Appeal, Appealable, appealable orders, collateral order doctrine, non-appealable, non-appealable order, Orders
Manu Homeowners in foreclosure litigations are confused as to what Court Orders should or should not be appealled. This post is designed to help clear those confusions as to what is appealable.
The primary gatekeeper at the door to the federal courts of appeals is the rule that only final judgments are appealable. The final judgment rule has performed this role well, for the most part. In certain cases, however, a trial court’s error on an interlocutory issue is effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment. To deal with this type of injustice, the courts and Congress have created a patchwork of exceptions to the final judgment rule.
A. Collateral Order Doctrine:
The collateral order doctrine is sometimes called the Cohen collateral order doctrine, named for the landmark United States Supreme Court decision, Cohen v. Beneficial Indus. Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541, 546 (1949). When we talk about an order being final and appealable under the collateral order doctrine, we are still talking about an order that is appealable under section 1291.
The general rule is that “a party is entitled to a single appeal, to be deferred until final judgment has been entered, in which claims of district court error at any stage of the litigation can be ventilated.” Digital Equip. Corp. v. Desktop Direct, Inc., 511 U.S. 863 (1994). Accordingly, as noted in the preceding section, a decision is ordinarily considered final and appealable under section 1291 only if it “ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment.” Catlin v. United States, 324 U.S. 229, 233 (1945); see Digital Equip., 511 U.S. at 863 (quoting Catlin). The Supreme Court has recognized, however, “a narrow class of collateral orders which do not meet this definition of finality, but which are nevertheless immediately appealable under § 1291.” Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 712 (1996). “Since Cohen, [the Supreme Court has] had many opportunities to revisit and refine the collateral-order exception to the final-judgment rule.” Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. v. Mayacamas Corp., 485 U.S. 271, 276 (1988).
1. Three-prong test for the collateral order doctrine.
The Supreme Court has articulated a threeprong test to determine whether an order that does not finally resolve litigation is nonetheless appealable under section 1291. See Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 468 (1978).
First, the order must “conclusively determine the disputed question.” Id. Second, the order must “resolve an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action.” Id. Third and finally, the order must be “effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment.” Richardson-Merrell Inc. v. Koller, 472 U.S. 424, 431 (quoting Coopers & Lybrand, 437 U.S. at 468); accord Cunningham v. Hamilton County, 527 U.S. 198, 202 (1999) (“[C]ertain orders may be appealed, notwithstanding the absence of final judgment, but only when they ‘are conclusive, . . . resolve important questions separate from the merits, and . . . are effectively unreviewable on appeal from the final judgment in the underlying action.’” (quoting Swint v. Chambers County Comm’n, 514 U.S. 35, 42 (1995))); see also Doleac ex rel. Doleac v. Michalson, 264 F.3d 470, 490-91 (5th Cir. 2001) (restating the Cohen test as a four-step analysis: the decision (1) cannot be tentative, informal, or incomplete; (2) must deal with claims of right separable from, and collateral to, rights asserted in the action; (3) must be effectively unreviewable on the appeal from final judgment; and (4) must involve an issue too important to be denied review).
Under the first prong—that the order conclusively determine the disputed question—the Supreme Court has observed that there are two kinds of nonfinal orders: those that are “inherently tentative,” and those that, although technically amendable, are “made with the expectation that they will be the final word on the subject addressed.” Moses H. Cone Mem’l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 12 n.14 (1983). The latter category of orders meets the first prong of the collateral order doctrine.
