(a) Separate document required. Every judgment and amended judgment must be set out in a separate document ordinarily titled “Judgment”—or, as appropriate, “Decree.”
(b) Separate document not required.A separate document is not required for an order disposing of a post-judgment motion:
(b)(1) for judgment under Rule 50(b);
(b)(2) to amend or make additional findings under Rule 52(b);
(b)(3) for a new trial, or to alter or amend the judgment, under Rule 59;
(b)(4) for relief under Rule 60; or
(b)(5) for attorney fees under Rule 73.
(c) Preparing a judgment.
(c)(1) Preparing and serving a proposed judgment. The prevailing party or a party directed by the court must prepare and serve on the other parties a proposed judgment for review and approval as to form. The proposed judgment shall be served within 14 days after the jury verdict or after the court’s decision. If the prevailing party or party directed by the court fails to timely serve a proposed judgment, any other party may prepare a proposed judgment and serve it on the other parties for review and approval as to form.
(c)(2) Effect of approval as to form. A party’s approval as to form of a proposed judgment certifies that the proposed judgment accurately reflects the verdict or the court’s decision. Approval as to form does not waive objections to the substance of the judgment.
(c)(3) Objecting to a proposed judgment. A party may object to the form of the proposed judgment by filing an objection within 7 days after the judgment is served.
(c)(4) Filing proposed judgment. The party preparing a proposed judgment must file it:
(c)(4)(A) after all other parties have approved the form of the judgment; (The party preparing the proposed judgment must indicate the means by which approval was received: in person; by telephone; by signature; by email; etc.)
(c)(4)(B) after the time to object to the form of the judgment has expired; (The party preparing the proposed judgment must also file a certificate of service of the proposed judgment.) or
(c)(4)(C) within 7 days after a party has objected to the form of the judgment. (The party preparing the proposed judgment may also file a response to the objection.)
(d) Judge’s signature; judgment filed with the clerk. Except as provided in paragraph (h) and Rule 55(b)(1), all judgments must be signed by the judge and filed with the clerk. The clerk must promptly record all judgments in the docket.
(e) Time of entry of judgment.
(e)(1) If a separate document is not required, a judgment is complete and is entered when it is signed by the judge and recorded in the docket.
(e)(2) If a separate document is required, a judgment is complete and is entered at the earlier of these events:
(e)(2)(A) the judgment is set out in a separate document signed by the judge and recorded in the docket; or
(e)(2)(B) 150 days have run from the clerk recording the decision, however designated, that provides the basis for the entry of judgment.
(f) Award of attorney fees.A motion or claim for attorney fees does not affect the finality of a judgment for any purpose, but under Rule of Appellate Procedure 4, the time in which to file the notice of appeal runs from the disposition of the motion or claim.
(g) Notice of judgment. The party preparing the judgment shall promptly serve a copy of the signed judgment on the other parties in the manner provided in Rule 5 and promptly file proof of service with the court. Except as provided in Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(g), the time for filing a notice of appeal is not affected by this requirement.
(h) Judgment after death of a party. If a party dies after a verdict or decision upon any issue of fact and before judgment, judgment may nevertheless be entered.
(i) Judgment by confession. If a judgment by confession is authorized by statute, the party seeking the judgment must file with the clerk a statement, verified by the defendant, as follows:
(i)(1) If the judgment is for money due or to become due, the statement must concisely state the claim and that the specified sum is due or to become due.
(i)(2) If the judgment is for the purpose of securing the plaintiff against a contingent liability, the statement must state concisely the claim and that the specified sum does not exceed the liability.
(i)(3) The statement must authorize the entry of judgment for the specified sum.
The clerk must sign the judgment for the specified sum.
(j) Abstract of judgment. The clerk may abstract a judgment by a signed writing under seal of the court that:
(j)(1) identifies the court, the case name, the case number, the judge or clerk that signed the judgment, the date the judgment was signed, and the date the judgment was recorded in the registry of actions and the registry of judgments;
(j)(2) states whether the time for appeal has passed and whether an appeal has been filed;
(j)(3) states whether the judgment has been stayed and when the stay will expire; and
(j)(4) if the language of the judgment is known to the clerk, quotes verbatim the operative language of the judgment or attaches a copy of the judgment.
Advisory Committee Notes
The 2015 amendments to Rule 58A adopt the requirement, found in Rule 58 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, that a judgment be set out in a separate document. In the past, problems have arisen when the district court entered a decision with dispositive language, but without the other formal elements of a judgment, resulting in uncertainty about whether the decision started the time for appeals. This problem was compounded by uncertainty under Rule 7 about whether the decision was the court’s final ruling on the matter or whether the prevailing party was expected to prepare an order confirming the decision.
