Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Third Circuit Holds that Other Courts' Judgments May Be Vacated under Rule 60(b)'s Catch-All Provision

Per Budget Blinds, Inc. v. White, --- F.3d ----, 2008 WL 2875349 (3d Cir. July 28, 2008):

The power of a court to invoke Rule 60(b) to vacate its own earlier judgment is unquestioned. As we discuss below, however, it is unclear whether a court has the power to invoke Rule 60(b) to vacate a judgment when the court in which the judgment is registered (the “registering court”) is different from the court that entered the judgment (the “rendering court”). Nothing in the text of Rule 55(c) or Rule 60(b) suggests that a registering court lacks the power to vacate the judgment of a different rendering court. . . .

We decline to establish a categorical rule stating that registering courts lack the power to use Rule 60(b)(6) to vacate the judgments of rendering courts, but we emphasize that registering courts should exercise this power only under very limited circumstances. Even when a court is considering its own judgment, “extraordinary circumstances” must be present to justify the use of the Rule 60(b)(6) catch-all provision to vacate the judgment. See, e.g., Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 535-36, 125 S.Ct. 2641, 162 L.Ed.2d 480 (2005) (citing Ackermann v. United States, 340 U.S. 193, 199, 71 S.Ct. 209, 95 L.Ed. 207 (1950)). When a court is considering whether to vacate another court's judgment under Rule 60(b)(6), these circumstances must be even more “extraordinary” because of the additional interest in comity among the federal district courts. We need not decide exactly how “extraordinary” a circumstance must be to justify the vacatur of another court's judgment.


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