Under the second prong—that the issue be separate from the merits—the Court has described it as a “distillation of the principle that there should not be piecemeal review of ‘steps towards final judgment in which they will merge.’” Moses H. Cone, 460 U.S. at 12 n.13 (quoting Cohen, 337 U.S. at 546). A classic case meeting the third p r o n g of the c o l l a t e r a l o r d e r doctrine—unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment—are denials of immunity from suit. As the Fifth Circuit explained in a recent case involving an appeal from a district court order denying a sheriff’s motion for summary judgment in an “official capacity” suit,
Official-capacity suits, in contrast [to
personal-capacity suits], ‘generally
represent only another way of pleading
an action against an entity of which an
officer is an agent.’” . . . [T]he plea
[here] ranks as a ‘mere defense to
liability’” [rather than immunity from
suit]. Because an erroneous ruling on
liability may be reviewed effectively on
appeal from final judgment, the order
denying the Sheriff’s summary
judgment motion in this “official
capacity” suit was not an appealable
Burge v. Parish of St. Tammany, 187 F.3d 452, 476-77 (5th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted); see Cunningham, 527 U.S. at 202. As its stringent requirements indicate, the collateral order doctrine is not to be applied liberally. “Rather, the doctrine “is ‘extraordinarily limited’ in its application.” Pan E. Exploration Co. v. Hufo Oils, 798 F.2d 837, 839 (5th Cir. 1986). Moreover, appealability under the collateral order doctrine must be determined “without regard to the chance that the litigation might be speeded, or a ‘particular injustice’ averted by a prompt appellate court decision.” Digital Equip., 511 U.S. at 868.
2. Examples of orders appealable under the collateral order doctrine.
A. Orders denying claims of immunity from suit asserted in a motion to dismiss or motion for summary judgment when the order is based on a conclusion of law:
- Qualified immunity. Swint, 514 U.S. at 42 (citing Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)); Gentry v. Lowndes County, 337 F.3d 481, 484 (5th Cir. 2003); Martinez v. Tex. Dep’t of Crim. Justice, 300 F.3d 567, 576 (5th Cir. 2002).
- Immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Byrd v. Corporacion Forestal y Industrial de Olancho S.A., 182 F.3d 380, 385 (5th Cir. 1999); Stena Rederi A.B. v. Comision de Contratos, 923 F.2d 380, 385-86 (5th Cir. 1991).
- Absolute immunity. Swint, 514 U.S. at 42 (citing Mitchell, 472 U.S. at 526, and Nixon v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 731 (1982)).
- Eleventh Amendment immunity. Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139 (1993); Martinez v. Tex. Dep’t of Crim. Justice, 300 F.3d 567, 573 (5th Cir. 2002); Reickenbacker v. Foster, 274 F.3d 974, 976 (5th Cir. 2001); see also Sherwinski v. Peterson, 98 F.3d 849, 851 (5th Cir. 1996) (denial of state’s motion to dismiss is appealable even if the district court’s order is not based on an express finding of no immunity if the end result is the same).
- Refusal to rule on a claim of immunity from suit. Helton v. Clements, 787 F.2d 1016, 1017 (5th Cir. 1986).
- Successive appeal of denial of qualified immunity defense. Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299 (1996) (holding that there can be two interlocutory appeals under the collateral order doctrine of denials of qualified immunity defenses in the same case: one appeal from the denial of a motion to dismiss, and a second appeal from the denial of a motion for summary judgment).
- B. Abstention-based stay, dismissal, and remand orders:
- Under Colorado River abstention. Moses H. Cone, 460 U.S. at 9 (abstention-based stay order).
- Under Burford abstention. Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 712 (1996) (abstention-based remand order).
- Under Pullman abstention. Moses H. Cone, 460 U.S. at 9 & n.8 (citing Idlewild Liquor Corp. v. Epstein, 370 U.S. 713, 715 (1962)).
A district court order abstaining may take the form of an abstention-based stay order or an abstentionbased remand order. The Supreme Court addressed the appealability of abstention-based remand orders in Quackenbush. Most “remand” orders—those remanding removed cases back to state court for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction—are not reviewable by appeal or otherwise because of the bar to appellate review embodied in 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d). See Quackenbush, 517 U.S. at 714. If, on the other hand, a district court remands a case to state court for a reason other than lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, for example, in the interest of docket congestion, the bar to review in section 1447(d) does not apply, and the decision is reviewable. Thermtron Prods., Inc. v. Hermansdorfer, 423 U.S. 336, 352-53 (1976).
C. Pre-remand decisions made by a district court if that decision is “separable” from the remand order and independently reviewable through a mechanism such as the collateral order doctrine.
