U.S. v. Haynes, 97-5110

Decision Date27 October 1998
Docket NumberNo. 97-5110,97-5110
Parties, 41 Fed.R.Serv.3d 1212 UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Marcus E. HAYNES, Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 95cv00466).

Deanne E. Maynard, appointed by the court, argued the cause as amicus curiae for appellant. With her on the briefs were Ian Heath Gershengorn and Ann M. Kappler.

Daria J. Zane, Assistant U.S. Attorney, argued the cause for appellee. With her on the brief were Wilma A. Lewis, U.S. Attorney, and R. Craig Lawrence, Assistant U.S. Attorney.

Before: WILLIAMS, HENDERSON and GARLAND, Circuit Judges.

STEPHEN F. WILLIAMS, Circuit Judge:

Marcus Haynes took out federally insured student loans and failed to pay them back. The government sued to recover about $11,000 in unpaid principal and about $7,000 in then-accrued interest. The government prevailed, ultimately securing a judgment that with interest and expenses amounted to about $24,000. Haynes filed two successive motions for reconsideration, claiming that Congress's repeal of a prior statute of limitations imposed such a special hardship on him that, under a dictum in United States v. Hodges, 999 F.2d 341, 342 (8th Cir.1993), the repeal would be unconstitutional as applied to him. The district court denied both motions. The principal issue on appeal is whether Haynes's appeal from the denial of the last motion is timebarred.

The district court denied the last motion for reconsideration on November 5, 1996. Haynes filed his notice of appeal April 21, 1997. If the court's denial of the motion was enough to start the 60-day clock running on the time to appeal, see Fed. R.App. P. 4(a)(1); 28 U.S.C. § 2107(b) (both providing 60 days to appeal in a civil case in which the United States is a party), plainly the appeal was out of time. But Rule 58 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that every "judgment shall be set forth on a separate document." If Rule 58 governs the denial of a motion for reconsideration, and if the district court's order does not satisfy the separate document requirement, the appeal is not time-barred. We find that Rule 58 does apply and that the court's order does not satisfy it; accordingly we reach the merits of the appeal. We save discussion of the underlying facts for later, as they have no bearing on the main issue, that of our jurisdiction.

* * *

Rule 58 provides in pertinent part that "[e]very judgment shall be set forth on a separate document" and that "[a] judgment is effective only when so set forth." Fed.R.Civ.P. 58. According to the Advisory Committee Notes, the judgment must be "set out on a separate document--distinct from any opinion or memorandum--which provides the basis for the entry of judgment." Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules, 1963 Amendment, following Fed.R.Civ.P. 58.

The sole purpose of Rule 58's separate document requirement was to clarify when the time for an appeal begins to run. Bankers Trust Co. v. Mallis, 435 U.S. 381, 384, 98 S.Ct. 1117, 55 L.Ed.2d 357 (1978). It was added in 1963 to prevent uncertainty "over what actions ... would constitute an entry of judgment, and occasional grief to litigants as a result of this uncertainty." United States v. Indrelunas, 411 U.S. 216, 220, 93 S.Ct. 1562, 36 L.Ed.2d 202 (1973). In Indrelunas, the Court held that Rule 58 was a " 'mechanical change' that must be mechanically applied in order to avoid new uncertainties as to the date on which a judgment is entered." 411 U.S. at 222, 93 S.Ct. 1562.

The rules seem to compel the view that Rule 58 governs the denial of Haynes's motion for reconsideration. It sets out prerequisites for "judgments." The Rules in turn define "judgment" as including "[a] decree and any order from which an appeal lies." Fed.R.Civ.P. 54. Here, the order in question was the denial of a motion for reconsideration under Rule 60(b), and the government does not dispute the amicus's contention that an appeal lies from a denial of a Rule 60(b) motion. See Browder v. Director, Illinois Dep't of Corrections, 434 U.S. 257, 263 n. 7, 98 S.Ct. 556, 54 L.Ed.2d 521 (1978) ("A timely appeal may be taken under Fed. R.App. Proc. 4(a) from a ruling on a Rule 60(b) motion"). It follows that the denial constitutes a "judgment" within the meaning of the rules. See Derrington-Bey v. District of Columbia Dep't of Corrections, 39 F.3d 1224, 1226 (D.C.Cir.1994) ("An order denying such a motion [under Rule 60(b) ] is itself a 'judgment' under Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(a): the term 'judgment' as used in the rules 'includes a decree and any order from which the appeal lies.' ").

The government argues that despite the language of the rules there are policy reasons why denial of a Rule 60(b) motion should be treated differently from more conventional judgments. There is no need to apply the "separate document" requirement, it says, because by the time a court denies a Rule 60(b) motion, a final judgment has already been entered. Besides, the government argues, the application of the separate document requirement to post-judgment motions provides a boon for tardy appellants.

These objections do not come within a country mile of the sort of incoherence or inconsistency in the literal language of the rules that under United States v. Ron Pair Enterprises, Inc., 489 U.S. 235, 240-41, 109 S.Ct. 1026, 103 L.Ed.2d 290 (1989), would allow a court to go beyond the rules' plain meaning. As an appealable event, denial of a Rule 60(b) motion generates, so far as we can see, no less risk of party confusion than does issuance of a garden-variety suit-terminating order, so the separate document requirement is as clarifying in the one context as in the other. And insofar as the requirement may be a boon to sluggish litigants, again we see no greater risk from 60(b) denials than from orders within Rule 58's indisputable core.

