Denney v. City of Richland, 050720 WASC, 97494-2

Docket Nº:97494-2
Opinion Judge:MADSEN, J.
Party Name:CHRISTOPHER DENNEY, Petitioner, v. CITY OF RICHLAND, Respondent.
Case Date:May 07, 2020
Court:Supreme Court of Washington




No. 97494-2

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc

May 7, 2020


The RAPs direct a party seeking review of a final judgment to appeal within 30 days, regardless of whether the judgment reserves for future determination an award of attorney fees or costs. RAP 2.2(a)(1), 5.2(a). We are asked whether a summary judgment order resolving all substantive legal claims constitutes a "final judgment" pursuant to RAP 2.2(a)(1). We hold that it does.


Christopher Denney, a firefighter, sued the city of Richland in 2017. He argued that the city violated the Public Records Act, ch. 42.56 RCW, by withholding two investigative complaints Denney made about on-the-job harassment and discrimination.

In 2019, both Denney and the city filed cross motions for summary judgment. After a hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment for the city and denied Denney's motion, finding the requested records were properly exempted from disclosure as attorney work product. The order states, in relevant part: Based on the foregoing IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED:

1. Defendant City of Richland's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED;

2. Plaintiff Mr. Denney's motion for summary judgment is DENIED;

3. All claims and causes of action alleged by plaintiff in this matter are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE; and

[4.] Defendant City of Richland is the prevailing party herein and may present judgment accordingly.

Appellant's Mot. for Discr. Review, App. 6. The order is dated February 12, 2019. The city promptly filed its notice of presentation three days later. On March 14, 2019, the final judgment was entered against Denney, awarding taxable costs to the city for a total judgment of $200. Denney filed his notice of appeal on April 1, 2019, two weeks after the entry of final judgment and more than 30 days after the summary judgment and dismissal order.

Because Denney filed his appeal more than 30 days after the summary judgment order was issued, the Court of Appeals sua sponte set the matter for dismissal as untimely. Denney argued the 30-day limitation ran from the March 14 judgment; alternatively, he asked for an extension of time based on the extraordinary circumstance that the February 12 order was misleading. The Court of Appeals commissioner disagreed. She noted that under RAP 2.2(a)(1), "[t]he language Mr. Denney quotes from the [trial court's] Order was not misleading because it clearly refers to entry of a judgment in favor of the City, as the 'prevailing party.' The requested judgment is for a judgment that awards specific amounts as costs to the City." Id., App. at 3 (ruling terminating review, No. 36720-7-III (May 17, 2019)). The commissioner dismissed Denney's appeal, which Denney then moved to modify. Chief Judge Lawrence-Berry denied the motion in part, upholding the commissioner's ruling dismissing Denney's appeal of the February 12 order and granting the motion as to the appeal of the March 14 final judgment on the "limited scope of the [$200] cost award." Id., App. at 1 (Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Mot. to Modify Comm'r's Ruling, No. 36720-7-III (July 17, 2019)). Denney moved for discretionary review here, which we granted.


To determine the timeliness of Denney's appeal we must interpret our rules of appellate procedure. The interpretation of a court rule presents a question of law that we review de novo. State v. Stump, 185 Wn.2d 454, 458, 374 P.3d 89 (2016) (citing State v. Engel, 166 Wn.2d 572, 576, 210 P.3d 1007 (2009); Jafar v. Webb, 177 Wn.2d 520, 526, 303 P.3d 1042 (2013)). When we interpret a court rule, similar to when we interpret a statute, we strive to determine and carry out the drafter's intent. Dep't of Ecology v. Campbell & Gwinn, LLC, 146 Wn.2d 1, 9-10, 43 P.3d 4 (2002) (citing State v. J.M., 144 Wn.2d 472, 480, 28 P.3d 720 (2001)). We determine that intent by examining the rule's plain language, not in isolation but in context, considering related provisions, and in light of the statutory or rule-making scheme as a whole. State v. Conover, 183 Wn.2d 706, 711, 355 P.3d 1093 (2015) (quoting Ass'n of Wash. Spirits & Wine Distribs. v. Wash. State Liquor Control Bd., 182 Wn.2d 342, 350, 340 P.3d 849 (2015)).

Appealing a final order under the RAPs

RAP 2.2(a)(1) allows a party to appeal a "final judgment entered in any action or proceeding, regardless of whether the judgment reserves for future determination an award of attorney fees or costs." RAP 5.2(a)(1) requires a notice of appeal to be filed no later than "30 days after the entry of the decision of the trial court that the party...

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