- Dahiya v. Talmidge Int’l, Ltd., No. 02-31068, 2004 WL 1098838 (5th Cir. May 18, 2004) (citing City of Waco v. United States Fid. & Guar. Co., 293 U.S. 140 (1934); Heaton v. Monogram Credit Card Bank, 297 F.3d 416, 421 (5th Cir. 2002); Doleac ex rel. Doleac v. Michalson, 264 F.3d 470, 486 (5th Cir. 2001); Arnold v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 277 F.3d 772, 776 (5th Cir. 2001); Linton v. Airbus Industrie, 30 F.3d 592, 597 (5th Cir. 1994); Angelides v. Baylor Coll. of Med., 117 F.3d 833, 837 (5th Cir. 1997)); Soley v. First Nat’l Bank, 923 F.2d 406, 410 (5th Cir. 1991); see also In re Benjamin Moore & Co., 318 F.3d 626 (5th Cir. 2002) (addressing the separable order doctrine to determine if collateral order doctrine conferred jurisdiction on the court to review the order of remand in a mandamus proceeding).
D. Order denying motions to intervene. Edward v. City of Houston, 78 F.3d 983, 992 (5th Cir. 1996) (en banc). But see Stringfellow v. Concerned Neighbors in Action, 480 U.S. 370 (1987) (order granting motion to intervene but conditioning or restricting it is not immediately appealable; appeal must await final judgment).
E. Order deciding that plaintiff is not required to post security for payment of costs. Cohen, 337 U.S. at 547.
F. Order denying appointment of counsel to litigants who cannot afford counsel. Robbins v. Maggio, 750 F.2d 405 (5th Cir. 1985).
G. Order remanding action to state court pursuant to a contract between the parties. McDermott Int’l, Inc. v. Lloyds Underwriters, 944 F.2d
1199 (5th Cir. 1991).
H. Discovery orders directed to third parties. Church of Scientology v. United States, 506 U.S. 9, 18 n.11 (1992) (Although discovery orders are normally reviewed by mandamus or on appeal from a contempt order, “A discovery order directed at a disinterested third party is treated as an immediately appealable final order because the third party presumably lacks a sufficient stake in the proceeding to risk contempt by refusing compliance.”).
I. Pre-contempt appeals by the President of the United States to avoid unnecessary constitutional confrontations between two coordinate branches of government. See United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974). (Watch out for the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Cheney v. United States District Court (No. 03-475), in which one of the issues before the Supreme Court is “whether the court of appeals had mandamus or appellate jurisdiction to review the district court’s unprecedented discovery orders in this litigation” that, unlike United States v. Nixon, accepted a claim of executive privilege? Cheney v. United States Dist. Court, 124 S. Ct. 1391 (2004) (denying motion to recuse); see Cheney v. United States Dist. Court, 124 S. Ct. 958 (2003) (No. 03-475) (granting certiorari)).
J. Order requiring turnover of documents claimed to be privileged as attorney work product when the documents are already in the court’s possession because, “if the court already has lawful possession of the documents, a subsequent turnover order will be immediately enforceable without the necessity of holding the subpoenaed party in contempt.” In re Grand Jury Proceedings, 43 F.3d 966, 970 (5th Cir. 1994) (citing Perlman v. United States, 247 U.S. 7 (1918)).
K. Turnover order allowing a receiver to take possession of and sell corporate assets of nonparties. Maiz v. Virani, 311 F.3d 334, 339 n.4 (5th Cir. 2002).
L. Order approving receiver’s plan to distribute assets of investment company whose assets were frozen after the SEC investigated it for securities fraud. SEC v. Forex Asset Mgmt. LLC, 242 F.3d 325, 330 (5th Cir. 2001).
M. Order refusing to modify a prior consent decree where enforcement of the consent decree ran afoul of the State’s Eleventh Amendment Immunity. Frazar v. Gilbert, 300 F.3d 530, (5th Cir. 2002) (finding order also reviewable under 28 U.S.C. § 1291(a) because it was an order “refusing to dissolve or modify” an injunction), rev’d on other grounds, Frew ex rel. Frew v. Hawkins, 124 S. Ct. 899 (2004).
N. Order determining that former Department of Justice attorneys were eligible to act as fact and expert witnesses for private party in civil rights suit brought by government. EEOC v. Exxon Corp., 202 F.3d 755, 757 (5th Cir. 2000).
O. Orders affecting the media’s First Amendment rights. United States v. Brown, 250 F.3d 907, 913 n.8 (5th Cir. 2001) (orders protecting juror anonymity (citing United States v. Gurney, 558 F.2d 1202, 1206-07 (5th Cir. 1977)); Ford v. City of Huntsville, 242 F.3d 235, 240 (5th Cir. 2001) (court closure orders or confidentiality orders (citing Davis v. E. Baton Rouge Parish Sch. Bd., 78 F.3d 920, 926 (5th Cir. 1996)); see also United States v. Brown, 218 F.3d 415, 420 (5th Cir. 2000) (gag order that applied to attorneys, parties, and witnesses and prohibited them from discussing case with any public communications media was appealable under the collateral order doctrine by criminal defendant in whose trial the gag order was issued). But see United States v. Edwards, 206 F.3d 461, 462 (5th Cir. 2000) (per curiam) (collateral order doctrine did not apply to criminal defendant’s motion to lift gag order).
3. Examples of orders not appealable under the collateral order doctrine.
A. Order denying a motion to stay or dismiss federal court litigation under Colorado River abstention. Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. v. Mayacamas Corp., 485 U.S. 271, 275 (1988).
B. Order denying summary judgment motion based on Noerr-Pennington doctrine.
Acoustic Sys., Inc. v. Wenger Corp., 207 F.3d 287, 290 (5th Cir. 2000).
C. Order denying claim of immunity from liability (as opposed to immunity from suit). Swint, 514 U.S. at 42 (citing Mitchell, 472 U.S. at 526).
D. Order denying claim of immunity from suit that turns on factual determinations. Stena Rederi A.B. v. Comision de Contratos, 923 F.2d 380, 385-86 (5th Cir. 1991). But cf. Mitchell, 472 U.S. at 528 (the resolution of legal issues which are appealable under the collateral order doctrine often will entail some “consideration of the factual allegations that make up the plaintiff’s claim for relief”).
E. Order denying claim of immunity from suit based on sufficiency of the evidence, i.e., whether there is a genuine issue of fact. Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. 304 (1995); Kinney v. Weaver, No. 00-40557, 2004 WL 811724, at *6 n.9 (5th Cir. Apr 15, 2004); Martinez v. Tex. Dep’t of Crim. Justice, 300 F.3d 567, 576 (5th Cir. 2002) (“For a qualified immunity appeal, however, our review of any factual disputes is limited to their materiality, not their genuineness.”).
F. In rare instances, denial of claims of immunity on the eve of trial. Edwards v. Cass County, 919 F.2d 273, 276 (5th Cir. 1990) (“If every denial of a motion for leave to file a summary judgment motion asserting qualified immunity were immediately appealable, defendants would have a guaranteed means of obtaining last-minute continuances. We read Mitchell v. Forsyth as affording defendants a reasonable opportunity to obtain review of their qualified immunity claims without losing part of their immunity rights by having to stand trial. However, Mitchell is not designed as an automatic exemption from the orderly processes of docket control.” “To hold otherwise would be to open the floodgates to appeals by defendants seeking delay by asserting qualified immunity at the last minute (or even, as here, following jury selection).”).
G. Order denying the summary judgment of government officials sued in their personal or individual capacities is not an appealable collateral order. Burge v. Parish of St. Tammany, 187 F.3d 452, 476-77 (5th Cir. 1999) (citing Swint, 514 U.S. at 42).
H. Order denying or granting stays pending arbitration. Rauscher Pierce Refsnes, Inc. v. Birenbaum, 860 F.2d 169 (5th Cir. 1988).
I. Order denying certification of a class. Coopers & Lybrand, 437 U.S. at 935 (now appealable by permission under Rule 23(f)).
