Once summary judgment is granted to the Plaintiff and a minute order filed, local rules state that the judgment entry must be filed with the clerk within 20 days of the date of the minute order filing. Could anyone here help me understand what happens if the journal entry is filed 45 days later?
This is the kind of issue that is going to heavily depend upon both the precise wording of the Rules of Civil Procedure of your jurisdiction, as well as the cases on the Rules. That is, this is likely to be jurisdiction dependent.
First, find the precise language of the applicable Rule. Then, use text from the Rule in searches of Google Scholar (free), LEXIS, or WestLaw to find cases interpretting and explaining the Rule. In many jurisdictions, some legal publisher will have published a copy of the "annotated rules". This published copy will probably give the leading cases in which the rule was discussed.
Most academic law libraries now have web accessible card catalogues. Use the web to find the law libraries of academic instiutions in your jurisdiction. Search the online card catalogues of law libraries of your state to find titles which might include a copy of the annotated rules.
Also, Amazon.com sells just about every title. Search the catalogue of Amazon for relevant titles. West Publishing is a leading legal publisher. You might also find a relevant title searching West's online sales listings.
Some state rules precisely correspond to the Federal Rules. When the state rules follow the Federal Rules, usually state courts will look to Federal Rules decisions and even state court decisions in other states in resolving ambiguities. The Federal cases and out of state cases wouldn't be binding, though, and whether a state court follows these decisions would be elective. Such out of state decisions might be said to be persuasive rather than authoritative.
Finally, realize that Miller & Wright and Moore have published treatises on the Federal Rules. These include some good discussion about virtually every topic of civil procedure. Again, these would not be authoritative as to your state. At best, the discussion would give you a more complete understanding about how courts elsewhere have resolved similar questions.
Is there a term of court after judgment rendition that allows the trial court to retain jurisdiction?
In antiquity, trial courts in many places lost jurisdiction at the conclusion of a court term unless a case was renewed. Modern practice has mostly done away with this artificial discontinuity and tends to mostly treat all cases as continuing without any necessity of renewal. This is going to be a question that is also dependent upon the constitution, statutes and rules of your state.
Most often, the way a trial court loses jurisdiction is by entering a final judgment.
If the final judgment is not filed within 20 days, does the trial court still have jurisdiction?
Look to the rules of your jurisdiction and the cases on the rules. Most likely, if the final judgment is not filed, it is not a final judgment. In most places, it is the filing that triggers deadlines, not the court's declaration as to how it is ruling as exemplified in the minutes, but, again, this is something that you are going to need to carefully research in respect of your jurisdiction.
I want to add that most attorneys in your state will probably not know the answer for sure without researching this. You really need to read the cases!
My intuition is that the rule is going to turn out to lack teeth. That is, I suspect that failing to timely file is going to have no direct consequence on the validity of the judgment and that the only real danger to the party that is remiss in presenting a proposed final order or judgment to the court is that they may tax the court's patience.
Basically, until the judge signs the final judgment, he can still change his mind. He can even usually change his mind upon motion by a party or possibly even sua sponte for some limited period after rendition of judgment (inclusive of filing).
My guess is that the sanction for failing to present a final order or judgment to the court is that the court might decide to dismiss a case for failure to prosecute.
One other note is in order about practice. Very often, when a judge decides a case, he relies upon the prevailing party to prepare a proposed final order/judgment. The court often expects and the state or local rules may actually require that the proposed judgment be circulated to the other parties for approval as to form.
Thus, if the court enunciates an intention to rule for one or the other party, the court is often expecting that the prevailing party will follow up by preparing that proposed judgment and circulating it to one or more of the parties for approval as to form. This presents the counterparty an opportunity to request changes to the order to correct errors or to make the order conform to the court's actual decision.
