HALL, AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF HALL AND AS SUCCESSOR TRUSTEE OF THE ETHLYN LOUISE HALL FAMILY TRUST
HALL ET AL.
January 16, 2018
WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE THIRD CIRCUIT
Samuel Hall served as caretaker and legal advisor to his
mother Ethlyn Hall, a property owner in the United States
Virgin Islands. After falling out with Samuel, Ethlyn
transferred her property into a trust and designated her
daughter, petitioner Elsa Hall, as her successor trustee.
Ethlyn sued Samuel and his law firm over the handling of
her affairs (the "trust case"). When Ethlyn died,
Elsa took Ethlyn's place as trustee and as plaintiff.
Samuel later filed a separate complaint against Elsa in her
individual capacity (the "individual case").
Samuel's motion, the District Court consolidated the
trust and individual cases under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 42(a). The District Court held a single trial of
the consolidated cases. In the individual case, the jury
returned a verdict for Samuel, but the District Court
granted Elsa a new trial. In the trust case, the jury
returned a verdict against Elsa, and she filed a notice of
appeal from the judgment in that case. Samuel moved to
dismiss the appeal on jurisdictional grounds, arguing that
the judgment in the trust case was not final and appealable
because his claims against Elsa remained unresolved in the
individual case. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
agreed and dismissed the appeal.
When one of several cases consolidated under Rule 42(a) is
finally decided, that decision confers upon the losing party
the immediate right to appeal, regardless of whether any of
the other consolidated cases remain pending. Pp. 4-18.
(a) Title 28 U.S.C. §1291 vests the courts of appeals
with jurisdiction over "appeals from all final decisions
of the district courts, " except those directly
appealable to this Court. Under §1291, "any
litigant armed with a final judgment from a lower federal
court is entitled to take an appeal." Arizona v.
Manypenny, 451 U.S. 232, 244. Here an appeal would
normally lie from the judgment in the trust case. But Samuel
argues that because the trust and individual cases were
consolidated under Rule 42(a)(2), they merged and should be
regarded as one case, such that the judgment in the trust
case was merely interlocutory and not appealable before the
consolidated cases in the aggregate are finally resolved. Pp.
(b) Rule 42(a)(2) provides that if "actions before the
court involve a common question of law or fact, the court may
. . . consolidate the actions." The meaning of the term
"consolidate" in this context is ambiguous. But the
term has a legal lineage stretching back at least to the
first federal consolidation statute, enacted by Congress in
1813. Act of July 22, 1813, §3, 3 Stat. 21 (later
codified as Rev. Stat. §921 and 28 U.S.C. §734
(1934 ed.)). That history makes clear that one of multiple
cases consolidated under the Rule retains its independent
character, at least to the extent it is appealable when
finally resolved, regardless of any ongoing proceedings in
the other cases. Pp. 5-6.
(c) Under the consolidation statute-which was in force for
125 years, until its replacement by Rule 42(a)-consolidation
was understood not as completely merging the constituent
cases into one, but as enabling more efficient case
management while preserving the distinct identities of the
cases and rights of the separate parties in them. See,
e.g., Rich v. Lambert, 12 How. 347; Mutual Life
Ins. Co. v. Hillmon, 145 U.S. 285; Stone v. United
States, 167 U.S. 178. Just five years before Rule 42(a)
became law, the Court reiterated that, under the
consolidation statute, consolidation did not result in the
merger of constituent cases. Johnson v. Manhattan R.
Co., 289 U.S. 479, 496-497. This body of law supports
the inference that, prior to Rule 42(a), a judgment
completely resolving one of several consolidated cases was an
immediately appealable final decision. Pp. 6-12.
(d) Rule 42(a) was expressly modeled on the consolidation
statute. Because the Rule contained no definition of
"consolidate, " the term presumably carried forward
the same meaning ascribed to it under the statute and
reaffirmed in Johnson.