J. Order denying motion to disqualify counsel. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Risjord, 449 U.S. 368, 375 (1981).
K. Order granting motion to disqualify. Richardson-Merrell, Inc. v. Koller, 472 U.S. 424 (1985)
L. Order refusing to enforce a settlement agreement claimed by a party to protect it from suit. Digital Equip. Corp. v. Desktop Direct, Inc., 511 U.S. 863 (1994).
M. Order denying a motion to dismiss based on the invalidity of service of process claiming immunity from such process. Van Cauwenberghe v. Baird, 486 U.S. 517, 521 (1988).
N. Orders concerning post-judgment discovery. Piratello v. Philips Elecs. N. Am. Corp., 360 F.3d 506, 508 (5th Cir. 2004) (order compelling party to appear at a deposition by a particular date, to answer questions regarding assets, and to produce documents requested, over a claim of self-incrimination; no jurisdiction over district court’s order under 1291 or collateral order doctrine; instead, the remedy was by appealing a contempt order)
Piratello, 360 F.3d at 508 (“This court has indicated its agreement with the Fourth Circuit’s view that the availability of an appeal through a contempt order renders the collateral order doctrine inapplicable to discovery orders. See A-Mark Auction Galleries, 233 F.3d at 898-99 (noting, with approval, the holding of MDK, Inc. v. Mike’s Train House, Inc., 27 F.3d 116, 119 (4th Cir. 1994)).”). In MDK, the Fourth Circuit said: “Courts have long recognized that a party sufficiently exercised over a discovery order may resist that order, be cited for contempt, and then challenge the propriety of the discovery order in the course of appealing the contempt citation. [citations omitted] Indeed, the Supreme Court has pointed to this path to appellate review as a reason why discovery orders are not appealable under Cohen.” MDK, Inc., 27 F.3d at 121
O. As a general matter, pre-trial discovery orders do not constitute final decisions under § 1291, and therefore, are not immediately appealable. See A-Mark Auction Galleries, Inc. v. Am. Numismatic Ass’n, 233 F.3d 895, 897 (5th Cir. 2000) (citing Church of Scientology v. United States, 506 U.S. 9, 18 n.11 (1992)); see Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Risjord, 449 U.S. 368, 377 (1981).
The Supreme Court has held that a party that wishes to immediately appeal a discovery order “must [first] refuse compliance, be held in contempt, and then appeal the contempt order.” Church of Scientology, 506 U.S. at 18 n.11 (citing United States v. Ryan, 402 U.S. 530 (1971)). See infra p. 43 (mandamus may also be available when the discovery order requires disclosure of information claimed to be privileged).
P. Order granting or denying a motion to transfer venue under section 1404(a). Brinar v. Williamson, 245 F.3d 515, 517-18 (5th Cir. 2001); La. Ice Cream Distribs. v. Carvel Corp., 821 F.2d 1031, 1033 (5th Cir. 1987).
Q. Order of civil contempt. FDIC v. LeGrand, 43 F.3d 163, 168 (5th Cir. 1995); Lamar Fin. Corp. v. Adams, 918 F.2d 564, 566 (5th Cir. 1990).
R. Order of an agency review board remanding to an ALJ for further factfinding and consideration before final agency decision is rendered. Exxon Chems. Am. v. Chao, 298 F.3d 464, 469-70 (5th Cir. 2002).
B. Other Common-Law Doctrines of Finality
1. Gillespie “pragmatic finality” doctrine
Under the Gillespie doctrine, the requirement of finality is to be given a practical rather than a technical construction in determining the appealability in marginal cases of an order falling within what the Gillespie decision called the “twilight zone” of finality. Gillespie v. United States Steel Corp., 379 U.S. 148, 152-53 (1964). Counsel should avoid relying on the Gillespie doctrine.
