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Decided: June 23, 2014

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s clarifying order, and determined that the district court properly construed Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (F.R.C.P.) 60(a) when it found that the late notice of appeal had no impact on Appellant’s malpractice claim.

The Fourth Circuit construed the proper scope of F.R.C.P. Rule 60(a), which authorizes district courts to correct mistakes in judgments and orders.  The Appellant, Sartin, hired the Appellee, McNair Law Firm, to represent him in a legal malpractice suit, and commenced this action when the Appellee filed a notice to appeal two days late.  Appellant claimed that the Appellee’s failure to file a timely notice of appeal was a proximate cause of his failure to recover attorneys’ fees in the malpractice suit against him.  The Court concluded that the Appellant suffered no injury because of the late notice of appeal, inasmuch as the district court in the earlier action properly employed F.R.C.P. Rule 60(a) to clarify its sanctions orders.  Therefore, the Appellant would not have succeeded on his appeal of that order, even had the notice of appeal been timely filed.

Full Opinion

Grace Faulkenberry