YET MORE ON POST-TRIAL MOTIONS AND APPEALS

October 12, 2011 § 3 Comments

I posted here, here and here about the COA and post-trial motions.

On October 11, 2011, the COA in Aspired Custom Homes, LLC v. Todd and Tina Melton, there is this language by Judge Carlton, at ¶ 11:

While Aspired appeals the judgment of the chancery court questioning the judgment’s substance, we acknowledge the record reflects the chancellor denied a timely filed post-trial motion brought by Aspired pursuant to Rule 59(e) — a motion to alter or amend judgment. See M.R.C.P. 59. Aspired filed a motion pursuant to Rule 59(e) and raised four issues before the chancellor. However, a party is not required to file a post-trial motion in chancery court in order to appeal the chancery court’s judgment. We therefore address the merits of the appeal before us, questioning the substance of the chancellor’s judgment. [Emphasis added]

In a footnote to that paragraph, the opinion stated:

If a party’s motion for reconsideration is served within ten days of the rendition of judgment, the motion falls under Rule 59(e) of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. Carlisle v. Allen, 40 So. 3d 1252, 1260 (¶33) (Miss. 2010) (citing Cannon v. Cannon, 571 So. 2d 976, 978 (Miss. 1990)). The Mississippi Supreme Court has established that to succeed on a Rule 59(e) motion, “the movant must show: (i) an intervening change in controlling law, (ii) availability of new evidence not previously available, or (iii) need to correct a clear error of law or to prevent manifest injustice.” Brooks v. Roberts, 882 So. 2d 229, 233 (¶15) (Miss. 2004). Case law has also provided that “[a]n appeal from a denial of a Rule 59 motion may address the merits of the entire underlying proceeding, and review of a trial judge’s denial of a Rule 59 motion is limited to abuse of discretion.” Perkins v. Perkins, 787 So. 2d 1256, 1261 (¶9) (Miss. 2001). In this case, the notice of appeal reflects only an appeal by Aspired from the judgment of the chancellor, with no reference to the unsuccessful post-trial motion.

That, in my opinion, is an accurate statement of what Mississippi law has been in chancery bench trials, and I’m glad to see it clearly stated.

So, based on the language above, a post-trial motion is not a prerequisite to an appeal from a chancery bench trial. But the question remains whether a post-trial motion is necessary to preserve particular issues for appeal, as the COA case cited in the prior post would indicate. Here’s some language that may remove all doubt:

“It is clearly the better practice to include all potential assignments of error in a motion for new trial. However, this approach is not always practical. Because a trial transcript is rarely available within the time frame for filing post-trial motions, the most prudent attorney cannot be expected to pinpoint every objection raised and ruling made during the course of the trial. Thus, when the assignment of error is based on an issue which has been decided by the trial court and duly recorded in the court reporter’s transcript, such as the admission or omission of evidence, we may consider it regardless of whether it was raised in the motion for new trial. [Emphasis added] Kiddy v. Lipscomb, 628 So. 2d 1355, 1359 (Miss. 1993).

_____________________

Thanks to Thus Blogged Anderson for the Kiddy v. Lipscomb cite .

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