The Supreme Court has distinguished Gillespie on grounds that, according to Professor Wright and his collaborators, “bury it quietly.” 15A CHARLES A. WRIGHT ET AL., FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 3913, at 479 (2d ed. 1992). In Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, the Supreme Court refused to apply the Gillespie doctrine to permit appeal from an order
decertifying a class action, even on the assumption that the result would be termination of the litigation. Rather than expanding Gillespie, the Court wrote that permitting such appeals under section 1291 would be plainly inconsistent with the policies underlying section 1292(b) and that “[i]f Gillespie were extended beyond the unique facts of that case, § 1291 would be stripped of all significance.” Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 477 n.30 (1978) (noting that Gillespie concerned a marginally final order disposing of an unsettled issue of national significance and that review of the issue “unquestionably implemented the same policy Congress sought to promote in §1292(b)”).
In fact, the most recent pronouncement from the Fifth Circuit about the vitality of the Gillespie doctrine is that the Fifth Circuit “no longer recognizes the exception.” Kmart Corp. v. Aronds, 123 F.3d 297, 300 (5th Cir. 1997); see Sherri A.D. v. Kirby, 975 F.2d 193, 202 n.12 (5th Cir. 1992) (calling practical finality more chimerical than real); United States v. Garner, 749 F.2d 281, 288 (5th Cir. 1985) (pragmatic finality approach has been virtually limited to facts of Gillespie). As the Fifth Circuit explained, Gillespie’s case-by-case approach to determining pragmatic finality is in fundamental conflict with the values and purposes of the final-judgment rule. See Pan E. Exploration Co. v. Hufo Oils, 798 F.2d 837, 841-42 (5th Cir. 1986); Newpark Shipbuilding & Repair, Inc. v. Roundtree, 723 F.2d 399 (5th Cir. 1984) (en banc).
If counsel finds a case supporting finality that sounds like it is based on practical or pragmatic finality, counsel should carefully trace the cases supporting the theory of finality to make sure that Gillespie is not the ultimate source of authority for that theory. An opinion’s pedigree is important. Counsel should make an informed decision about relying on those cases that rely on or are indirect progeny of Gillespie.
2. “Death knell” doctrine
Under the “death knell” doctrine, which is sometimes equated with the Gillespie doctrine, a case is final when a party is “effectively out of court.” Idlewild Liquor Corp. v. Epstein, 370 U.S. 713, 715 (1962); see McKnight v. Blanchard, 667 F.2d 477, 479 (5th Cir. 1982). The doctrine provides that any decision forcing a plaintiff to give up his claim, in effect, sounds the “death knell,” making it final for purposes of appeal. Coopers & Lybrand, 437 U.S. at 465-69.
Like the Gillespie doctrine, many commentators have argued that the death knell doctrine is all but a dead letter. Although the Fifth Circuit in the past noted that the Supreme Court did not actually overrule the death knell doctrine in Coopers & Lybrand, see McKnight, 667 F.2d at 479, the Fifth Circuit noted that the U.S. Supreme Court’s post-Cooper decision “in Deposit Guaranty National Bank v. Roper, 445 U.S. 326 (1980), declared that its prior decision in Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463 (1978), sounded the death knell to that doctrine.” Save the Bay, Inc. v. United States Army, 639 F.2d 1100, 1103 n.3 (5th Cir. Feb. 1981).
And, more recently, the Fifth Circuit observed that the Supreme Court did “limit the death knell exception” in Coopers & Lybrand and in its later decision, Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital v. Mercury Construction Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 10 n.11 (1983). See Kmart Corp. v. Aronds, 123 F.3d 297, 300 (5th Cir. 1997).
In Moses H. Cone, the Supreme Court held that Idlewild’s reasoning was limited to abstention or similar doctrines where all or an essential part of the federal suit goes to a state forum. Aronds, 123 F.3d at 300. Further, even in cases involving stays, the Fifth Circuit has stated that while it liberally construed the death knell exception in the past, it could no longer do so because the exception was limited to cases where the stay requires all or essentially all of the suit to be litigated in state court. See Aronds, 123 F.3d at 300 (citing United States v. Garner, 749 F.2d 281, 288 (5th Cir. 1985), and Kershaw v. Shalala, 9 F.3d 11, 14 (5th Cir. 1993)). And even in cases involving abstention doctrines, resort to the death knell doctrine is usually unnecessary; direct reliance may be placed on Moses H. Cone and the Supreme Court’s more recent decision in Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 712 (1996).
