There Is Generally No “Motion to Reconsider” Post-Judgment Ruling; Failure to Timely Appeal Initial Post-Judgment Order Bars Review

A husband was turned aside where he appealed, not from the denial of his initial post-judgment motion, but from the denial of his (much later) motion to "reconsider” that initial post-judgment disposition. Rorex v. Rorex, No. 2060232 (Ala. Civ. App.) (July 27, 2007). The trial court’s acts after it denied the first post-judgment motion were “void” and would not support an appeal.

The Court of Civil Appeals trod familiar ground in this case, in which a party unwrapped the well-loved (if ill-treated) motion to “reconsider,” trying to keep its case alive. The trial court granted the plaintiff wife a default judgment. The husband filed a Rule 55(c) post-judgment motion to set that judgment aside. Subsequently, the husband filed a “‘motion to review’ in which he cited facts and circumstances that had arisen after the entry of the trial court’s judgment, but he did not seek to amend” his Rule 55 motion. The trial court denied the Rule 55 motion; but, at the same time, it set the “motion for review” for hearing. No one appealed the Rule 55 denial.

More than three months later, the husband filed a “Motion for Relief from Order.” He claimed that he had never received notice that his Rule 55 motion had been denied, and he asked the court to “reconsider” that denial. The trial court denied this motion. From the last order the husband timely appealed.

The appellate court first noted that it was compelled to address the issue of jurisdiction. “Although neither party has questioned this court’s appellate jurisdiction,” the court wrote, “it is the duty of an appellate court to consider the lack of subject matter jurisdiction ex mero motu.” The appellate court lacked jurisdiction here because “all actions taken [by the trial court] after the denial of the [post-judgment] motion [were] void.” “[T]he Rules of Civil Procedure do not authorize a movant to file a motion to reconsider the trial court’s ruling on his own post-judgment motion.” Using block language from the Alabama Supreme Court, the Rorex court described this proscription and those limited exceptions in which a trial court may revisit a post-judgment disposition.  “[I]n most cases," the court reiminded readers, "the only review of a denial of a post-judgment motion is by [an] appeal.”

The father had not appealed the initial denial of his Rule 55 post-judgment motion. Everything the trial court had done after that denial, including the order appealed from, was “void.” The Court of Civil Appeals lacked jurisdiction and dismissed the case.