Appeal from Non-Appealable Order Does not Deprive District Court of Jurisdiction

Nasciemento v. Dummer, case no. 06-35062 (9th Cir. Nov. 21, 2007) presents a host of jurisdictional issues in a concise opinion. I recommend you read the entire opinion and will concentrate on just one of the issues here, since most of the principles in the opinion are well-established.

Nasciemento purported to appeal from a non-appealable order of the Nevada district court that dismissed some, but not all, defendants and transfered the case to the Montana district court (the “transfer order”). After his appeal was dismissed, but nine days before the mandate issued, the Montana district court entered a discovery scheduling order.

When the Montana court refused to extend time for discovery, Nasciemento filed an appeal from that order (the “discovery order”), which is likewise unappealable. A week later, the Montana Court dismissed Nasciemento’s complaint as a sanction for his failure to appear at a pretrial conference and his lack of preparation for trial (the “dismisssal order”).

Nasciemento claimed that the district court lacked jurisdiction to enter the discovery schedule or dismiss his complaint as a sanction during the appeals pending respectively at the time of each order.

The Ninth disagrees. It holds that since it never had jurisdiction over either appeal, the Montana court, as the transferee court, had jurisdiction to take further action in the case.

Litigants would be wise to assume this rule will apply even where the question of jurisdiction over the appeal is a close call or where it is a question of first impression, because the court draws no distinction between the timing of the two district court orders. When the discovery order was entered, the appeal from the transfer order had already been dismissed (though mandate had not yet issued), so the lack of appellate jurisdiction had been definitely established. The dismissal order, however, was entered just a week after Nasciemento filed his notice of appeal from the discovery order, and thus presumably before that appeal was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

The timing of the determination of non-appealability would not appear to affect the outcome. But where appellate jurisdiction may be an open question, might more cautious district judges defer exercising jurisdiction until the issue of appealability is resolved?