3. Forgay “hardship–irreparable injury” exception
The Forgay doctrine, or, as it is sometimes called the “hardship and irreparable injury” exception to the final-judgment rule, grew out of Forgay v. Conrad, 47 U.S. (6 How.) 201 (1848). Today, the Forgay doctrine—if it has any continuing validity—is viewed a narrow exception to the final-judgment rule; it allows immediate appellate court review of district court orders that adjudicate part of one claim by directing the immediate delivery of property from one party to another, when there is the possibility that the losing party will experience irreparable harm or hardship if appeal of the execution is not allowed. Jalapeno Prop. Mgmt., LLC v. Dukas, 265 F.3d 506, 512 n.8 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Forgay, 47 U.S. at 204); see also 15A CHARLES A. WRIGHT ET AL., FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 3910, at 328 (2d ed. 1992) (noting that the Forgay doctrine “is likely to be applied only to orders that improvidently direct immediate execution of judgments that involve part of the merits of a claim and are outside the limits of Rule 54(b)”).
Although the Forgay doctrine is occasionally cited, it—like the Gillespie and death knell doctrines—is probably a dead letter. Petties v. Dist. of Columbia, 227 F.3d 469, 473 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (“[W]e are not at all sure that Forgay has continuing vitality apart from the collateral order doctrine . . . .”); see Digital Equip., 511 U.S. at 868 (appealability under the collateral order doctrine must be determined “without regard to the chance that the litigation might be speeded, or a ‘particular injustice’ averted by a prompt appellate court decision”); see, e.g., Maiz v. Virani, 311 F.3d 334, 339 n.4 (5th Cir. 2002) (holding that it had appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine over an order directed at two nonparty corporations to turnover property “worth tens of millions of dollars”).
In fact, the two most recent Fifth Circuit cases citing the Forgay doctrine as a possible jurisprudential exception to finality were decided more than a decade ago. Goodman v. Lee, 988 F.2d 619, 626 (5th Cir. 1993) (citing Forgay for a narrow proposition, but distinguishing it); Lakedreams v. Taylor, 932 F.2d 1103, 1107 n.7 (5th Cir. 1991) (citing it in dicta).
The Forgay category of hardship finality is narrow, and according to the Wright & Miller treatise, has not generated a large number of appeals. 15A CHARLES A. WRIGHT ET AL., FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 3910 (2d ed. 1992). The most common, and the most expansive, jurisprudential exception to the finaljudgment rule is the collateral order doctrine.
Despite its stringent requirements and arguably limited applicability, the collateral order doctrine is the best chance of establishing appellate jurisdiction on a jurisprudential exception. Pan E. Exploration Co. v. Hufo Oils, 798 F.2d 837, 839 (5th Cir. 1986). But, if the facts of your case fit into the narrow and specific facts of the Forgay doctrine, counsel may wish to consider citing both the collateral order and Forgay doctrines and reviewing the Wright & Miller treatise’s treatment of the doctrine, which argues that “within its restricted sphere it provides a highly desirable elaboration of the final judgment rule.” 15A WRIGHT ET AL., supra, § 3910, at 329 (2d ed. 1996).
C. Procedure for Appealing Under the Collateral Order Doctrine
“An appeal taken under the collateral order doctrine is subject to all the usual appellate rules and time periods, including Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.” United States v. Moats, 961 F.2d 1198, 1203 (5th Cir. 1992); see also Byrd v. Corporacion Forestal y Industrial de Olancho S.A., 182 F.3d 380, 386 (5th Cir. 1999) (“While we said in Moats that appeals taken pursuant to the collateral order doctrine are subject to all of the usual appellate rules governing interlocutory appeals, we also specifically identified Rule 4.”). A party seeking to appeal under the collateral order doctrine should follow the appeal procedures under FED. R. APP. P. 4 that apply to appeals “as of right” from traditional final judgments (e.g., invoke the appellate court’s jurisdiction by filing a notice of appeal in the district court within the time specified by FED. R. APP. P. 4).
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