Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

May Court Grant Rule 60(b) Relief Sua Sponte? Circuit Split

Reich v. Hallet (In re Hallet), 2011 Bankr. LEXIS 4992 (Bankr. D. Mass. Dec. 19, 2011):

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b), made applicable to bankruptcy cases by Fed. R. Bankr. P. 9024, "[o]n motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for . . . mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect. . . ." Admittedly, there is a circuit level split of authority over whether a court may grant relief under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) sua sponte***.

Footnote 29. Compare Eaton v. Jamrog, 984 F.2d 760, 762 (6th Cir. 1993) (holding that Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) bars sua sponte relief), and Dow v. Baird, 389 F.2d 882, 884-885 (10th Cir. 1968) (same), with Fort Knox Music Inc. v. Baptiste, 257 F.3d 108, 111 (2d Cir. 2001) (finding that Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) permits sua sponte relief), Kingvision Pay-Per-View, Ltd. v. Lake Alice Bar, 168 F.3d 347, 351-352 (9th Cir. 1999) (same), McDowell v. Celebrezze, 310 F.2d 43, 44 (5th Cir. 1962) (same), and United States v. Jacobs, 298 F.2d 469, 472 (4th Cir. 1961) (suggesting that sua sponte relief may be appropriate under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) in some cases). See also Burnam v. Amoco Container Co., 738 F.2d 1230, 1232 (11th Cir. 1984) (the district court has the inherent authority to grant sua sponte relief if it complies with Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e)'s ten-day limit); Sun-Tek Indus., Inc. v. Kennedy Sky Lites, Inc., 848 F.2d 179, 181 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (applying Eleventh Circuit procedural law).

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