Federal Procedure – Judgments – Finality of Judgment Required to Begin Running of Time for Appeal

Plaintiff brought action in a federal district court to recover taxes alleged to have been illegally assessed, and for interest thereon. On April 14, 1955, after hearing plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, the district judge filed an opinion stating that the motion was granted, and finding the amount of the taxes paid, but not finding the date of payment or the amount of interest due. The clerk noted: “April 14, 1955 … Decision rendered on motion for summary judgment. Motion granted. See opinion on file.” On May 24, 1955, plaintiff submitted a formal judgment which was signed and filed by the district judge. The clerk entered the judgment, noting the amount of taxes, interest and costs due the plaintiff. Defendant filed his appeal on July 21, 1955, and plaintiff’s motion to dismiss the appeal as untimely was sustained. On certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, held, reversed, two justices dissenting. The actions of all the parties show that the opinion of April 14 was not intended as a final judgment and therefore could not be a direction to enter judgment under rule 58. Furthermore, the clerk’s entry of April 14 failed to state the substance of the judgment as required by rule 79(a), since it failed to show the amount of interest due. Therefore, the entry of May 24 constituted the entry of judgment and the defendant’s appeal was timely. United States v. F & M. Schaefer Brewing Co., 356 U.S. 227 (1958).