Massachusetts Appellate Procedure Rule 4: Appeal - When Taken
(a) