THE EFFECT OF AN APPEAL ON A JUDGMENT

September 11, 2012 § 2 Comments

After Van and Myria Strickland were divorced on October 15, 2010, and after Van had filed an appeal, the chancellor entered an “Order Clarifying Judgment” on December 20, 2010. The order awarded the parties the passive-growth increase in the value of asset accounts that had been divided in equitable distribution and had the effect of adjusting and changing the parties’ respective shares.

In the case of Strickland v. Strickland, decided by the COA August 28, 2012, the court vacated the order, holding that the chancery court lacked jurisdiction to enter the December order. The court said:

“Filing a notice of appeal transfers jurisdiction from the trial court to an appellate court, thereby removing the trial court’s authority to amend, modify, or reconsider its judgment.” Corp. Mgmt. v. Green County, 23 So. 3d 454, 460 (¶13) (Miss. 2009). “In other words, the appeal removes the case ipso facto to the appellate courts.” Id. A party may execute on the judgment if an appeal has no supersedeas bond; however, “the [chancery] court cannot ‘broaden, amend, modify, vacate, clarify, or rehear the decree.’” Id. (citation omitted). “On the other hand, when an appeal has a supersedeas bond it effectively suspends the judgment.” Id. (citing In re Estate of Moreland v. Riley, 537 So. 2d 1345, 1348 (Miss. 1989)). As such, “enforcement of the rights declared by the decree are suspended until the appeal is determined.” Id. “When a trial court’s order broadens, amends, modifies, vacates, clarifies, or rehears a decree, ‘it must be vacated as null and void because it exceeds the subject matter jurisdiction of the lower court.’” Id. (citation omitted). See generally M.R.C.P. 59(e) (“A motion to alter or amend the judgment shall be filed not later than ten days after entry of the judgment.”). See also McNeil v. Hester, 753 So. 2d 1057, 1075 (¶68) (Miss. 2000); Bert Allen Toyota, Inc. v. Grasz, 947 So. 2d 358, 362-63 (¶7) (Miss. Ct. App. 2007).

¶20. Van filed his notice of appeal on November 9, 2010. Myria responded by filing her notice of appeal on November 23, 2010. On December 20, 2010, the chancery court entered an order that altered the judgment of divorce by changing the division of the property regarding the increase in value of the asset accounts to the date of the distribution, rather than the date of the temporary order. Because the chancery court’s December 20, 2010 order impermissibly broadened and amended the previous judgments of the court, subsequent to the filing of Van’s notice of appeal, we find that the December 20, 2010 order must be vacated as null and void. See Corp. Mgmt., 23 So. 3d at 460 (¶13) (“When a trial court’s order broadens, amends, modifies, vacates, clarifies, or rehears a decree, ‘it must be vacated as null and void because it exceeds the subject matter jurisdiction of the lower court.’” (citation omitted)). The chancery court lacked jurisdiction to enter such an order. See id. We further find that the May 27, 2011 order, which was before the chancery court on the motion of Myria seeking to enforce the December 20, 2010 order, is also null and void.

I read the authority to mean that, after the time for reconsideration has passed under the MRCP, and once jurisdiction has been acquired by the appellate court, the chancery court can take no action to alter, amend, clarify, modify, or even enforce the judgment. I have had modification cases and contempts filed on judgments that were appealed. The authority cited by Judge Carlton in Strickland makes it clear that as long as the appellate court has not disposed of the appeal the trial court has no jurisdiction to entertain those kinds of actions.

So this is something you need to factor in when deciding whether to appeal. Can your client wait two to two-and-a-half years for a modification or to enforce the judgment while judgment wends its way through the appellate courts?

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