The government cites Bankers Trust, 435 U.S. at 386-87, 98 S.Ct. 1117, for the proposition that the separate document requirement of Rule 58 is not an essential prerequisite and can be interpreted using a common sense approach. But in Bankers Trust the issue was whether the absence of a separate document rendered an appeal premature, so that a court of appeals would have to remand to the district court for entry of a separate document before it could take jurisdiction of the appeal. Id. Saying thatRule 58 was to be " 'interpreted to prevent loss of the right of appeal, not to facilitate loss,' " id. at 386, 98 S.Ct. 1117 (quoting 9 J. Moore, Federal Practice p 110.08 at 119-90 (1970)), the Court rejected the idea that any such remand was necessary--at least where, as here, appellee has raised no objection to the appeal's superficial prematurity. "Wheels would spin for no practical purpose." 435 U.S. at 385, 98 S.Ct. 1117. See alsoShalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 302-03, 113 S.Ct. 2625, 125 L.Ed.2d 239 (1993)(holding that although a "separate document" is not needed for an order to become appealable, one is needed to render an appeal untimely). Indeed, our opinion in Pack v. Burns Int'l Security Serv., 130 F.3d 1071 (D.C.Cir.1997), ruled that even over appellee's objection there was no need for such a pointless exercise. Id. at 1073.

The government also cites several decisions from other circuits for the proposition that a separate document is not always required when a court denies a post-judgment motion. See Baker v. Mercedes Benz of N. Am., 114 F.3d 57, 59-61 (5th Cir.1997); Chambers v. Am. Trans Air, Inc., 990 F.2d 317, 318 (7th Cir.1993); Ellison v. Conoco, Inc., 950 F.2d 1196, 1200 (5th Cir.1992); Wikoff v. Vanderveld, 897 F.2d 232, 236 (7th Cir.1990). In fact, in none of these cases did a court use an "exception" to Rule 58 to defeat appellate jurisdiction; indeed, in all cases the court found the appeals salvageable. In Baker there was no separate judgment for the grant of summary judgment; the losing party moved for entry of judgment in a separate document, the trial court denied the motion, and the appellate court reversed with instructions to enter it. Why this was necessary in light of Bankers Trust is not clear to us, but the case is not a holding exempting dispositions of post-judgment motions from Rule 58. In Chambers the court read prior Seventh Circuit cases as saying that Rule 58 did not govern denial of Rule 59 posttrial motions, 1 but observed that the First Circuit in Fiore v. Washington County Community Mental Health Ctr., 960 F.2d 229 (1st Cir.1992) (en banc), reached the contrary conclusion "after careful examination of the issue." The court then saved the appeal on the ground that the initial district court ruling was only tentative. Ellison was primarily an application of Rules 4(a)(2) and 4(a)(4) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure as they stood prior to amendment in 1993; ultimately the court saved the appeal by finding Rule 4(a)(2) applicable. And in Wikoff the court simply applied Bankers Trust's appeal-saving principle.

We note also that all these decisions involved motions that, under Fed. R.App. P. 4(a)(4) in both its pre- and post-1993 guises, tolled the time to appeal an original judgment. The 1979-93 version of that rule suggested that orders disposing of the covered motions were not appealable as such, independent of appeals from the original judgment. See Stone v. INS, 514 U.S. 386, 403, 115 S.Ct. 1537, 131 L.Ed.2d 465 (1995). This raised a question whether such orders qualified as "final judgments" under Rule 58. Cf. Chambers, 990 F.2d at 318 (saying that an order denying a Rule 59 motion does not qualify as final judgment). Although we reach no holding on the independent appealability of dispositions of tolling motions under Rule 4(a)(4), we note that the current version of the rule provides explicitly for appeal of an order amending or altering the original...

To continue reading

Request your trial
15 cases
  • DSE, Inc. v. U.S.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit
    • March 12, 1999
    ...of the United States in accordance with Rule 58 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See FED.R.CIV.P. 58; United States v. Haynes, 158 F.3d 1327, 1329 (D.C.Cir.1998) (separate document requirement of Rule 58 must be mechanically applied). In light of our holding that the SBA's Third Siz......
  • Franklin v. District of Columbia
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit
    • March 22, 1999
    ...P. 4(a)(4); Derrington-Bey v. District of Columbia Dep't of Corrections, 39 F.3d 1224, 1225 (D.C.Cir.1994); United States v. Haynes, 158 F.3d 1327, 1329-31 (D.C.Cir.1998). On August 27, 1997, the district court denied the motion. Because the District noted its appeal 29 days later (on Septe......
  • Rempfer v. Von Eschenbach
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • February 29, 2008
  • Otay Mesa Prop. L.P. v. U.S. Dep't Of The Interior .
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • May 27, 2010
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 provisions
  • 28 APPENDIX U.S.C. § 4 Appeal As of Right-When Taken
    • United States
    • US Code 2020 Edition Title 28 Appendix Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure Title II. Appeal From a Judgment Or Order of a District Court
    • January 1, 2020
    ...(1st Cir. 1992) (en banc). Other circuits have rejected this cap as contrary to the relevant rules. See, e.g., United States v. Haynes, 158 F.3d 1327, 1331 (D.C. Cir. 1998); Hammack v. Baroid Corp., 142 F.3d 266, 269-70 (5th Cir. 1998); Rubin v. Schottenstein, Zox & Dunn, 110 F.3d 1247, 125......
  • 28 APPENDIX U.S.C. § 4 Appeal As of Right-When Taken
    • United States
    • US Code 2023 Edition Title 28 Appendix Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure Title II. Appeal From a Judgment Or Order of a District Court
    • January 1, 2023
    ...(1st Cir. 1992) (en banc). Other circuits have rejected this cap as contrary to the relevant rules. See, e.g., United States v. Haynes, 158 F.3d 1327, 1331 (D.C. Cir. 1998); Hammack v. Baroid Corp., 142 F.3d 266, 269-70 (5th Cir. 1998); Rubin v. Schottenstein, Zox & Dunn, 110 F.3d 1247, 125......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT