Eighteen lawyers at two different law firms received ECF notifications of orders denying their client’s post-judgment motions. But the ECF notifications did not accurately describe the content of those orders. The attorneys relied on the incorrect descriptions in the ECF notifications and did not open the orders or realize that the post-judgment motions had been denied. As a result, they missed the 30-day deadline to appeal a $40 million judgment entered against their client. The Federal Circuit has now affirmed the trial court’s refusal to extend or reopen the deadline to appeal under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5) and (6).
This cautionary tale highlights a simple point: a lawyer should open and read every document received by ECF notification. Lawyers who rely on the clerk’s description in notifications do so at their own risk.