Digest of Two-Way Media LLC v. AT&T, Inc., No. 2014-1302 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 19, 2015) (precedential). On appeal from W.D. Tex. Before Dyk, O’Malley, and Wallach.
Procedural Posture: The district court entered final judgment consistent with the jury’s verdict and thereafter denied all of AT&T’s post-trial motions for judgment as a matter of law (“JMOL”). AT&T failed to file a timely notice of appeal. The district court denied AT&T’s motion to extend or reopen the appeal period pursuant Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (“FRAP”) 4(a)(5) and (6). CAFC affirmed.
- Interpretation of FRAP 4(a): Interpretation of FRAP 4(a) was governed by the regional circuit’s law, here the Fifth Circuit, under which CAFC reviewed the district court’s ruling for abuse of discretion.
- Extension of Appeal Period: The district court did not abuse its discretion when it found that AT&T did not satisfy its burden to show excusable neglect. CAFC held that even a complete lack of notice would not qualify as excusable neglect under FRAP 4(a)(5), without some additional showing. Also, the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the neglect should not be excused because the attorneys failed to read the underlying orders and check the docket for more than a month after the court issued the final orders.
- Reopening Appeal Period: CAFC found no abuse of discretion in the district court’s denial of AT&T’s motion to reopen the appeal period pursuant FRAP 4(a)(6). There was no clear error in the trial court’s factual finding that AT&T failed to establish that it did not receive the notice contemplated in FRAP 4(a)(6)(A). Also, unlike the cases cited by the dissent where the docket entries at issue failed to unambiguously set forth final judgments and thus were found not sufficient to trigger the time for an appeal, here, AT&T did not dispute that the underlying order it received indicated an intention to enter final judgment or dispute which docket entry triggered AT&T’s time for appeal.
- Interpretation of FRAP 4(a)(6): Dyk noted that the interpretation of FRAP 4(a)(6) was governed by Federal Circuit law since the issue was jurisdictional, and should not be governed by the regional circuit’s law as the majority held. However, in relevant respects, regional circuit law and Federal Circuit law were the same.
- Reopening Appeal Period: The district court and the majority erred in holding that the requirements of FRAP 4(a)(6) were not satisfied because notice of entry of the substantive orders was never provided—the only event that triggered the time for appeal. Also, the district court’s holding was premised on an error of law and thus the district court by definition abused its discretion.