An abusive tactic often employed by dishonest foreclosure mill attorneys, particularly when litigating against pro se litigants, is to fail to circulate the final order for review and approval as to form to the defendant. When a proposed order is circulated, the court is expecting the parties to reach an agreement as to the form of the final order or judgment. If the counterparty does not agree to the form of the order, the prevailing party can still submit the order (without agreement) to the court. But the losing party can object to the form of the order (in writing) and request that the court make the changes that the losing party identifies.
Thus, when a court is presented with a final order unsigned by the losing party (as to approval of form), the court ought to wait at least a few days to sign the order to give the losing party an opportunity to present its written objections. If the court signed the order immediately, this would actually be somewhat abusive in denying the losing party an opportunity to present its objections as to the form of the order.
Thus, what you seem to see as some sort of abuse by the court, I am more inclined to see as the court showing some restraint to accomodate the real interests of the losing party in presenting objections to the form of the order. In my view, absent some really strong case law showing that a final order or judgment was lacking in authority when signed late, you are going to discover that the judge and the appellate court will be totally bored with any assertion that this involved any impropriety. The court is more likely to find any such assertion to be not only baseless, but totally frivolous, since the court was probably [u]waiting to be fair to you![/b]
Also the rules say the final judgment must say it is final in its title, or it is filed as a non-final judgment. When does the appeal clock start ticking if it is still no final?
Once again, you need to look to the jurisprudence of your state for the answer. The cases I have seen in several jurisdictions tend to emphasize the substance of the order rather than the caption. That is, if a final order or judgment is captioned as a "final order" or "judgment", but fails to dispose of all the issues or to resolve all claims as to all parties, it is often not a final judgment. However, there are always going to be some close cases!
Usually, a truly final order is going to not only have a caption that says it is a final order, but will have some "Mother Hubbard" language that resolves all ambiguities. It might say something like: "This is a final order disposing of all claims of each and every party and is appealable."
If you are in doubt as to whether an order is final, it is probably in your interest to err by filing a notice of appeal and paying the appellate filing fee. If you fail to do this and a court later decides that the ambiguous order was final, you will have missed your opportunity to appeal. If you appeal and the order is found not to be final, your appeal will be dismissed, but at least you will have some clarity about the finality of the order.
If the order fails to dispose of your counterclaims or cross-claims, you can usually voluntarily dismiss these claims resolving the problem. One common mistake pro se litigants make is to copy a bunch of junk counterclaims into their answer and then never seek adjudication of the counterclaims. The grant of summary judgment which fails to dispose of the counterclaims is then not actually a final order and cannot be appealed. The ignorant pro se litigant then stews in his own $hit. If you have a real counterclaim or third party complaint, pursue it and get it resolved. If you have some specious claim that cannot be proven that you copied off the web site of some scam artist, you need to be prepared to dismiss these claims if you want to appeal.
Can the house be set for sheriff's sale on a non-final judgment?
The house can be sold at sheriff's sale and the plaintiff can obtain a confirmation of that sale without a final order!
This is a very common tactic employed by the mills when ignorant pro se litigants load up the answer with junk counterclaims. The plaintiff just rolls right over the defendant, scheduling the matter for sale, getting a confirmation and selling the property.
The defendant usually lacks the resources to file a supersedeas bond or your state's equivalent. Without posting bond, usually an appeal will not suspend the judgment. The plaintiff will usually complete the foreclosure, including the confirmation of sale (which often is another separate order, which might still be treated as a final order, as to appeal). After the property is sold and the defendant is ejected, the plaintiff will move for a dismissal of the appeal due to the order not being a final order! The appeal will be dismissed and the defendant will be left homeless with some useless counterclaims. The plaintiff then waits a while and either moves for summary judgment on the counterclaims or moves for dismissal of the counterclaims due to failure to prosecute.
None of this is going to end well for the defendant. Again, if the defendant has real and valid counterclaims which can be proven, then the defendant probably needs to move for defensive summary judgment on the counterclaims. If the defendant fails to do this and the plaintiff prevails on summary judgment on its own claims, then existence of the coutnerclaims usually precludes an appeal.