Samuel nonetheless asserts that "consolidate" took
on a different meaning under Rule 42(a). He describes the
Rule as permitting two forms of consolidation: consolidation
for limited purposes and consolidation for all purposes. He
locates textual authority for the former in a new provision,
subsection (a)(1), which permits courts to "join for
hearing or trial any or all matters at issue in the
actions." And he contends that subsection (a)(2), so as
not to be superfluous, must permit the merger of cases that
have been consolidated for all purposes into a single,
undifferentiated case. But the narrow grant of authority in
subsection (a)(1) cannot fairly be read as the exclusive
source of a district court's power to consolidate cases
for limited purposes, because there is much more to
litigation than hearings or trials. Instead, that undisputed
power must stem from subsection (a)(2). That defeats
Samuel's argument that interpreting subsection (a)(2) to
adopt the traditional understanding of consolidation would
render it duplicative of subsection (a)(1), and that
subsection (a)(2) therefore must permit courts to merge the
actions into a single unit.
Moreover, a Federal Rules Advisory Committee would not take a
term that had long meant that separate actions do not merge
into one, and silently and abruptly reimagine the same term
to mean that they do. Nothing in the pertinent Committee
proceedings supports the notion that Rule 42(a) was meant to
overturn the settled understanding of consolidation; the
Committee simply commented that Rule 42(a) "is based
upon" its statutory predecessor, "but insofar as
the statute differs from this rule, it is modified."
Advisory Committee's Notes on 1937 Adoption of Fed. Rule
Civ. Proc. 42(a), 28 U.S.C. App., p. 887. The limited extent
to which this Court has addressed consolidation since
adoption of Rule 42(a) confirms that the traditional
understanding remains in place. See, e.g., Bank Markazi
v. Peterson, 578 U.S. ___, ___; ___ Butler v.
Dexter, 425 U.S. 262, 266- 267.
This decision does not mean that district courts may not
consolidate cases for all purposes in appropriate
circumstances. But constituent cases retain their separate
identities at least to the extent that a final decision in
one is immediately appealable by the losing party. Pp. 12-17.
679 Fed.Appx. 142, reversed and remanded.
ROBERTS, C. J.
Terms ago, we held that one of multiple cases consolidated
for multidistrict litigation under 28 U.S.C. §1407 is
immediately appealable upon an order disposing of that case,
regardless of whether any of the others remain pending.
Gelboim v. Bank of America Corp., 574 U.S. ___
(2015). We left open, however, the question whether the same
is true with respect to cases consolidated under Rule 42(a)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id., at
___, n. 4 (slip op., at 7, n. 4). This case presents that
Elsa Hall and respondent Samuel Hall are siblings enmeshed in
a long-running family feud. Their mother, Ethlyn Hall, lived
and owned property in the United States Virgin Islands.
Samuel, a lawyer in the Virgin Islands, served as
Ethlyn's caretaker and provided her with legal
assistance. But trouble eventually came to of the Court
paradise, and Samuel and Ethlyn fell out over Samuel's
management of Ethlyn's real estate holdings. During a
visit from Elsa, Ethlyn established an inter vivos
trust, transferred all of her property into the trust, and
designated Elsa as her successor trustee. Ethlyn then moved
to Miami-under circumstances disputed by the parties-to live
with her daughter.
family squabble made its way to court in May 2011. Ethlyn,
acting in her individual capacity and as trustee of her
inter vivos trust, sued Samuel and his law firm in
Federal District Court (the "trust case").
Ethlyn's claims-for breach of fiduciary duty, legal
malpractice, conversion, fraud, and unjust
enrichment-concerned the handling of her affairs by Samuel
and his law firm before she left for Florida.
Ethlyn died, and Elsa stepped into her shoes as trustee and
accordingly as plaintiff in the trust case. Samuel promptly
filed counterclaims in that case against Elsa-in both her
individual and representative capacities-for intentional
infliction of emotional distress, fraud, breach of fiduciary
duty, conversion, and tortious interference. Samuel contended
that Elsa had turned their mother against him by taking
advantage of Ethlyn's alleged mental frailty. But Samuel
ran into an obstacle: Elsa was not a party to the trust case
in her individual capacity (only Ethlyn had been). So Samuel
filed a new complaint against Elsa ...