Tripati v. Forwith (11/3/2009)

November 30, 2009

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds That An Appellant Must Obtain a Signed Order Denying a Motion for New Trial Before Filing a Notice of Appeal, and that a Motion for New Trial May Extend the Time to File a Notice of Appeal When It is Used to Challenge the Denial of a Rule 60(c) Motion.

Tripati, an inmate, filed a complaint against Corrections staff.  The trial court granted summary judgment against Tripati and the Court of Appeals affirmed.  Six months later, Tripati filed a motion, which the trial court treated as a motion for relief from judgment under Rule 60(c).  In a signed minute entry, the trial court denied Tripati’s Rule 60(c) motion.  Tripati timely filed a motion for new trial pursuant to Rule 59(a), which the trial court also denied in an unsigned minute entry.  Tripati thereafter requested that the trial court issue a signed order denying his motion for new trial, which the trial court denied.  Tripati filed a notice of appeal, but requested that the Appeals court remand for a signed order denying his motion for new trial.  A motions panel of the Appeals Court denied that request.  Prior to considering the merits of Tripati’s appeal, the merits panel addressed whether Tripati needed a signed order denying his Rule 59(a) motion. The merits panel disagreed with the motions panel, concluding that Tripati did need a signed order.  Thus, the merits panel suspended the appeal to give Tripati an opportunity to obtain a signed order.  After Tripati was able to do so, this appeal followed.

First, the Appeals Court, explaining why it disagreed with the motions panel regarding the need for a signed order, held that it does not possess jurisdiction over an appeal from the denial of a motion for new trial until the trial court has issued a signed order reflecting the denial.  An unsigned minute entry is insufficient.  The Court reasoned that a motion for new trial ordinarily tolls the time for filing a notice of appeal until entry of an order granting or denying the motion, and A.R.C.A.P. 9(b) states that entry of an order only occurs when a signed written order is filed with the clerk of court.  Second, the Court held that a motion for new trial may challenge the denial of a Rule 60(c) motion, and that filing such a motion tolls the time for filing a notice of appeal.  Although Tripati’s notice of appeal was, therefore, timely, the Court ultimately affirmed the trial court’s denial of Tripati’s Rule 60(c) and 59(a) motions.