Appeals 101: Why Rendition Matters

Rendition is a critical concept in Florida appeals, but not everyone understands its importance. The Fourth District this week in Guy v. Plaza Home Mortgage, Inc., No. 4D17-3335 (April 25, 2018) [.pdf] chided the Broward County Clerk’s foreclosure department for backdating final judgments when entering them on the Court docket. The decision offers a good reminder of the importance of rendition in appellate practice, and the reasons it matters.

Rendered Before Entered?

The case came to the court in an unusual procedural posture — a pro se appellant moved the court to correct the record because while the summary judgment hearing was held at 1:30 pm, the judgement’s electronic stamp “indicates that it was filed with the Broward County Clerk…at 8:35 a.m., nearly five hours hours earlier.”

The Broward Clerk explained that when the clerk’s office received the order from chambers, often a day or more after it was signed, its practice was to scan the item — which added a time and date stamp — then change the date but not the time to the date the order was signed by the Court. The result in this case is an order that appears to be rendered prior to being signed. And the result in general is that the real time docket on the date of signature does not show the order, and may not for several days. Then the order will all of a sudden “appear” that the item was added to the docket on the date the order was signed, whether or not the clerk’s office processed it on that day.

Why Rendition Matters

Let’s start with the definition of rendition: “An order is rendered when a signed, written order is filed with the clerk of the lower tribunal.” Fla. R. App. P. 9.020(i). Rendition can sometimes be tolled, such as when “there has been filed in the lower tribunal an authorized and timely motion for new trial, for rehearing” and a few other specific types of motions. When such a motion has been filed, the order is not considered rendered “until the filing of a signed, written order disposing of the last of such motions.” Id.

The problem, as the Fourth District explained, is that “[t]he time for appeal runs from the date of rendition, not the date the judgment is signed.” See Fla. R. App. P. 9.110(b). “By backdating the electronic filing stamp, the clerk changes the rendition date, possibly to the prejudice of an appellant.”

The Court pointed out that in this case, “appellant’s appellate rights were not affected,” and so the Court denied the motion to correct the record. The Court concluded “We nevertheless disapprove of the this practice as it is inconsistent with the appellate rules.”

How Backdating Rendition Affects Appellate Rights

Kudos to the Fourth District for calling out this potentially prejudicial practice. The time for appeal starts running from the date of rendition, and a backdated docket entry can unexpectedly shorten the time for appeal. We’ve seen a clerk wait 25 days to enter a final order on the docket, and then send the backdated rendered order by mail, leaving the attorney with no time to even discuss appeal with the client. The clerk’s docket is supposed even the playing field and allow all to know when an order is rendered and therefore appealable. Backdating leaves a party without notice and potentially deprives the party of the right to appeal.

The Takeaway on Rendition

When you’re not sure if an order has been rendered, it’s never a bad move to calendar your deadlines based on the date of signature, and regularly check the docket until you are sure of a rendition date. While a premature appeal can be subject to dismissal, if the order is rendered before the appellate court catches that an appeal was prematurely filed, “the premature notice of appeal shall be considered effective to vest jurisdiction in the court to review the final order.” See Fla. R. App. P. 9.110(l).

About Appeals 101

This post is part of our continuing Appeals 101 series. Click the link to find all of our posts on the basics of litigating an appeal.

Timing is Everything With Your Notice of Appeal

Yellow Cab Photo Courtesy Flickr.com/Wackystuff

Don’t miss your ride to the appellate court
by filing your notice of appeal late!


Seeking and receiving an amendment to your final judgment does not toll or alter the time to file a notice of appeal, the Third District recently confirmed.

In Yellow Cab Co. v. Ewing, 3D16-969, 2017 WL 2854407 (Fla. 3d DCA July 5, 2017) [.pdf], the trial court entered a final judgment for Ewing that “incorrectly referred to the defendant as Yellow Cab, Inc., rather than Yellow Cab Company.” Yellow Cab did not appeal this judgment, instead waiting until the trial court entered an amended judgment that merely changed the party name. More than 30 days elapsed from the entry of the first final order before Yellow Cab filed its notice of appeal.

Unfortunately for Yellow Cab, longstanding Florida law establishes that “An amendment or modification of an order or judgment in an immaterial way does not toll the time within which review must be sought.” Id., quoting St. Mortiz Hotel v. Daughtry, 249 So. 2d 27, 28 (Fla. 1971). And a simple change of party name is considered a clerical error—an “immaterial change.” Id. The Third District Court of Appeal was without jurisdiction to consider Yellow Cab’s late appeal, and so it dismissed the appeal as untimely.

The Court’s decision does not really break any new ground, but it appears the Third District intended this opinion as another cautionary tale for the unwary. . Once 30 days has run from the date of the entry of the appealable order without a notice of appeal filed, even where the trial court might later enter an amended judgment, the right to appeal could be lost forever.

Motions Postponing Rendition

Now that we no longer have to worry about abandoning an authorized motion for rehearing by filing a notice of appeal, the appellate courts understandably want to know if there is such a motion pending. The Fifth District recently issued a notice [.pdf] expressly asking parties to inform the court if an appeal should be held in abeyance. Specifically, the court asks that, along with the notice of appeal, the parties “immediately” inform the court of pending motions by filing a notice with the Court. Similarly, parties are requested to file a notice with the court again when the trial court rules on the pending motion, and include a copy of the lower tribunal’s signed, written order disposing of the motion.

To further facilitate this, the Court this week amended Administrative Order AO5D12-2 [.pdf] to require the clerk of the lower tribunal to indicate on its transmittal that a motion postponing rendition is pending.

This just makes sense, and would be good practice in all of the DCAs, even in the absence if a formal request from the Clerk. The easier parties make it for the Court to get to the merits, the better the system works for everyone. The full text of the notice reads:

Informing the Appellate Court of Pending Motions Postponing Rendition at time of Filing the Notice of Appeal

April 10, 2015

Effective January 1, 2015, Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.020(i)(3) has been amended to eliminate the abandonment of motions authorized pursuant to rule 9.020(l) by the filing of a notice of appeal. Rendition of a final order will be delayed by the filing or service of a timely and authorized motion and the filing of a notice of appeal will not result in the abandonment of such a motion but rather the appeal shall be held in abeyance until the filing of a signed, written order disposing of the motion.

Attorneys and parties filing a notice of appeal should immediately inform the court by the filing of a proper notice if a motion postponing rendition is pending so that the case may properly be held in abeyance. Likewise, the attorneys or parties in the case should inform the court by notice upon the lower tribunal disposition of such motions by filing a copy of the lower tribunal’s signed, written order disposing of the motion.

Lower court clerks, lower tribunal clerks, and agency clerks are now required to complete a new section of the electronic transmittal form submitted when efiling notices of appeal to this court which must indicate whether or not a motion postponing rendition is pending in the case below. Clerks must mark this section of the form or the notice of appeal may be rejected until such time as the transmittal form is properly completed.

/s/
____________________________
Joanne P. Simmons, Clerk of Court