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State ex rel Malin v. Joyce

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District

June 11, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI, EX REL., AARON MALIN, Relator,
v.
THE HONORABLE PATRICIA S. JOYCE, JUDGE OF THE CIRCUIT COURT, COLE COUNTY, MISSOURI, Respondent.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COLE COUNTY, MISSOURI THE HONORABLE PATRICIA S. JOYCE, JUDGE.

          Before Writ Division: Victor C. Howard, Presiding Judge, Gary D. Witt, Judge and Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judge.

          VICTOR C. HOWARD JUDGE.

         Relator, Aaron Malin, petitions this court for a writ of mandamus directing Respondent, the Honorable Patricia Joyce, to enter a judgment in Malin's case against the Missouri Association of Community Task Forces. 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 final appealable judgment.

         Facts

         In January 2018, Aaron Malin filed suit against the Missouri Association of Community Task Forces (d/b/a/ ACT Missouri) in the Cole County Circuit Court. In April 2018, ACT Missouri filed a motion for summary judgment. In May 2018, Malin filed a cross motion for summary judgment. In August 2018, the parties appeared before the trial court for argument on the pending cross motions for summary judgment.

         On August 30, 2018, the trial court entered an order granting ACT Missouri's motion for summary judgment. The order was handwritten by the trial court judge on a form titled "CASE REVIEW DOCKET ENTRY." The handwritten text states: "Cause considered. Court finds for the defendant. [M]otion for summary judgment is granted and plaintiff's motion for summary is denied. Clerk is to forward copy to attorneys of record." It is signed by the trial judge. The docket entry on case.net states: "Order: Cause considered. Court finds for the defendant and defendants Motion for summary judgment is granted. Plaintiff[']s motion for summary is denied. Clerk to forward copy to attorneys of record. PSJ/rlo." After the August 30, 2018 docket text order was entered and until a docket entry was changed in January 3, 2019, the case remained on case.net as "Not Disposed."

         On December 18, 2018, Malin's counsel emailed the circuit court and opposing counsel in an attempt to obtain a final, appealable judgment. Opposing counsel responded that she believed the August 30, 2018 docket entry was a final, appealable judgment. Both parties' positions were forwarded to the trial judge. On January 2, 2019, the trial court changed the entry on case.net from "Not Disposed" to "Tried by Court - Civil."

         Malin filed a motion for leave to appeal by special order pursuant to Rule 81.07 with this court on January 11, 2019. He attached a copy of the August 30, 2018 order to the motion. This court sent a letter to Malin, stating that a copy of the judgment is necessary to properly consider the motion.[1]

         Malin filed a writ of mandamus with this court asking for the trial judge to be ordered to enter a final appealable judgment. A preliminary writ was issued on April 4, 2019, ordering the trial judge to enter a final, appealable judgment or show cause on or before April 11, 2019. The trial judge filed an answer with this court maintaining that final judgment had already been entered.

         This opinion follows.

         Standard of Review

         "A writ of mandamus may issue to compel the performance of a ministerial duty that one charged with the duty has refused to perform." Riley v. City Adm'r of City of Liberty, 552 S.W.3d 764, 766 (Mo. App. W.D. 2018) (internal quotation omitted). "For a court to issue a writ of mandamus, there must be an existing, clear, unconditional legal right in relator, and a corresponding present, imperative, unconditional duty upon the fact of respondent, and a default by respondent therein." Id. (internal quotation omitted). "Such a writ is to be used only as a last resort, in those cases in which no adequate ...


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