The 2015 amendments of Rule 7, Rule 54 and Rule 58A are intended to reduce this confusion by requiring “that there be a judgment set out on a separate document—distinct from any opinion or memorandum—which provides the basis for the entry of judgment.” See Advisory Committee Notes to 1963 Amendments to Fed. R. Civ. P. 58. Courts and practitioners are encouraged to use appropriate titles with separate documents intended to operate as judgments, such as “Judgment” or “Decree,” and to avoid using such titles on documents that are not appealable. The parties should consider the form of judgment included in the Appendix of Forms. On the question of what constitutes a separate document, the Committee refers courts and practitioners to existing case law interpreting Fed. R. Civ. P. 58. For example, In re Cendant Corp., 454 F.3d 235, 242-244 (3d Cir. 2006) offers three criteria:
1) the judgment must be set forth in a document that is independent of the court’s opinion or decision;
2) it must contain ordering clauses stating the relief to which the prevailing party is entitled, and not merely refer to orders made in other documents or state that a motion has been granted; and
3) it must substantially omit recitation of facts, procedural history, and the reasons for disposing of the parties’ claims.
While “some trivial departures” from these criteria—such as a one-sentence explanation of reasoning, a single citation to authority, or a reference to a separate memorandum decision—“must be tolerated in the name of common sense,” any explanation must be “very sparse.” Kidd v. District of Columbia, 206 F.3d 35, 39 (D.C. Cir. 2000).
The concurrent amendments to Rule 7 remove the separate document requirement formerly applicable to interlocutory orders. Henceforward, the separate document requirement will apply only to judgments, a change that should reduce the tendency to confuse judgments with other orders. Rule 7 has also been amended to modify the process by which orders on motions are prepared. The process for preparing judgments is the same.
Under amended Rule 7(j), a written decision, however designated, is complete—is the judge’s last word on the motion—when it is signed, unless the court expressly requests a party to prepare an order confirming the decision. But this should not be confused with the need to prepare a separate judgment when the decision has the effect of disposing of all clams in the case. If a decision disposes of all claims in the action, a separate judgment is required whether or not the court directs a party to prepare an order confirming the decision.
State Rule 58A is similar to Fed. R. Civ. P. 58 in determining the time of entry of judgment when a separate document is required but not prepared. This situation involves the “hanging appeals” problem that the Supreme Court asked this Committee to address in Central Utah Water Conservancy District v. King, 2013 UT 13, ¶27. Under the 2015 amendments, if a separate document is required but is not prepared, judgment is deemed to have been entered 150 days from the date the decision—or the order confirming the decision—was entered on the docket.
The 2016 amendments in paragraphs (b) and (f) are part of a coordinated effort with the Advisory Committee on the Rules of Appellate Procedure to change the effect of a motion for attorney fees on the appealability of a judgment. The combined amendments of this rule and Rule of Appellate Procedure 4 effectively overturn ProMax Development Corp. v. Raile, 2000 UT 4, 998 P.2d 254 and Meadowbrook, LLC v. Flower, 959 P.2d 115 (Utah 1998). Paragraph (f) also addresses any doubts about the enforceability of a judgment while a motion for attorney fees is pending.
Under ProMax and Meadowbrook a judgment was not final until the claim for attorney fees had been resolved. An appeal filed before a claim for attorney fees had been resolved was premature and would be dismissed. Under the 2016 amendments, the time to appeal runs from the order disposing of a timely motion for attorney fees, just as it does timely motions under Rules 50, 52 and 59. The 2016 amendments to appellate Rule 4(b) also add a motion under Rule 60(b), but only if the motion is filed within 28 days after the judgment.
If a notice of appeal is filed before the order resolving the timely motion, the appeal is not dismissed; it is treated as filed on the day the order ultimately is entered, although the party must file an amended notice of appeal to appeal from the order disposing of the motion.
Although this change overturns ProMax and Meadowbrook, it is not the same as the federal rule. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58(e):
Ordinarily, the entry of judgment may not be delayed, nor the time for appeal extended, in order to tax costs or award fees. But if a timely motion for attorney's fees is made under Rule 54(d)(2), the court may act before a notice of appeal has been filed and become effective to order that the motion have the same effect under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4 (a)(4) as a timely motion under Rule 59.
In other words, a motion for attorney fees extends the time to appeal, but only if the trial court judge rules that it does. In the 2016 amendment of the state rules, a timely motion for attorney fees automatically has that effect.
Although the 2016 amendments change a policy of long standing in the Utah state courts, the amendments will help to protect the appellate rights of parties and avoid the cost of premature appeals.