Monday, April 25, 2011

Summary 2011 WY 71

Summary of Decision April 25, 2011

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Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court

Case Name: Mathewson v. Estate of Helen Isabel Nielsen

Citation: 2011 WY 71

Docket Number: S-10-0200


Appeal from the District Court of Hot Springs County, The Honorable Robert E. Skar, Judge
Representing Appellant (Petitioner): Paul D. Mathewson, pro se.
Representing Appellee (Respondent): Edward G. Luhm, Worland, Wyoming.

Date of Decision: April 25, 2011

Facts: Appellant objected to an application for summary distribution of his grandmother’s estate. The district court overruled his objection and granted summary judgment to the applicants. After the district court denied Appellant’s motion for a new trial, he appealed. The Court concluded that his motion for a new trial was actually a void motion for reconsideration, rendering his notice of appeal untimely. The Court had no jurisdiction to consider his appeal.

Issues: Whether Appellant’s notice of appeal was timely, thereby conferring jurisdiction on the Court.

Holdings: Although neither party to this appeal raised the issue of jurisdiction, the Court had a duty to determine whether it had jurisdiction to entertain an appeal. This Court’s jurisdiction is limited to appeals from final, appealable orders. W.R.A.P. 2.01 requires that a notice of appeal be filed within 30 days from entry of an appealable order.

Appellant filed a motion for a new trial pursuant to W.R.C.P. 59. Rule 59(a) presupposes that the district court conducted a trial, and the grounds upon which a new trial may be granted all pertain to irregularities in the trial proceedings or errors committed at trial. There was no trial in this case; the district court decided the case on summary judgment. A motion for a new trial was not appropriate. Giving Appellant the benefit of the doubt, the Court concluded that he may have intended to file a motion to alter or amend the judgment pursuant to W.R.C.P. 59(e).

A motion to alter or amend a judgment “is not a mechanism to re-litigate issues that the court already decided, nor should parties make additional arguments which should have been made before judgment.” Appellant did not present any valid reason to alter or amend the judgment; he was simply seeking reconsideration of the district court’s summary judgment order. As such, his Rule 59 motion was actually a motion for reconsideration and did not toll the time for appealing from the district court’s order granting summary judgment and distributing the estate assets. The summary judgment order was entered on May 20, 2010. Appellant’s August 30, 2010, notice of appeal was untimely under W.R.A.P 2.01 because it was not filed within 30 days after entry of a final appealable order. Appeal dismissed.

Chief Justice Kite delivered the opinion for the court.

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