On Monday, Two-Way Media filed a motion asking the Federal Circuit to dismiss AT&T's appeal of a district court's order refusing to extend AT&T's time to file a notice of appeal. Following a three-week jury trial and a final judgment of $40 million in favor of Two-Way Media, AT&T's attorneys admitted to receiving Notices of Electronic Filing ("NEFs") through the district court's electronic filing system, but failed to read the orders. Consequently, AT&T's attorneys did not realize that the district court had ruled on all of the post-trial motions, triggering AT&T's time to appeal. The district court denied AT&T's motion for an extension of time to file a notice of appeal under FRAP 4(a), holding that the failure of AT&T's attorneys to read the orders did not constitute excusable neglect.
AT&T filed a Notice of Appeal as to the district court's order refusing the extension of time. AT&T's Notice of Appeal also seeks review of the district court's substantive rulings on the post-trial motions.
In its Motion to Dismiss, Two-Way Media argues that the district court's ruling on the extension of time is the only issue properly before the Federal Circuit. Two-Way Media asks the Federal Circuit to dismiss the appeal as to the district court's substantive rulings on the post-trial motions. Two-Way Media also goes a step further, asking the Federal Circuit to rule now that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion for an extension of time. According to Two-Way Media, courts of appeals can review a district court's exercise of discretion under FRAP 4(a) on a motion to dismiss in order to promote judicial efficiency.
Two-Way Media argues that the district court did not abuse its discretion in this case, because it properly concluded that AT&T's failure to appeal was not the result of excusable neglect. In its district court pleadings, AT&T admitted that at least ten attorneys at two different law firms received the NEFs from the court. Litigation assistants at both of AT&T's outside law firms downloaded the orders and saved them in the firms' electronic files. But because the original NEFs indicated that the orders only related to rulings on the parties' motions to file the post-trial briefing under seal, none of AT&T's attorneys actually read the orders. Two-Way Media argues that under the circumstances, the district court correctly found that the failure of AT&T's attorneys to read the court's orders was not excusable neglect. Two-Way Media also argues that the district court acted within its discretion because extending AT&T's time to appeal would prejudice Two-Way Media, which had made business decisions based on its belief that AT&T was not going to appeal the district court's final judgment.