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Skevofilax v. Quigley

May 7, 1986


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey - Trenton (D.C. Civil No. 79-2783).

Author: Stapleton

Before ADAMS, GIBBONS and STAPLETON, Circuit Judges

STAPLETON, Circuit Judge


In October, 1977, there was a barroom fight between several off-duty members of the Edison Township police department and appellees Marcos Skevofilax and Michael Michaels. This ultimately gave rise to a civil rights action based on 42 U.S.C. § 1983 which resulted in jury verdicts and substantial judgments in favor of Mr. and Mrs. Skevofilax and Michaels and against the Township and three individual police officers, Quigley, Fekete, and Semenza.

After the entry of the judgment against the, the individual police officers brought suit against the Township in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County, seeking an order requiring it to pay the judgments entered against them. They relied upon a provision in their collective bargaining agreement with the Township that provided for indemnification by the Township of any liabilities incurred by a police officer "arising out of or incidental to the performance of his duty." The Township denied liability contending, inter alia, that the liability of these police officers had not arisen out of and was not incidental to the performance of their police duties.

Approximately a year after the entry of the federal judgments and while the state case remained pending, the federal plaintiffs moved in the district court for an order requiring the Township to pay the judgments against the individual police officers. Their argument was predicted on the same clause of the collective bargaining agreement that was the basis for the state case brought by the police officers. The individual police officers joined in this motion and secured a stay of their state action.

In response to a rule to show cause why such an order should not be entered, the Township insisted that the district court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate the police officers' indemnity claim. It also advised the court that it denied liability on this claim not only because the officers' liability did not arise out of the performance of their duty*fn1 but also because the indemnification clause, if construed to be applicable, would violate New Jersey law.

The district court, one day before cross motions for summary judgment were to have been heard in the state court, decided that it had jurisdiction to resolve the controversy between the police officers and the Township. It then held that the officers were entitled to indemnification under the collective bargaining agreement based in part on a finding "as a matter of law that they [the police officers] were operating under color of state law." Purporting to act under Rule 69 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the district court ordered the Township to pay the judgments against the police officers. Because we conclude that the court lacked jurisdiction to enter this order, we reverse.



The plaintiffs-appellees do not contend that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to grant them the relief they obtained on any basis independent of the underlying civil rights action. There is no diversity of citizenship between the Township and the police officers and their contract dispute raises no federal question. However, plaintiffs posit that, because the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the underlying civil rights claim, it had the ancillary authority to resolve the dispute between the Township and its officers.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 69 provides:

Process to enforce a judgment for the payment of money shall be a writ of execution, unless the court directs otherwise. The procedure on execution, in proceedings supplementary to and in aid of a judgment, and in proceedings on and in aid of execution shall be in accordance with the practice and procedure of the state in which the district court is held, existing at the time the remedy is sought, except that any statute of the United States governs to the extent that it is applicable...

Fed. R. Civ. P. 69(a).

Plaintiffs read Rule 69 as authorizing a district court, in aid of its ability to enforce its own judgments, to take any action that could be taken by a court of the state in which it sits. They refer this court to certain New Jersey statutes, to wit, N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2A:17-59, 61, 62 and 63,*fn2 which they argue permit a New Jersey court to adjudicate any dispute between a judgment debtor and a third party so as to effect the satisfaction of a judgment rendered by that court. Plaintiffs insist that Rule 69 combined with these New Jersey statutes authorizes a federal district court sitting in New Jersey to adjudicate any dispute between a judgment debtor and a third party for the purpose of satisfying a judgment rendered by it. We disagree.

Section 2A-17-63, New Jersey's garnishment statute, applies only "if the garnishee admits the debt."*fn3 This statute is, accordingly, inapplicable here.

Plaintiffs' strongest argument is based on the New Jersey statutes that authorize an executing officer, in his own name, to pursue, through "proper judicial proceedings," a judgment debtor's claim against a third party. According to plaintiffs, this authority "to obtain [for the plaintiff] such recovery or relief as [the] defendant ... would be entitled to" was sufficient to allow the district court to adjudicate the police officers' claim against the Township for plaintiffs' benefit. We fault this analysis on two grounds.

First, these New Jersey statutes do no more than authorize an executing officer to take advantage of available legal proceedings. They do not purport to create any new legal proceedings or to grant jurisdiction to litigate claims of judgment debtors against third parties. Thus, while Rule 69, to the extent it incorporates these New Jersey statutes, might arguably authorize an officer executing on a federal judgment to bring suit in a state court of general jurisdiction, it cannot be read to authorize a district court to adjudicate any claim that it would not otherwise have authority to decide.

More important, Rule 69 simply cannot confer jurisdiction on district courts to resolve controversies they would not otherwise have jurisdiction to resolve. The Rules themselves, in Rule 82, expressly direct that no federal rule of civil procedure "shall ... be construed to extend or limit the jurisdiction of the United States district courts." Thus, any interpretation of Rule 69 that is consistent with Rule 82 will countenance only those state procedures which do not extend the federal court's jurisdiction. See Owen Equipment & Erection Company v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 370 (1978); see also Blackburn Truck Lines, Inc. v. Francis, 723 F.2d 730, 732 (9th Cir. 1984); Duchek v. Jacobi, 646 F.2d 415, 417 (9th Cir. 1981) (Rule 69(a) is one of procedure, not jurisdiction; compare Kenrose Manufacturing Co. v. Fred Whitaker Co., 512 F.2d 890 (4th Cir. 1972) (where jurisdiction does not otherwise appear, mere permission in the rules to assert a claim does not itself confer jurisdiction over that claim).

