District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Andrew H.
Stone No. 130905131
Gregory R. Miller, Appellant Pro Se
S. Strassberg and Michael C. Barnhill, Attorneys for Appellee
Judges Gregory K. Orme, and Michele M. Christiansen Forster,
and Ryan M. Harris.
Gregory Ryan Miller seeks to appeal the district court's
order denying him permission to file a document captioned
"Miller's Notice of Withdrawal From the Settlement
Agreement and Motion for Relief From Further Enforcement of
the Permanent Injunction." Miller moved for summary
reversal of the district court's order. Instead of
addressing his motion on the merits, however, we dismiss the
appeal for lack of jurisdiction because the order denying
permission to file is not an appealable order.
In his motion, Miller casts the appealed order as a denial of
his motion for relief under rule 60(b) of the Utah Rules of
Civil Procedure, which is typically a final and appealable
order. See Migliore v. Livingston Financial,
LLC, 2015 UT 9, ¶ 17, 347 P.3d 394; see
also Utah R. Civ. P. 58A(b)(4) (noting that a
"separate document is not required for an order
disposing of" a postjudgment motion brought pursuant to
rule 60). However, that is not an accurate representation of
the posture of the case and the nature of the appealed order.
Pursuant to rule 83 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, the
district court found Miller to be a vexatious litigant in the
underlying case in July 2015. The July order did not impose
specific restrictions on Miller. But, in September 2015, the
district court entered an order imposing restrictions as
permitted under rule 83. See Utah R. Civ. P. 83(b),
(d). Among the available restrictions in rule 83 is a
pre-filing review by a court to assure that a document
proposed by a vexatious litigant does not consume judicial
resources without demonstrating adequate legal justification.
See id. R.83(b)(4); see also Strand v. Nupetco
Assocs., LLC, 2017 UT App 55 ¶ 5, 397 P.3d 724
("Rule 83 authorizes a court to impose restrictive
orders on vexatious pro se litigants. The purpose of such
orders is to curb the litigant's vexatious
conduct."). Specifically, the district court imposed a
requirement that Miller obtain court permission, in advance,
to file any paper seeking affirmative relief from the court.
In July 2019, Miller submitted the above-noted proposed
motion for relief to the court for review. The court denied
permission to file the document, noting that the paper did
not raise any non-frivolous issue. Because the document was
not filed with the court or ruled upon on the merits, the
challenged order is not a denial of a motion for relief under
rule 60(b). Rather, Miller filed a notice of appeal from the
order denying permission to file the document.
We hold that an order denying a vexatious litigant permission
to file a paper is not appealable as a matter of right under
rule 3 of the Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure. Appeals of
right can generally be taken only from a final judgment that
fully and completely resolves all claims by all parties.
See Utah R. App. P. 3(a) (stating that appeals
"may be taken . . . from all final orders and
judgments"); Utah R. Civ. P. 54(a) (stating that a
"judgment" is "a decree or order that
adjudicates all claims and the rights and liabilities of all
parties"); see also Loffredo v. Holt, 2001 UT
97, ¶ 10, 37 P.3d 1070 (holding that appellate courts
ordinarily do "not have jurisdiction over an appeal
unless it is taken from a final judgment"). An order
that does nothing more than deny a vexatious litigant
permission to file a document falls far short of resolving
all claims by all parties in the case.
Neither is the order the type of postjudgment order that may
be separately appealable. Many postjudgment orders are
appealable as a matter of right. See Utah R. App. P.
4(b) (listing postjudgment orders from which the appeal time
runs "from the entry of the dispositive order");
Cheves v. Williams, 1999 UT 86, ¶ 50, 993 P.2d
191 (holding that orders enforcing a judgment are
"separate and distinct" from the underlying
judgment and require a separate notice of appeal). However,
there is nothing in rule 83 that suggests that a vexatious
litigant may appeal an order denying leave to file a document
in a postjudgment setting. Utah R. Civ. P. 83. And orders
pursuant to rule 83 are not identified in other rules that
address postjudgment orders and affect appeals from such
orders. See Utah R. App. P. 4(b); Utah R. Civ. P.
58A(b) (listing postjudgment orders for which no
"separate document" need be filed to permit an
appeal to be taken from the dispositive order).
Moreover, to permit a vexatious litigant to appeal as a
matter of right from the denial of permission to file what
has been deemed to be essentially a frivolous document would
negate the overall purpose of the rule, which is to avoid
waste of litigant and judicial resources. "We interpret
court rules, like statutes and administrative rules,
according to their plain language." Burns v.
Boyden, 2006 UT 14, ¶ 19, 133 P.3d 370.
Furthermore, we will read the plain language of the rule as a
whole, see Board of Educ. v. Sandy City Corp., 2004
UT 37, ¶ 9, 94 P.3d 234, and "seek to give effect
to the intent of the body that promulgated the rule."
Burns, 2006 UT 14, ¶ 19. Allowing such appeals
as a matter of right would merely shift the vexatious
litigant's inappropriate use of judicial resources from
the district court to the appellate court and would increase
the wasteful use of resources by involving multiple judges to
review each appeal. Construing rule 83 to permit direct
appeals from the denial of permission to file would be
inconsistent with the intended effect of the rule.
Appellate courts may not act on an appeal unless appellate
jurisdiction has been properly invoked. Copper Hills
Custom Homes, LLC, v. Countrywide Bank, FSB, 2018 UT 56,
¶ 1, 428 P.3d 1133. "An appeal is improper if it is
taken from an order or judgment that is not final . . .
unless it fits within an exception to the final judgment
rule." Bradbury v. Valencia, 2000 UT 50, ¶
8, 5 P.3d 649. "[O]rders and judgments that are not
final can be appealed if such appeals are statutorily
permissible, if the appellate court grants permission under
rule 5 of the Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure, or if the
trial court expressly certifies them as final for purposes of
appeal under rule 54(b) of the Utah Rules of Civil
Procedure." Id. ¶ 12. An order denying
permission to file a document proposed by a vexatious
litigant subject to pre-filing restrictions is not an