No Revival for Appeal Filed a Day Late

This is Judge Lee Rosenthal’s decision as of today (see the earlier post).

Dr. Stella Immanuel sued CNN for defamation. With prejudice, the court dismissed Dr. Stella Immanuel’s complaint. Dr. Immanuel filed her appeal against the dismissal one day after the 30-day deadline. Fifth Circuit dismissed Dr. Immanuel’s appeal as it is subject to jurisdictional limitations.

Dr. Immanuel seeks to prolong the deadline for her appeal under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure (4(a)(5)). Dr. Immanuel claims that the extension is supported by either exusable neglect and/or good cause. CNN opposes the motion….

An equitable court will evaluate a motion for extension of time for filing notice of appeal on excusable neglect. It “takes account of all the pertinent circumstances surrounding the party’s act.” Relevant factors “include … the danger of prejudice …, the length of the delay and its potential impact on judicial proceedings, the reason for the delay, including whether it was within the reasonable control of the movant, and whether the movant acted in good faith.”

Dr. Immanuel claims that her primary lawyer timely prepared her notice-of-appeal, but that her Texas counsel was still awaiting the verdict from a different jury trial. She was therefore “unable” forward her notice to Texas counsel. CNN claims that the failure of counsel to file her document in time is an excuse for neglect. CNN is not arguing that extension would prejudice it or that motion was made in bad faith.

The reason Dr. Immanuel did not explain to her why her counsel couldn’t forward the notice for appeal, while she waited for the verdict of a jury in another case is not explained. The filing of a notice to appeal is a ministerial job. There is no evidence to support a claim that the filing of a notice of appeal was not completed within the time limit or that the task should have been delegated to an assistant, paralegal or another attorney.

It is found that counsel failed to transmit or forward an email regarding the appeal notice because he was waiting on a verdict from a jury in another case. This does not amount to neglect. In WilliamsAccording to the Fifth Circuit, it was observed by “le”[ft]There is always the chance that misinterpretations or omissions of federal regulations could be considered excusable neglect, but this would only happen in very rare cases. In granting an extension, the court found that the district court had abused its discretion. The court has a stronger case to deny an extension. Counsel understood the rules and met the deadline, but they did not follow the law. Dr. Immanuel essentially argues that her counsel was distracted, which is not an excuse for neglect….

Dr. Immanuel also has good cause to move. Her argument is that the case raises complicated legal issues and has significant implications for Plaintiff and wider medical professionals, and should be reviewed by an appellate court. This argument is supported by Dr. Immanuel only, which cites Texas state court decisions. Those cases may not apply the relevant standard, because “federal courts are to apply … federal procedural law.”

Furthermore, the argument missunderstands what “good cause”, as it is used in Rule 4 (a)(5)(A),(ii). CNN points out that the rules state “[t]In certain cases, the good cause standard applies In which there are no faults—excusable or otherwise. These situations usually lead to the necessity of an extension. The movant is not under its control.” It’s clear that Dr. Immanuel had the right to file the timely appeal.

Even if the meaning of “good cause” was extended to favor appellate review of “complex legal questions of first impression and significant import to … the broader medical profession,” Dr. Immanuel fails to demonstrate good cause. Although Dr. Immanuel was accused of making defamatory comments on contemporary medical matters of national concern, there were well-established grounds to dismiss the complaint. Dr. Immanuel is too lenient about the value of an appeal. She also exaggerates her case’s importance and complexity.

Thank you to Robert P. Latham (Demi S.Williams) and Michael J. Murtha, (Jackson Walker LLP), as well as Katherine M. Bolger, Sam F. Categumpert, (Davis Wright Tremaine LLP), for representing the defendants.