James M.B. v. Carolyn M., No. 22545

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtCLECKLEY; BROTHERTON; FOX
Citation456 S.E.2d 16,193 W.Va. 289
PartiesJAMES M.B. and Lawrence E.B., Plaintiffs Below, Appellants, v. CAROLYN M. and William M., Defendants Below, Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 22545
Decision Date17 February 1995

Page 16

456 S.E.2d 16
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.
Submitted Jan. 11, 1995.
Decided Feb. 17, 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

Page 19

[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

Page 20

[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 case, the circuit court granted the defendants' pretrial motion to dismiss and entered an order to that effect on June 30, 1994. Rather than take an immediate appeal, the plaintiffs, within ten days of the circuit court's order, filed a "motion for reconsideration." 5 We now must determine what effect, if any, does the filing of a "motion to reconsider" have on a party's right to appeal and the jurisdiction of this Court to entertain such an appeal prior to the circuit court's ruling on this motion. 6

The West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure authorize several post-trial or post-judgment motions. They are: a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (j.n.o.v.) under Rule 50(b); a motion to amend the findings on which a judgment is based where a case is tried to a judge without a jury under Rule 52(b) or a motion to amend or alter a judgment under Rule 59(e); and a motion for a new trial under Rule 59(a) and (b). By their plain terms, the motion for a new trial and the motion for j.n.o.v. apply only to jury trials; thus, they are not applicable to this case. In cases tried to a judge without a jury, a motion similar to a motion for a new trial may be used to set aside or revise the judgment. Therefore, Rule 59(e) 7 is applicable to situations where a party seeks to alter, amend, or revise a judgment that was entered as a result of a pretrial motion. 8 More specifically, Rule 59(e) provides

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[193 W.Va. 294] 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.

Although a "motion to reconsider" is nowhere explicitly authorized in the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure, it has been said to be a legitimate procedural device. 9 In the present case, the "motion to reconsider" was filed within the ten-day period...

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108 practice notes
  • W. Va. State Police v. J.H., No. 19-0741
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 29, 2021
    ...of the case and leaves nothing to be done but to enforce by execution what has been determined.Syl. pt. 3, James M.B. v. Carolyn M. , 193 W. Va. 289, 456 S.E.2d 16 (1995). Nevertheless, there are exceptions to this general rule. For example, in Syllabus point 1 of West Virginia Board of Edu......
  • State ex rel. Clark v. Blue Cross Blue Shield, No. 24625-24627.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 4, 1998
    ...of the case and leaves nothing to be done but to enforce by execution what has been determined. Syl. pt. 3, James M.B. v. Carolyn M., 193 W.Va. 289, 456 S.E.2d 16 (1995) (footnote added). We have further explained The purpose of the "rule of finality," as it is known, is "to ......
  • C & O Motors, Inc. v. West Virginia Paving, No. 34330.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • May 13, 2009
    ...confer jurisdiction on this Court directly or indirectly where it is otherwise lacking." Syllabus point 2, James M.B. v. Carolyn M., 193 W.Va. 289, 456 S.E.2d 16 2. "Under W. Va.Code, 58-5-1 [1998], appeals only may be taken from final decisions of a circuit court. A case is final......
  • Hutchison v. City of Huntington, No. 23332
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 15, 1996
    ...doctrine. See Gooch v. W. Va. Dept. of Public Safety, 195 W.Va. 357, 363 n. 7, 465 S.E.2d 628, 634 n. 7 (1995); James M.B. v. Carolyn M., 193 W.Va. 289, 293 n. 4, 456 S.E.2d 16, 20 n. 4 (1995). Interlocutory appeals must remain the exception, not the rule. Even under federal law, appeals fr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
108 cases
  • W. Va. State Police v. J.H., No. 19-0741
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 29, 2021
    ...of the case and leaves nothing to be done but to enforce by execution what has been determined.Syl. pt. 3, James M.B. v. Carolyn M. , 193 W. Va. 289, 456 S.E.2d 16 (1995). Nevertheless, there are exceptions to this general rule. For example, in Syllabus point 1 of West Virginia Board of Edu......
  • State ex rel. Clark v. Blue Cross Blue Shield, No. 24625-24627.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 4, 1998
    ...of the case and leaves nothing to be done but to enforce by execution what has been determined. Syl. pt. 3, James M.B. v. Carolyn M., 193 W.Va. 289, 456 S.E.2d 16 (1995) (footnote added). We have further explained The purpose of the "rule of finality," as it is known, is "to prohibit `piece......
  • C & O Motors, Inc. v. West Virginia Paving, No. 34330.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • May 13, 2009
    ...confer jurisdiction on this Court directly or indirectly where it is otherwise lacking." Syllabus point 2, James M.B. v. Carolyn M., 193 W.Va. 289, 456 S.E.2d 16 2. "Under W. Va.Code, 58-5-1 [1998], appeals only may be taken from final decisions of a circuit court. A case is final only when......
  • Hutchison v. City of Huntington, No. 23332
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 15, 1996
    ...doctrine. See Gooch v. W. Va. Dept. of Public Safety, 195 W.Va. 357, 363 n. 7, 465 S.E.2d 628, 634 n. 7 (1995); James M.B. v. Carolyn M., 193 W.Va. 289, 293 n. 4, 456 S.E.2d 16, 20 n. 4 (1995). Interlocutory appeals must remain the exception, not the rule. Even under federal law, appeals fr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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