Norma L. Cooke, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Jackson National Life Insurance Company, Defendant-Appellant.
January 11, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 15 C 817 - Ruben
Castillo, Chief Judge.
Easterbrook and Barrett, Circuit Judges, and Stadtmueller,
District Judge. [*]
EASTERBROOK, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
suit under the diversity jurisdiction, the district court
entered summary judgment for Norma Cooke. The judge ordered
two kinds of relief: first, that Jackson National Life
Insurance Co. pay Cooke the death benefit on her husband
Charles's policy; second, that Jackson reimburse
Cooke's legal expenses. The first kind of relief rested
on a conclusion that Charles died before the end of a grace
period allowed for late payments of premiums. The second
rested on a conclusion that Jackson should have expedited the
litigation by attaching documents to its answer to the
complaint and by making some arguments sooner. See 243
F.Supp.3d 987 (N.D. 111. 2017). The district court then
entered this order, which the parties have treated as the
Enter Memorandum Opinion and Order. Plaintiff's motion
for summary judgment  is granted and Defendant's
motion for summary judgment  is denied. The Court awards
attorney fees to Plaintiff for cost of preparing and
responding to these motions. This case is hereby dismissed
document set the stage for the problems we must now resolve.
document is self-contradictory, declaring that Cooke is
entitled to two forms of relief while also declaring that the
case is "dismissed with prejudice", which means
that the plaintiff loses. Suppose we disregard the last
sentence-and the first, which is surplusage. There remains
the rule that a judgment must provide the relief to which the
prevailing party is entitled. See, e.g., Foremost Sales
Promotions, Inc. v. Director, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
& Firearms, 812 F.2d 1044 (7th Cir. 1987);
Waypoint Aviation Services Inc. v. Sandel Avionics,
Inc., 469 F.3d 1071, 1073 (7th Cir. 2006); Rush
University Medical Center v. Leavitt, 535 F.3d 735, 737
(7th Cir. 2008). This document does not provide relief. It
states that one motion has been granted, another denied, and
an award made, but it does not say who is entitled to what.
held many times that judgments must provide relief and must
not stop with reciting that motions were granted or
denied-indeed that it is inappropriate for a judgment to
refer to motions at all. See, e.g., Otis v. Chicago,
29 F.3d 1159, 1163 (7th Cir. 1994) (en banc) ("[The
judgment] should be a self-contained document, saying who has
won and what relief has been awarded, but omitting the
reasons for this disposition, which should appear in the
court's opinion."). See also Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(a)
("A judgment should not include recitals of pleadings
... or a record of prior proceedings."). This document
transgresses almost every rule applicable to judgments.
same day it entered the order we quoted above, the court
entered a second order on a standard form used for judgments.
This one provides:
Judgment is entered in favor of plaintiff, Norma L. Cooke and
against the defendant, Jackson National Life Insurance
Company, which includes an award of reasonable attorney fees
in accordance with the Court's Memorandum Opinion and
second document avoids the internal contradiction but still
lacks vital details. Unlike the first document, which is
signed by the district judge, this one bears only the names
of the district court's Clerk of Court and one Deputy
Clerk- though Fed.R.Civ.P. 58(b)(2)(B) provides that every
judgment other than a simple one on a jury verdict (or one
fully in defendants' favor) must be reviewed and approved
by the judge personally.
that she did not have an enforceable judgment, Cooke filed a
motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) asking the court to specify
how much money Jackson must pay. The court did so-but only in
part. It entered an order providing that Jackson must pay
$191, 362.06 on the insurance policy, plus 10% per annum
simple interest running from September 10, 2013. The amount
of attorneys' fees was left dangling. Cooke also filed a
formal petition asking the court to specify the amount of
fees. The district court left the subject open for nine
months-until after this case had been orally argued in this
court. On January 25, 2018, the district court denied the
motion with leave to renew it after we decide the appeal.
30 days of the district court's order on Cooke's Rule
59 motion, Jackson filed a notice of appeal. It has thrown in
the towel on the merits and paid the $191, 362 plus interest
but contends that Cooke is not entitled to attorneys'
fees. Yet how can it appeal from an award of attorneys'
fees that has yet to be quantified? A declaration of
liability lacking an amount due is not final and cannot be
appealed. See Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. v.
Wetzel,424 U.S. 737 (1976). This rule applies to awards
of attorneys' fees as fully as it does to decisions about
substantive relief. See, e.g., Lac Courte Oreilles Band
of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians v. Wisconsin, 829 F.2d
601 (7th Cir. 1987); McCarter v. Retirement Plan for
District Managers,540 F.3d 649, 652-54 (7th Cir. 2008);
General Insurance Co. v. Clark Mall Corp., 644 F.3d
375, 380 (7th Cir. 2011). To allow an appeal before
quantification would set the stage for ...