SEARS, ROEBUCK & CO. V. MACKEY, 351 U. S. 427 (1956)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Mackey, 351 U.S. 427 (1956)

Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Mackey

No. 34

Argued February 28, 1956

Decided June 11, 1956

351 U.S. 427


In a multiple claims action, the Federal District Court expressly directed that judgment be entered for the defendant on two, but less than all, of the claims presented. The court also expressly determined that there was no just reason for delay in making the entry. On appeal from that judgment, the Court of Appeals upheld its jurisdiction and denied a motion to dismiss, relying upon 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended in 1946.

Held: the appellate jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals is sustained, and its judgment denying the motion to dismiss the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction is affirmed. Pp. 351 U. S. 428-438.

(a) Rule 54(b), as amended, does not relax the finality required of each decision, as an individual claim, to render it appealable, but does provide a practical means of permitting an appeal to be taken from one or more final decisions on individual claims, in multiple claims actions, without waiting for final decisions to be rendered on all the claims in the case. Pp. 351 U. S. 434-435.

(b) The application of the amended rule is limited expressly to multiple claims actions in which "one or more but less than all" of the multiple claims have been finally decided and are found otherwise to be ready for appeal. P. 351 U. S. 435.

(c) The amended rule requires that for "one or more but less than all" multiple claims to become appealable, the District Court must make both "an express determination that there is no just reason for delay" and "an express direction for the entry of judgment." Pp. 351 U. S. 435-436.

(d) In this case, each of the claims dismissed was a "claim for relief" within the meaning of Rule 54(b), and the dismissal of each constituted a "final decision" on the individual claim. P. 351 U. S. 436.

(e) The claims adjudged by the District Court could properly be decided independently of the claims which the court did not adjudge. P. 351 U. S. 436.

(f) Amended Rule 54(b) does not constitute an unauthorized extension of 28 U.S.C. § 1291, since the District Court cannot, in

Page 351 U. S. 428

the exercise of its discretion, treat as "final" that which is not "final" within the meaning of § 1291. Pp. 351 U. S. 436-437.

(g) In the exercise of its discretion under amended Rule 54(b), the District Court may release for appeal final decisions upon one or more, but less than all, claims in multiple claims actions, and any abuse of that discretion is reviewable by the Court of Appeals. P. 351 U. S. 437.

(h) Rule 54(b), as amended, does not supersede any statute controlling appellate jurisdiction, and it scrupulously recognizes the statutory requirement of a "final decision" under § 1291 as a basic requirement for an appeal to the Court of Appeals. P. 351 U. S. 438.

(i) Rule 54(b), as amended, is valid in both its "affirmative" and "negative" aspects. The rule is not rendered invalid because, though its "affirmative" operation, a final decision may be released for appeal to the Court of Appeals at a time when, under prior law, it would not have been appealable. P. 351 U. S. 438.

218 F.2d 295 affirmed.

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