STATE ex rel. JENNIFER HENDERSON, Relator,
THE HONORABLE JODIE ASEL, Respondent.
ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN MANDAMUS
C. Wilson, Judge
Jennifer Henderson ("Henderson"), petitions this
Court for a writ of mandamus directing Respondent, the
Honorable Jodie Asel ("Respondent"), to enter a
judgment in Henderson's case against the Business Loop
Community Improvement District, Tom May, and Carrie Gartner
("Defendants"). This Court has the authority to
issue original remedial writs pursuant to article V, section
4.1 of the Missouri Constitution. The preliminary writ of
mandamus is now made permanent, and Respondent is directed to
enter a judgment disposing of Henderson's claims.
filed suit against Defendants in the Boone County circuit
court, asserting various claims contesting the results of a
sales tax election under the Community Improvement District
Act ("CID Act"). See § 67.1400 et
seq. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing the CID Act did
not create the right to challenge a CID sales tax election.
After a contested hearing, Respondent entered an order
sustaining the motion to dismiss, finding the circuit court
did not have subject matter jurisdiction. The docket entry
for the order (hereinafter, the "Dismissal Order")
was titled "Order by Judge Jodie Asel Granting Business
Loop CID's Motion to Dismiss." The order taxed costs
to Henderson. It stated, "Cause is dismissed in its
entirety without prejudice" and was signed
filed a motion to reconsider. Before Respondent ruled on this
motion, Henderson petitioned the court of appeals and, in
turn, this Court, for a writ of prohibition. Both petitions
were denied. Henderson then filed a motion in the circuit
court for Respondent to denominate the Dismissal Order a
"judgment" so she could appeal. That motion was
Henderson filed a notice of appeal seeking to appeal the
Dismissal Order to this Court. She asserted this Court had
exclusive appellate jurisdiction under article V, section 3
of the Missouri Constitution because the case involved the
validity of a Missouri statute. This Court dismissed her
appeal for want of an appealable judgment. Henderson v.
Bus. Loop Cmty. Improvement Dist., No. SC95926 (Mo. banc
Dec. 20, 2016).
this Court's decision to dismiss her appeal, Henderson
again filed a motion in the circuit court seeking to have
Respondent denominate the Dismissal Order a
"judgment." Respondent again overruled the motion.
Henderson then petitioned the court of appeals for a writ
directing Respondent to denominate the Dismissal Order a
"judgment," but this petition was denied. Henderson
now petitions this Court for the same relief. This Court
issued a preliminary writ of mandamus and now makes this writ
permanent and orders Respondent to enter a judgment disposing
of Henderson's claims.
purpose of the extraordinary writ of mandamus is to compel
the performance of a ministerial duty that one charged with
the duty has refused to perform." Furlong Cos., Inc.
v. City of Kan. City, 189 S.W.3d 157, 165 (Mo. banc
2006). "The writ can only be issued to compel a party to
act when it was [her] duty to act without it."
Id. at 166. "A litigant asking relief by
mandamus must allege and prove that [s]he has a clear,
unequivocal, specific right to a thing claimed."
Id. This Court will not issue a remedial writ in
cases wherein adequate relief can be afforded through an
appeal. Rule 84.22(a).
is persistent confusion surrounding the issues of what a
judgment is, what form it takes, and when it is entered. The
first, and most important, of these issues is definitional: a
judgment is a legally enforceable judicial order that fully
resolves at least one claim in a lawsuit and establishes all
the rights and liabilities of the parties with respect to
that claim. Cf. Rule 74.01. If a judgment resolves
all claims by and against all parties, or it resolves the
last such claim and some (but not all) claims have been
resolved previously,  it is commonly referred to as a
"final judgment." State ex rel. Koster v.
ConocoPhillips Co., 493 S.W.3d 397, 401 (Mo. banc 2016).
are a subset of orders generally. Rule 74.02. As a result, a
judgment must be in writing. Rule 74.01(a). In addition,
because the foregoing definition of judgment depends upon the
court's purpose and intent, a judgment must be
denominated "judgment" and signed by the
judge to avoid any confusion about whether the
court intended to enter a judgment. Id. Finally,
because numerous timetables are or may be triggered by the
entry of a judgment, see, e.g., Rules 71.05,
72.01(b), and 78.04, a judgment is "entered" when
the writing denominated a judgment is signed by the judge and
filed. Rule 74.01(a).
is no doubt the Dismissal Order was intended to resolve all
of Henderson's claims against all
Defendants. Accordingly, it was a judgment and must be
denominated as such. Respondent has no discretion to resolve
claims other than by judgment, and a writ of mandamus is an
appropriate remedy to compel Respondent to sign and file a
judgment, denominated as such, resolving Henderson's
analysis is not affected by whether the circuit court intends
or understands the judgment to be "with prejudice"
or "without prejudice." That distinction may affect
whether a judgment is (or is not) appealable,  and whether it
does (or does not) preclude a subsequent suit asserting the
same claim, see, e.g., Rules 67.01, 67.03, and
67.06, but it has no effect whatsoever on whether a
particular writing is a judgment under the definition set
forth above. And, if a writing is a judgment under that
definition, the question of whether it is "with
prejudice" or "without ...