United States v. F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Co. - 356 U.S. 227 (1958)


U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Co., 356 U.S. 227 (1958)

United States v. F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Co.

No. 79

Argued January 6, 1958

Decided April 7, 1958

356 U.S. 227

Syllabus

In respondent's suit against the Government in a Federal District Court for the recovery of money only, which was tried without a jury, the judge filed an opinion on April 14 granting respondent's motion for summary judgment, without specifying the amount, and the clerk noted that fact in the civil docket on the same date. On May 24, the judge signed and filed a formal document captioned "Judgment," which specified the exact amount of recovery, and the clerk noted that fact in the civil docket on the same date. The Government filed a notice of appeal within 60 days after the latter entry but more than 60 days after the former entry.

Held: in the circumstances of this case, the appeal was taken within 60 days from the "entry of the judgment," as required by Rule 73(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and it should not have been dismissed as untimely. Pp. 356 U. S. 228-236.

(a) Whatever may be the practical needs, no present statute or rule requires that a final judgment be contained in a separate document so labeled. P. 356 U. S. 232.

(b) When an opinion embodies the essential elements of a judgment for money and clearly evidences the judge's intention that it shall be his final act in the case and it has been filed and entered in the docket, the time to appeal starts to run under Rule 73(a). Pp. 356 U. S. 232-233.

(c) When an opinion leaves doubtful whether the judge intended it to be his final act in the case, the clerk's notation of it in the docket cannot constitute "entry of the judgment" within the meaning of Rule 58. P. 356 U. S. 233.

(d) A final judgment for money must, at least, determine, or specify the means of determining, the amount, and an opinion which does not either expressly or by reference determine the amount of money awarded leaves doubtful whether it was intended by the judge to be his final act in the case. Pp. 356 U. S. 233-234.

(e) The opinion in this case stated the amount of money illegally collected from respondent, but, by its failure to state the date

Page 356 U. S. 228

of payment, it failed to state facts necessary to compute the amount of interest to be included in the judgment, and this omission cannot be cured by a search of the record, because Rule 79(a) requires the clerk's entry to show the "substance of [the] judgment." Pp. 356 U. S. 234-235.

(f) In the circumstances of this case, the formal "Judgment" signed by the judge on May 24, rather than a statement in the opinion filed on April 14, must be considered the court's judgment, and the time for appeal ran from its entry in the docket. Pp. 356 U. S. 235-236.

236 F.2d 889 reversed.



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