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District Court Not Required to Reopen Appeal Period Following Erroneous ECF Notices

March 24, 2015

District Court Not Required to Reopen Appeal Period Following Erroneous ECF Notices

March 24, 2015

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Two-Way Media LLC v. AT&T, Inc., ___F.3d ___ (Fed. Cir. Mar. 19, 2015) (Dyk (dissenting), O’MALLEY, Wallach) (W.D. Tex.: Garcia) (4 of 5 stars)

Applying Fifth Circuit law, Federal Circuit affirms denial of motion to reopen appeal period. When several of the district court’s ECF notices of its JMOL orders were sent to counsel, they were mislabeled as orders on motions to seal. That same day, the parties also received by ECF one JMOL order that was properly labeled and a ruling on a costs motion. The clerk corrected the docket description of the mislabeled JMOL orders shortly thereafter but did not send corrected ECF notices. AT&T did not notice that all the JMOL orders had issued until after the 30-day deadline for appealing, and so it sought relief from the deadline under Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5) and 4(a)(6).

The district court did not abuse its discretion in denying relief. AT&T was unable to show either “excusable neglect” or good cause required for relief under FRAP 4(a)(5).  Mislabeling of the orders alone could not suffice because FRCP 77(d)(2) makes clear that mere lack of notice to a party of an order does not authorize a district court to extend appeal deadlines; some additional showing, e.g., of equitable reasons for extension, must also be present. Moreover, the errant ECF notices did not violate FRCP 79, as that Rule does not applies only to the docket itself, not ECF notices, and, in any event, the clerk corrected the docket.

With respect to FRAP 4(a)(6), even if, as the dissent contends, a second ECF notice were required to establish “notice of the entry of judgment”, the Rule commits the question of whether to reopen the appeal period to the district court’s discretion. “We find no abuse of discretion in a district court’s decision to impose an obligation to monitor an electronic docket for entry of an order which a party and its counsel already have it their possession and know that the clerk at least attempted to enter.” Op. at 15.

Dissent: Judge Dyk would have held that the district court committed legal error in interpreting FRAP 4(a)(6). In his view, Federal Circuit law should have controlled, and he would have found that the denials of JMOL were not “entered” until they were correctly reflected on the docket. While the district court did correct the entries, it did not provide notice of the revised entry to AT&T as required by FRCP 77(d)(1). Judge Dyk would have held that the district court therefore committed an error of law in concluding that AT&T had notice of the docket entry that triggered the appeal period.

The opinions expressed are those of the authors on the date noted above and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fish & Richardson P.C., any other of its lawyers, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This post is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed.

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Rob Courtney | Principal

Rob Courtney is a principal in the Twin Cities office of Fish & Richardson P.C. His practice emphasizes patent litigation in the areas of electrical engineering and information technology. Mr. Courtney’s litigation experience includes numerous matters in U.S. district courts and before the U.S. International Trade Commission. Mr....