy exceeds three hundred dollars and a final judgment has been entered." (Emphasis added)). This rule, commonly referred to as the "rule of finality," is designed to prohibit "piecemeal appellate review of trial court decisions which do not terminate the litigation[.]" United States v. Hollywood Motor Car Co., Inc., 458 U.S. 263, 265, 102 S.Ct. 3081, 3082, 73 L.Ed.2d 754, 756 (1982). The requirement of finality has been called " 'an historic characteristic of ... appellate procedure.' " Flanagan v. United States, 465 U.S. 259, 263, 104 S.Ct. 1051, 1053-54, 79 L.Ed.2d 288, 293 (1984), quoting Cobbledick v. United States, 309 U.S. 323, 324, 60 S.Ct. 540, 541, 84 L.Ed. 783, 785 (1940). Pertinent here, a case is final only "when it terminates the litigation between the parties on the merits of the case, and leaves nothing to be done but to enforce by execution what has been determined." St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern R.R. Co. v. Southern Express Co., 108 U.S. 24, 28-29, 2 S.Ct. 6, 8, 27 L.Ed. 638, 639 (1883). 2

With rare exception, the "finality rule" is mandatory and jurisdictional. Thus, to be appealable, an order must be final as discussed above, must fall within a specific class of interlocutory orders which are made appealable by statute or by the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure, 3 or must fall within

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[193 W.Va. 293] a jurisprudential exception. 4 It is manifest that none of the exceptions to the final judgment rule remotely applies in this case; therefore, our discussion will address only whether there is a final appealable order.

In the present...

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