801 F.2d 1014 (8th Cir. 1986), 85-2312, McKee v. Bi-State Development Agency

Docket Nº:85-2312.
Citation:801 F.2d 1014
Party Name:, 8 Fed.R.Serv.3d 811 Birdie C. McKEE, Appellant, v. BI-STATE DEVELOPMENT AGENCY, Board of Commissioners, Bi-State Development Agency, Appellees.
Case Date:September 22, 1986
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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801 F.2d 1014 (8th Cir. 1986)

, 8 Fed.R.Serv.3d 811

Birdie C. McKEE, Appellant,


BI-STATE DEVELOPMENT AGENCY, Board of Commissioners,

Bi-State Development Agency, Appellees.

No. 85-2312.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 22, 1986

Submitted June 12, 1986.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Michael J. Hoare, St. Louis, Mo., for appellant.

Alif A. Williams, St. Louis, Mo., for appellees.

Before ROSS, McMILLIAN and BOWMAN, Circuit Judges.

McMILLIAN, Circuit Judge.

Birdie C. McKee appeals from a final order entered in the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri denying her Title VII claim, her motion for related attorney's fees, and her liquidated damages claim. The district court entered judgment against McKee on the Title VII claim and the claim for liquidated damages after the jury awarded her five thousand dollars in compensatory damages on an Equal Pay Act claim. For reversal, McKee argues the district court erred in (1) dismissing the Title VII claim after the jury returned a verdict in her favor on the Equal Pay Act claim, (2) denying her liquidated damages on the Equal Pay Act claim, and (3) reducing the attorney's fees award. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the district court, and remand with directions.

Birdie McKee is a female employee of respondent Bi-State Development Agency (Bi-State). McKee was employed by Bi-State as a research assistant from 1975 until June 1981, at which time she was informed that she would be laid off from employment. When she learned of the lay-off, McKee filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging sex discrimination. Thereafter, Bi-State hired her as a maintenance supervisor.

In 1985 McKee brought the current action alleging Bi-State had discriminated against her because of her sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e et seq., the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 206(d)(1), and 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. She dismissed the Sec. 1983 claim before the June 1985 trial.

McKee's evidence at trial established that her male counterpart was paid a total of $15,690.00 more than she was paid in the four-year period during which they performed equal duties as employees of Bi-State. The Equal Pay Act claim was tried to a jury, who returned a verdict of $5,000.00 for McKee. The Title VII claim was tried to the district court on the same evidence and was rejected. The district court concluded that Bi-State had provided a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the pay difference (the male employee's ability to supervise mechanical workers) and that McKee had not suffered discriminatory treatment. McKee v. Bi-State Development Agency, No. 84-1234C(3), slip op. at 7-9 (E.D.Mo. June 19, 1985) (memorandum opinion). The district court also rejected McKee's claim for liquidated damages under the Equal Pay Act, reasoning that Bi-State had acted in good faith. Id. at 9. In September 1985 the district court granted McKee's timely request for attorney's fees in the amount of $16,652.00, reducing the amount requested to allow only the fees for the Equal Pay Act claim on which she had prevailed. Id., slip op. at 2-6 (Sept. 30, 1985) (order).

On October 25, 1985, McKee filed a notice of appeal from the order denying her Title VII and liquidated damages claims and the order granting her reduced attorney's fees. Bi-State filed a motion to dismiss for an untimely notice of appeal.

Before reaching the merits of the case, we must first consider Bi-State's motion to dismiss for failure to file a timely notice of appeal. The primary issue, the parties agree, is whether this court has jurisdiction to review the June 19, 1985, order on the merits. Relying on Obin v. District No. 9, International Ass'n of Machinists, 651 F.2d 574 (8th Cir.1981) (Obin ), Bi-State argues that the time for appeal from a judgment on the merits runs from the date that the judgment is entered. Because McKee's notice of appeal was filed more than thirty days after the judgment on the merits, Bi-State contends this court lacks jurisdiction over the June 19 order pursuant to Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(1). McKee argues that

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by virtue of E.D.Mo.R. 30 (Rule 30), the June 19 judgment was not final and appealable until the attorney's fees order was entered on September 30, 1985. 1 We ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefs on the issue of whether Rule 30 is valid in light of White v. New Hampshire Department of Employment Security, 455 U.S. 445, 102 S.Ct. 1162, 71 L.Ed.2d 325 (1982) (White), Obin, and Gates v. Central States Teamsters Pension Fund, 788 F.2d 1341 (8th Cir.1986) (Gates ).

Rule 30 was adopted after, and evidently in response to, the Obin decision. In Obin, this court held that "a motion for assessment of attorney's fees raises a collateral and independent claim and, accordingly, [will] not be governed by the ten-day limitation prescribed in [Fed.R.Civ.P.] 59(e) for motions to alter or amend a judgment." 651 F.2d at 575. Obin also states that a post-judgment motion for attorney's fees does not toll the time from which appeals must be taken from a final judgment on the merits. Id. at 584. See also Gates, 788 F.2d at 1342 n. 2 (district court order dismissing complaint is final and appealable even though amount of attorney's fees and costs to be awarded to defendant as a sanction against plaintiff are not yet determined). This court was concerned in Obin that its decision in the case might result in piecemeal appeals and suggested two courses of action to avoid the problem. First, it was suggested the district courts could delay entry of judgment on the merits pending determination of attorney's fees claims. 651 F.2d at 583. Second, it was suggested the district courts could adopt a uniform rule requiring a claim for attorney's fees be filed within twenty-one days after the entry of judgment and then promptly decide these claims. 2 Id.

Rule 30 incorporates part of our second suggestion in Obin that local rules be adopted to establish time limits for the filing of post-judgment claims for attorney's fees. Rule 30 conflicts with Obin, however, because Rule 30 provides that a timely post-judgment motion for attorney's fees makes the decision on the merits not final. McKee argues that the effect of Rule 30 is only to delay entry of judgment, as mentioned in Obin, but we are not persuaded by this interpretation. Rule 30 explicitly attempts to render a judgment actually entered not final.

District courts are empowered to prescribe rules that are consistent with Congressional Acts and with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2071; Fed.R.Civ.P. 83. Because Rule 30 is inconsistent with the construction of 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1291 set forth by this court in Obin, and treats orders that are final under the statute as nonfinal, it is invalid. To the extent that the finality provision of Rule 30 is an attempt to define final orders, it also constitutes an attempt to regulate this court's jurisdiction. We hold invalid that portion of Rule 30 that makes orders on the merits not final pending determination

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of post-judgment motions for attorney's fees.

We must next decide whether we should permit McKee's appeal to go forward, even though it was untimely filed, because McKee reasonably relied on the invalid rule in not filing a timely appeal. McKee argues she reasonably relied upon Rule 30 and, therefore, should be excused pursuant to the "unique...

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