938 F.2d 1510 (1st Cir. 1991), 90-1478, Lopez v. Corporacion Azucarera de Puerto Rico

Docket Nº:90-1478.
Citation:938 F.2d 1510
Party Name:Victor LOPEZ, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. CORPORACION AZUCARERA de PUERTO RICO, Defendant, Appellee.
Case Date:July 29, 1991
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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938 F.2d 1510 (1st Cir. 1991)

Victor LOPEZ, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants,



No. 90-1478.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

July 29, 1991

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Blas C. Herrero, Jr. and Elisa A. Fumero Perez, on brief, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Edda Ivette Rodriguez, on brief, for defendant-appellee.

Before CAMPBELL, TORRUELLA and CYR, Circuit Judges.

CYR, Circuit Judge.

Appellants brought an action against Corporacion Azucarera de Puerto Rico ("Azucarera"), a cane sugar producer, to recover overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. Sec. 201 et seq. Appellants ask us to vacate the district court judgment dismissing their action. We affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings.



  1. Appellate Jurisdiction

    The muddled procedural posture of the case requires us to address certain jurisdictional considerations at the outset. See, e.g., Mansfield, Coldwater, & Lake Michigan R. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382, 4 S.Ct. 510, 511, 28 L.Ed. 462 (1884); In re Recticel Foam Corp., 859 F.2d 1000, 1002 (1st Cir.1988). See also Koerpel v. Heckler, 797 F.2d 858, 861 (10th Cir.1986) ("Inasmuch as federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, the court may and, in fact, has an obligation to inquire into its jurisdiction sua sponte.").

    On October 2, 1989, the district court granted partial summary judgment ("first summary judgment") against two of the appellants, Lopez and Pena, on the ground that all their claims were time-barred under the two-year statute of limitations applicable to nonwillful FLSA claims. See 29 U.S.C. Sec. 255(a). 1 At the same time, the district court ruled that FLSA Sec. 13(h), which exempts certain cane sugar producers from paying overtime for work performed during the harvest season, see 29 U.S.C. Sec. 213(h) ("harvest exemption"), rendered the claims of the four remaining appellants unenforceable insofar as their overtime work was alleged to have been performed during the harvest season. 2 The first summary judgment order did not purport to dismiss any of the claims of the four remaining appellants. Moreover, although it purportedly dismissed the claims of Lopez and Pena, the first summary judgment order remained nonappealable. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b), 58. See also Fiore v. Washington County Community Mental Health Center, 936 F.2d 51 (1st Cir.1991); Domegan v. Fair, 859 F.2d 1059, 1061 (1st Cir.1988).

    Azucarera filed a second motion for summary judgment, asserting that the claims

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    of the four other appellants were not actionable by virtue of the harvest exemption. As appellants interposed no opposition, Azucarera's second motion for summary judgment was granted, and final judgment was entered on February 2, 1990, dismissing all claims ("second summary judgment"). On February 16, a motion for relief from judgment was filed by all six appellants "pursuant to Rule 6 and 60(b)." On February 26, while the motion for post judgment relief remained pending, appellants filed a notice of appeal from the second summary judgment. Appellants did not comply with our later order to show cause, 3 and on April 20 we dismissed the first appeal.

    In the meantime, on April 10, the district court had denied the post judgment motion, for failure to satisfy the "due diligence" requirement of rule 60(b)(2) (permitting relief from judgment on the basis of "newly discovered evidence which by due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b)"). 4 On May 1, well beyond the thirty-day appeal period following the entry of the second summary judgment on February 2, see Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(1), 5 appellants filed a second notice of appeal pursuant to the instruction contained in our April 2 order. See supra note 3.

    A motion for relief from judgment under rule 60(b), unlike motions under rules 50(b), 52(b) or 59(b) and (e), see Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(4), does not affect the time for appealing from a final judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) ("A motion under this subdivision (b) does not affect the finality of a judgment or suspend its operation."). See also Echevarria-Gonzalez v. Gonzalez-Chapel, 849 F.2d 24, 26 (1st Cir.1988) ("a motion under Rule[ ] ... 60(b) does not toll the running of the 30-day appeal period.") (citing Browder v. Illinois Department of Corrections, 434 U.S. 257, 263 n. 7, 98 S.Ct. 556, 560, n. 7, 54 L.Ed.2d 521 (1978)). Although appellants' motion, entitled "Motion for Relief From Judgment," represented that it was being filed "pursuant to Rule 6 and 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure," we subscribe to the majority view that "a motion which ask[s] the court to modify its earlier disposition of a case because of an allegedly erroneous legal result is brought under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e)." 6 Appeal of Sun Pipe Line Co., 831 F.2d 22, 24 (1st Cir.1987), cert. denied, 486 U.S. 1055, 108 S.Ct. 2821, 100 L.Ed.2d 922 (1988). See also 9 J. Moore, B. Ward, & J. Lucas, Moore's Federal Practice p 204.12 (2d ed. 1991) ("a motion, although characterized as one under Rule 60(b), which is [served] within 10 days of the entry of judgment and questions the

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    correctness of the judgment, will be considered a functional Rule 59 motion and will postpone the time to appeal until the entry of the order disposing of it.") [hereinafter "Moore's "]; note 4 supra.

    Appellants' post judgment motion resembled a rule 60(b) motion in only one, superficial respect. 7 The substantive indicia emblematic of rule 59 motions plainly predominated; characteristically, the motion directly questioned the correctness of the final judgment. 8 See Rodriguez-Antuna v. Chase Manhattan Bank Corp., 871 F.2d 1, 2 (1st Cir.1989) ("It is settled law in this circuit that a motion which asks the court to modify its earlier disposition of a case solely because of an ostensibly erroneous legal result is brought under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e)"); Silk v. Sandoval, 435 F.2d 1266, 1267-68 (1st Cir.) (relief from error of law is available under rule 59(e)), cert. denied, 402 U.S. 1012, 91 S.Ct. 2189, 29 L.Ed.2d 435 (1971). See also National Metal Finishing Co., Inc. v. BarclaysAmerican/Commercial, Inc., 899 F.2d 119, 124 (1st Cir.1990) ("Thus, under either Rule 52(b) or Rule 59(e), the district court below had the power to amend its findings of fact and conclusions of law even when doing so resulted in the reversal of its initial judgment."). Appellants' supporting memorandum did not cite or rely on any authority construing rule 60(b), nor, with the exception previously noted, see supra note 7 and accompanying text, did it even suggest a ground for relief from judgment under rule 60(b). Compare Echevarria-Gonzalez, 849 F.2d at 26 (post judgment motion brought under rule 60(b) could not be construed as rule 59(e) motion, since it relied, inter alia, on the specific language of rule 60(b) and the cases construing it...

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