Brumett v. MGA Home Health Care (7/28/16)

These are twelve appeals consolidated sua sponte so that the court can address a supposed question of its jurisdiction. “The question presented in these appeals is whether language contemplated by Rules 54(b) or 54(c) is required for a ruling to be appealable other than as a “final judgment” under A.R.S. § 12-2101(A)(1).” We don’t know why.

A “final judgment” is appealable; that’s 12-2101(A)(1). To signal that a judgment is “final” Rule 54 requires special language: that in 54(c) when the judgment applies to all parties and issues, that in 54(b) when it doesn’t. But of course various other rulings are also appealable under other parts of 12-2101 and other statues. “The issue is whether such rulings may be appealed to this court even though they are not “final judgments” and are not entered under Rule 54(b) or 54(c).”

Well, no. The issue can’t involve whether they’re appealable “even though they are not ‘final judgments.’” The statues make them appealable; that’s not an issue for the court. What the court means is only the last part – whether these other types of rulings are appealable even if they don’t have Rule 54(b)/(c) language.

The court does not explain how Rule 54 could limit the operation of statutes. In any event, the purpose of Rule 54 language is to signal finality. So why does the court feel that there’s an issue about whether it applies to rulings that are not final? Your guess is as good as ours. There’s no indication that any of the parties in these cases thought it an issue. 

The court does not explain why, Rule 54(b) having been in effect for 55 years (54(c) became effective in 2014), it didn’t before spot this “issue” of its application. Except that it did, 49 years ago: “an interlocutory order which is made appealable by statute does not require” Rule 54(b) language, Bulova (1967). The court cites Bulova in passing but not that part of it. (Possibly the court’s thinking is that the quote was dictum since Bulova dealt only with appeal from denial of a preliminary injunction whereas the point of lashing these appeals together was to provide the basis for a broad holding. That doesn’t explain why it felt necessary a broad holding on a non – and rather silly – issue.)

After several pages of elementary and largely repetitive “analysis,” complete with Division One’s beloved discursive footnotes, here’s the bottom line: Rule 54(b)/(c) apply only  – surprise! – to things that are final: to final judgments under 12-2101(A)(1) and also to probate appeals and to appeals from review of administrative decisions, both of which must by statute be “final.”

The court then disposes of each of the appeals. The only oddity is an appeal from denial of a Rule 60(c) motion, appealable as a special order after final judgment; the appeal is dismissed because the underlying judgment wasn’t final – it didn’t have Rule 54 language. Which means that it should have been dismissed anyway, even if not part of this consolidated appeal and even if this opinion had never been written. 

(Opinion: Brumett v. MGA)