This principle is of crucial significance here because plaintiffs' construction of Rule 69 requires the conclusion that this rule authorizes a federal district court to adjudicate disputed claims of a federal judgment debtor against third parties whether or not those claims bear any relationship to the claim underlying the federal judgment. This would constitute a substantial expansion of federal jurisdiction. See Owen, 437 U.S. at 376-77 (factual similarity and logical dependence between claims is necessary for the exercise of ancillary jurisdiction); Aldinger v. Howard, 427 U.S. 1, 11-12 (1976) (no claim can be considered as ancillary unless it directly relates to assets actually or constructively drawn into the court's control by the principal claim); Ambromovage v. United Mine Workers of America, 726 F.2d 972, 989-91 (3d Cir. 1984) (ancillary jurisdiction only extends to claims arising out of common issues of operative fact and which bear a logical relationship to the primary claim); Danner v. Anskis, 256 F.2d 123, 124 (3d cIR. 1958).

The ultimate issue posed by plaintiffs' reading of Rule 69 is whether the mere existence of an unsatisfied federal judgment, by itself, bestows ancillary jurisdiction on a district court to adjudicate any claim the judgment debtor may have against a third party. We believe this issue was authoritatively resolved by the Supreme Court in H. C. Cook Co. v. Beecher, 217 U.S. 497 (1910). In Beecher, the plaintiff secured a money judgment against a Connecticut corporation in a patent infringement suit. It therefore brought suit against the directors of that corporation, asserting that they were answerable for the federal judgment already obtained. The district court rejected the argument that, because of the federal judgment, it had ancillary jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiff's claim. The Supreme Court affirmed and explained that "if the directors are under obligation by Connecticut law to pay a judgment against their corporation, that is not a matter that can be litigated between citizens of the same State in ... [the courts] of the United States 217 U.S. at 499.

We find this case virtually on all fours with the Beecher case. Congress has allowed federal courts discretion to exercise ancillary jurisdiction to satisfy practical interests in "protect[ing] legal rights [and] effectively ... resolv[ing] an entire, logically entwined law suit." Owen Equipment, 437 U.S. at 377. As in Beecher, neither justification for the exercise of ancillary jurisdiction is present in this case. There is no contention that a federal judgment was in jeopardy and that the district court was required to act to protect it. Nor is there any suggestion that the police officers or the plaintiffs needed the federal forum in order to protect their interests. Not only were the state courts available to both groups, but a state action had been instituted, and indeed is still pending, in which the issue they wished resolved was present for resolution.


The dissent has constructed an alternative justification for the district court's order. its analysis begins with the proposition that a district court exercising its ancillary jurisdiction may adjudicate Rule 13 cross-claims and Rule 14 third-party claims that assert that the claimant is entitled to be indemnified if he or she is found liable to the plaintiff. We agree that this proposition is accurate as applied to cross-claims and third-party claims which are litigated as a part of the original case. See, e.g., Pennsylvania Railroad Co. v. Erie Avenue Warehouse Co., 302 F.2d 843 (3d Cir. 1962). We know of no authority, however, which would sanction an exercise of ancillary jurisdiction in the circumstances currently before us.

The dissent's analysis oversimplifies the issues presented by this case. It suggests that the police officers, when they joined plaintiffs' post-judgment motion, "in effect made a Rule 13(g) cross-claim against the Township." Had the police officers sought to pursue this course of action, they would have been required to amend their pleadings pursuant to Rule 15(a) n.4 (FOOTNOTE OMITTED) to assert such a cross-claim. Because of the policies favoring certainty in the conclusion of litigation, however, a court may not authorize amendments under Rule 15(a) after a final judgment is entered unless and until that judgment has been vacated. Kelly v. Delaware River Joint Commission, 187 F.2d 93, 94-95 (3d Cir.), cert. denied 342 U.S. 812 (1951); 3 J. Moore, Moore's Federal Practice §§ 15.07[2] and 15.10 (2d Ed. 1985 Supp.); 6 C. Wright, A. Miller, & M. Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure, § 1489 at 445 (1971 and 1985 Supp.).*fn5 Accordingly, the district court could not properly have granted the dissent's hypothetical post-judgment motion with the final judgments still in place.

It is true that where the requirements of Rules 59(a) or 60(b) are met, a judgment may be opened and an amendment permitted. See Kelly; Wright & Miller, supra, at § 1489.*fn6 However, neither provision of the Rules is applicable here. A Rule 59(a) motion must be filed within ten days of the entry of judgment and is inapplicable for that reason alone. Of the six grounds for relief from judgment specified in Rule 60(b), only the catchall sixth ground is even arguably applicable to this case and its very wording demonstrates that Rule 60(b) does not address situations like this one. To obtain relief under Rule 60(b)(6), one must show a compelling reason "justifying relief from the operation of the judgment." Here no one attacks the outstanding final judgments. They are valid and no one claims to be entitled to relief from their operation.

Moreover, even if Rule 60(b)(6) were applicable, relief is unavailable under that section absent a showing that extraordinary circumstances justify the reopening of the judgment and that the movant's delay in seeking an amendment is not unreasonable. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. v. Alker, 234 F.2d 113 (3d Cir. 1956); see McDonald v. Oliver, 642 F.2d 169 (5th Cir. 1981); Fed. R. Civ. P. 60; Wright & Miller, supra, § 1489 at 446-47. The police officers made not showing of extraordinary circumstances. Nor could they have made such a showing. The officers voluntarily elected not to assert a known claim during five years of litigation, made the Township litigate that claim in new Jersey's courts for a substantial period, and did not even ask the district court to consider it until almost a year after ...

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