In Slep-Tone Entertainment Corp. v. Karaoke Kandy Store, Inc. , the Sixth Circuit explained the ramifications for filing a premature notice of appeal. In a case that took place before an advisory jury, the plaintiff requested findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Rule 52 after the trial court entered judgment against it. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff filed an appeal, and the parties fully briefed the case before the Sixth Circuit. The Sixth Circuit, however, concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to resolve the appeal because of the pending request pursuant to Rule 52. The Rule 52 request submitted by plaintiffs is one of the types of post-judgment motions identified in Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4 that tolls the time period for the notice of appeal. (FRAP 4(a)(4)(A)(ii), for those keeping score at home). Filing the notice of appeal while such a motion is pending was, therefore, premature. As a result, the Sixth Circuit concluded that: “We do not have jurisdiction to resolve the appeal.” The Court accordingly remanded the case to the district court to resolve the post-judgment motion, while staying the appeal and awaiting the results from the district court.
Although the result in this case seems fairly clear given how the rules are structured, this case illustrates that parties continue to confuse these issues. A notable aspect of this opinion is that it is an actual published opinion, rather than an unsigned order from the clerk’s office. In most cases where the Court disposes of a case on jurisdictional grounds like this, a perfunctory order from the clerk’s office is issued. Those orders often provide little guidance to anyone beyond the parties for the case. Therefore, it appears that the Court in this instance felt the need to publicize these issues and provide overall guidance to the bar. And taking heed to these lessons is important – it avoids briefing an appeal without jurisdiction, or having to brief a case twice.