Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Hall County District Court judge hearing a divorce case sent the attorneys his ruling and directed the wife's lawyer to prepare the decree. Husband filed a motion for new trial and then appealed the case within 30 days of the decree date but more than 30 days after the trial judge hearing a divorce case made his ruling in a letter and directed the wife's attorney to prepare the decree. The court clerk file-stamped the judge's letter-ruling. Nebraska Supreme Court, J Gerrard, rules the decree date is the correct date to start the 30 day appeal period running and admonishes the court clerk to not file this paperwork in the court file. Wagner v. Wagner, S-06-427, 275 Neb. 693. This case illustrates why trial courts should take care to ensure that regardless of how a final judgment is prepared, only the signed final order is filed with the clerk of the court. The clerk should not file stamp any document prepared by the trial court that is not a court order intended to have legal effect. But a filing that does not finally dispose of a case does not become a final, appealable order just because it is file stamped, and the trial court’s order in this case was clearly not meant to be a final determination of the rights and liabilities of the parties. Therefore, we conclude that the letter in this case was not a final, appealable order, and reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals.

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