U.S. Supreme Court
Acosta v. Louisiana Dept. of HHS, 478 U.S. 251 (1986)
Acosta v. Louisiana Department of Health and Human Services
Decided June 30, 1986
478 U.S. 251
After the District Court granted respondents' motion to dismiss petitioner's civil rights suit against respondents, and after petitioner abandoned his appeal, the District Court granted respondents' motion for an award of attorney's fees on the ground that petitioner had filed his action in bad faith. Petitioner then filed a motion, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), to alter or amend the judgment. After a hearing, the court denied the motion from the bench, and petitioner filed a notice of appeal that same afternoon. However, the District Court's order denying the Rule 59(e) motion was not entered on the docket until two days later, and petitioner did not file a new notice of appeal following the docket entry. Dismissing the appeal, the Court of Appeals ruled that the notice of appeal was premature under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(4), which provides that, with regard to certain motions in the district court, including motions under Rule 59 to alter or amend the judgment, the time for appeal shall run from "the entry of the order . . . granting or denying" any such motion; that a notice of appeal filed before "the disposition" of any such motion shall have no effect; and that "[a] new notice of appeal must be filed within the prescribed time measured from the entry of the order disposing of the motion." The court concluded that petitioner's notice of appeal must be treated as a nullity, and thus the court had no jurisdiction over the appeal.
Held. The Court of Appeals' interpretation of Rule 4(a)(4) was correct.
Such interpretation comports with the Rule's plain wording. Moreover, the plain import of Rule 4(a)(2) -- which provides that,
"[e]xcept as provided in (a)(4) of this Rule 4, a notice of appeal filed after the announcement of a decision or order but before the entry of the judgment or order shall be treated as filed after such entry and on the day thereof"
(emphasis added) -- is that, with respect to the particular motions to which it applies, Rule 4(a)(4) constitutes an exception to the general rule that a notice of appeal filed after announcement of an order, but before its entry in the docket, will be deemed timely filed. Thus, a notice of appeal is ineffective unless filed after entry of judgment on a Rule 59(e) motion or any of the other motions to which Rule 4(a)(4) applies.
Certiorari granted; 776 F.2d 1046, affirmed. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary