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A district court cannot, in the exercise of its discretion, treat as "final" that which is not "final" within the meaning of 28 U.S.C.S. § 1291. But the district court may, by the exercise of its discretion in the interest of sound judicial administration, release for appeal final decisions upon one or more, but less than all, claims in multiple actions. The timing of such a release is, with good reason, vested by Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) primarily in the discretion of the district court as the one most likely to be familiar with the case and with any justifiable reasons for delay. With equally good reason, any abuse of that discretion remains reviewable by a court of appeals.
In a multiple claims action, the Federal District Court expressly directed that judgment be entered for the defendant on two, but less than all, of the claims presented. The court also expressly determined that there was no just reason for delay in making the entry. On appeal from that judgment, the Court of Appeals upheld its jurisdiction and denied a motion to dismiss, relying upon 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and Rule 54 (b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended in 1946. Petitioner sought certiorari review, challenging the appellate court’s jurisdiction.
Did the appellate court have jurisdiction to review an order which dismissed two counts of a complaint while leaving undisturbed two remaining counts?
The United States Supreme Court, relying on 28 U.S.C.S. § 1291 and Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b), held that an appellate court had jurisdiction to review an order that dismissed two counts of a complaint while leaving undisturbed two remaining counts. According to the Court, the newly amended Rule 54(b) allowed the district courts to certify as final for appeal one or more, but less than all, counts in an action with multiple claims. The order was appealable under the language of Rule 54(b) because there was no doubt that the counts dismissed were "claims for relief" and that a dismissal was a final action. The Court held that it was not an abuse of discretion for the district court to certify the appeal when it could not be argued that the claims stated in the dismissed counts were inherently inseparable from the remaining counts.