Practice Pointer: Avoid Unexpected Appeals and Motions by Strictly Following Little-Known Rule 58A

One of the most ignored rules in the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure might be Rule 58A regarding entry of judgments.

Utah lawyers should start following this rule because, when they don’t, the time for post-judgment motions and appeals could be extended much longer than expected.

Suppose, for example, a judge in a Utah District Court issues a Memorandum Decision, granting summary judgment on all claims asserted by all parties.  Given that the Memorandum Decision decides all claims by all parties, does it trigger deadlines for filing post-judgment motions (28 days under URCP 52(b) and 59(b)) or a notice of appeal (30 days under URAP 4(a))?  The answer is “no.”  The Memorandum would not trigger these deadlines, and unless the parties take action to reduce the Memorandum Decision to an actual “Judgment,” the motion and appeal deadlines may be extended much longer than expected.

Rule 58A(a) provides, “Every judgment and amended judgment must be set out in a separate document ordinarily titled ‘Judgment’—or, as appropriate, ‘Decree.’”  The rule sets out a few exceptions, mostly for post-judgment motions, and it also establishes a clear process for getting the Court to enter the final Judgment.

If lawyers do not follow these procedures, then the deadline for filing post-judgment (or post-ruling) motions or an appeal can remain undefined or, at best extended by up to 180 days rather than the standard 28 or 30 days.  Rule 58A(e)(2) provides, “If a separate document [i.e., separate “judgment” or “decree”] is required, a judgment is complete and is entered [i.e., final and appealable] at the earlier of these events: (A) the judgment is set out in a separate document signed by the judge and recorded in the docket; or (B) 150 days have run from the clerk recording the decision, however designated, that provides the basis for entry of judgment.”

So, in order to avoid unexpected and delayed appeals and post-judgment motions (including by unexpected third parties), lawyers should start concluding every case with a final “Judgment”—a separate document that clearly and concisely states the disposition of the case.  Lawyers should not be content with an “order of dismissal,” “stipulated dismissal,” or the like.  It is especially important to seek a separate judgment after a court order granting summary judgment or other dismissal.

Written by attorney Keith Call of SCM Law

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Keith A. Call