Even Federal Judges Make Mistakes

Shuffle Tech int'l, LLC v. Wolff Gaming Inc. | 13-3576

August 2014

Judges make mistakes and understanding Rule 60, which allows district courts to correct certain types of errors in otherwise final judgments is important for any litigator. Rule 60(a) is intended to apply to more ministerial errors (errors where “the flaw lies in the translation of the original meaning to the judgment”). Rule 60(b) is for cases in which the judgment “is infected by error.” At issue in Shuffle Tech Int’l v. Wolff Gaming, No. 13-3576, was whether the Court had the authority to modify a judgment to order “affirmative relief” – the return of earnest money – when it was erroneously left out of the original judgment. The district court’s final judgment logically suggested that Wolff should be refunded its earnest money, however the order itself neglected to include that relief. The district court corrected this oversight but failed to cite Rule 60 as basis for its authority to do so. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit clarified that Rule 60(a) provided the district court with the authority to correct its own error because it was an error in “translating the meaning of its final order to its judgment.