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Pundt v. The Gazette Co.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

November 6, 2013

RICHARD ARTHUR PUNDT, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
THE GAZETTE COMPANY, GAZETTE COMMUNICATIONS, INC., and TRISH MEHAFFEY, Defendants-Appellants.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Ian K. Thornhill, Judge.

The defendants appeal from the district court's order denying summary judgment in their favor on the plaintiff's claims.

Sarah W. Anderson and John M. Bickel of Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

Larry J. Thorson of Ackley, Kopecky & Kingery, L.L.P., Cedar Rapids, and Leslie E. Stokke of Leslie E. Stokke Law Office, Cedar Rapids, for appellee.

Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor, J., and Sackett, S.J. [*]

VAITHESWARAN, P.J.

We must decide whether this court has jurisdiction of this interlocutory appeal.

I. Background Proceedings

Richard Pundt sued The Gazette Company, Gazette Communications, Inc., and Trish Mehaffey (collectively, the Gazette) for libel per se and libel per quod stemming from internet and newspaper articles published by the Gazette. The Gazette moved for summary judgment. The district court denied the motion, finding that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment.

The Gazette did not seek interlocutory review within thirty days of the ruling. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.104(b)(2) ("An application for interlocutory appeal must be filed within 30 days after entry of the challenged ruling or order . . . ."). Instead, the Gazette elected to file a motion for amended or enlarged findings and conclusions pursuant to Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.904(2). The district court denied the motion.

At that point, the Gazette applied for leave to pursue an interlocutory appeal of the district court's summary judgment and rule 1.904(2) rulings. The application was filed within thirty days of the rule 1.904(2) ruling but more than thirty days after the date of the summary judgment ruling.

The Iowa Supreme Court initially granted the application but later, on its own motion, directed the parties to address "a possible jurisdictional issue, " namely, whether the Gazette's rule 1.904(2) motion following the district court's summary judgment ruling extended the time for seeking interlocutory review.[1]The court transferred the case to this court for disposition either on the jurisdictional issue or on the merits. We find the jurisdictional issue dispositive.[2]

II. Jurisdiction

As noted, the general rule is that "[a]n application for interlocutory appeal must be filed within 30 days after entry of the challenged ruling or order." Iowa R. App. P. 6.104(b)(2).[3] However, where a party timely files a rule 1.904(2) motion, the thirty-day period tolls until the court enters a ruling on that motion. Id.; Sierra Club Iowa Chapter v. Iowa Dep't of Transp., 832 N.W.2d 636, 640 (Iowa 2013) (reciting similar rule and "tolling ...


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