FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT
[NO. 66FCV-16-597] HONORABLE JAMES O. COX, JUDGE
McCauley Law Firm PLLC, by: Rhonda McCauley, for appellants.
Law Group, PLLC, by: William Whitfield Hyman, for appellees.
BRANDON J. HARRISON, JUDGE
McCauley and the McCauley Law Firm, PLLC (collectively
"McCauley"), appeal the default judgment entered in
favor of Amilcar Cornejo and Douglas Hall (collectively
"Cornejo"). We lack jurisdiction over this appeal
and must therefore dismiss it.
January 2015, Cornejo hired attorney Rhonda McCauley to
handle matters relating to Cornejo's immigration status.
On 24 June 2016, Cornejo filed a complaint against McCauley
alleging breach of contract, negligence, vicarious liability,
and fraud. In September 2016, McCauley answered and denied
November 2017, Cornejo moved to compel discovery responses
from McCauley. That same day (November 16), the circuit court
entered an order directing McCauley to fully respond to the
discovery "within ten (10) days from the date of this
November 30, Cornejo filed a motion stating that McCauley had
not complied with the court's order and asked the court
to find McCauley in contempt, strike her answer, and enter a
default judgment. Cornejo also sought attorney's fees. On
December 1, the circuit court held McCauley in contempt and
imposed these sanctions:
a. Defendant's answer is stricken, including all
counterclaims and affirmative defenses pursuant to Rule 37,
and Plaintiffs are granted a Default Judgment.
b. Defaulted Defendants are ordered to pay Plaintiffs the
amount of their filing fee, $165.00. Defendants are also
ordered to pay Plaintiffs the initial contract price and
treble damages, totaling in the amount of $11, 160.00 with
interest accruing at the rate of 10% per annum. Plaintiffs
are awarded attorney's fees in the amount of $3, 100.00.
December 4, McCauley moved, pursuant to Rules 59 and 60 of
the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure, to set aside the
default judgment. She argued that the order was entered
before the time to respond to discovery had expired. Cornejo
responded to the motion on December 8. No further action was
taken until the circuit court convened a hearing on 26
January 2018. Then the circuit court entered a modified
judgment on February 20 that eliminated the treble damages
and awarded Cornejo the initial contract price of $3, 720 and
a total amount of $3, 935. McCauley filed a notice of appeal
on 16 March 2018.
notice of appeal came too late, however, so we lack
jurisdiction to review any of the court's decisions. The
notice was untimely because McCauley did not appeal the
initial default judgment within thirty days of its entry.
Instead, she moved to set aside the judgment within three
calendar days after the court entered it. This means she
extended the original deadline to file a notice of appeal
until thirty days from the date the court decided the
postjudgment motion, or until thirty days after the motion
was deemed denied, whichever event happened first. Ark. R.
App. P.-Civ. 4(b)(1) (2017). Here, McCauley's motion was
deemed denied on 3 January 2018 because the circuit court had
not otherwise decided the motion before that day. So McCauley
had thirty days from January 3 to appeal the default judgment
and the denial (by operation of law) of her postjudgment
the circuit court held a hearing on January 26 and entered a
related order on February 20 is of no legal consequence,
jurisdictionally speaking, because the court lost the power
to act after the thirtieth day from the filing date of
McCauley's postjudgment motion. See Murchison v.
Safeco Ins. Co. of Ill., 367 Ark. 166, 238 S.W.3d 11
(2006); Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. of Ark. v.
Sudrick, 49 Ark.App. 84, 896 S.W.2d 452 (1995). Simply
put: McCauley had thirty days, or until 2 February 2018, to
file a notice of appeal from the original default ...