Post-Judgment Proceedings in Denver and Colorado Courts
After a lawsuit has been initiated and litigated to the point a judgment has been rendered, that does not mean the lawsuit is over nor does it mean that parties can no longer request relief from the court. In fact, there exist several procedural mechanisms through which a party may obtain relief from the judgment, request an alteration of the judgment, or generally seek review of a judgment or order after it has been entered. More specifically, in Colorado and Denver courts those mechanisms consist of motions for post-judgment relief under Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure (“C.R.C.P.”) 59 and 60 which allow the parties to request specific remedies in relation to the judgment. Additionally, the judgment or order may be appealed to a higher court for review by filing a notice of appeal. These different mechanisms will be discussed sequentially below.
The first type of post-judgment relief that can be sought by motion is relief under C.R.C.P. 59. C.R.C.P. 59 allows for a party to request post-trial relief by motion. There are 4 different types of relief that may be sought under the rule, they are: (1) a request for a new trial on all or some of the issues litigated at the original trial; (2) judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which is a motion requesting a different judgment, usually in favor of the moving party; (3) amendment of the court’s or jury’s findings; or (4) amendment of the judgment entered after trial. These types of relief are discussed further in the next paragraph.
If a new trial is sought under C.R.C.P. 59, there are multiple grounds under which the motion may be granted, which includes, among other things, if the jury engaged in misconduct, if there is newly discovered evidence which is material to the party’s claims, or if there was any irregularity in the proceedings that prevented the party from having a fair trial. Similarly, if a judgment notwithstanding the verdict is sought, that is, where one party seeks to have the judgment changed, the moving party must show there was insufficient evidence to support the judgment entered at trial as a matter of law, or there was no dispute as to the material facts relevant to the tried claims and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. The third and fourth kinds of relief under C.R.C.P. 59 are more oriented towards errors of the court in making findings or finalizing the judgment. For example if the court fails to make necessary findings to support the judgment or writes an inconsistent judgment then a C.R.C.P. 59 motion seeking amendment of the court’s or jury’s findings, or amendment of the judgment may be appropriate. Lastly, a C.R.C.P. 59 motion must be filed within 14 days of the entry of judgment or order.
The second type of post-judgment relief available after a judgment or order is entered is that under C.R.C.P. 60. Relief under C.R.C.P. 60 may be sought for a variety of reasons. First, if there is a clerical mistake in the judgment or order, for example, the failure of the court to include interest or properly calculate damages in a judgment, then relief may be sought under the rule. Motions seeking relief of this type may be made at any time after the judgment or order has been entered. Secondly, C.R.C.P. 60(b) provides relief in 5 other circumstances, those are (1) where mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect has occurred; (2) where the adverse party has engaged in fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct during the lawsuit; (3) the judgment is void, for example, if the party was never appropriately served with the lawsuit; (4) the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged, or a prior judgment on which it was based has been vacated, or it is no longer equitable that the judgment has prospective relief; or (5) any other reason justifying relief from the judgment. The next paragraph discusses timing for filing motions under C.R.C.P. 60.
With the exception of motions seeking relief under reasons (1) and (2) above, motions seeking relief under C.R.C.P. 60(b) must be made within a reasonable time, which means it is up to the trial court’s discretion as to whether the motion was timely made. Generally, if the motion is made within 6 months of the entry of the judgment or order it is considered timey; however, the trial court has discretion in considering motions filed beyond that time point. In contrast, motions seeking relief under reasons (1) and (2) above must be filed within 6 months of the entry of judgment and . Additionally, C.R.C.P. 60 does not limit a party from filing an independent action to obtain relief from a judgment or order. Accordingly, another lawsuit may be brought in another court by the meaning that relief from a judgment or order does not have to be sought in the same court that issued the judgment.
Finally, the last form of relief a person may seek after a judgment or order has been entered is to appeal the judgment or order to a higher court for review. Note that there is no requirement that relief be sought first before the trial court, for example, through a C.R.C.P. 59 motion or C.R.C.P. 60 motion. An appeal can be sought directly after the judgment has been entered. However, if a C.R.C.P. 59 motion is filed before an appeal is filed, then the judgment or order may not be appealed until after the motion is ruled on. Additionally, once an appeal is filed, the trial court is divested or jurisdiction of the case and thus, parties can no longer seek post-trial relief in the trial court. If a party wishes to appeal a judgment or order, under Colorado Appellate Rule 4 they have 49 days to file a notice of appeal after the judgment or order is entered. Lastly, it is worth noting that denial of a C.R.C.P. 60 motion is appealable independently of an underlying judgment and thus, if the motion is denied, it is a separate appealable event. See United Bank of Boulder, N.A. v. Buchanan, 836 P.2d 473 (Colo. App. 1992).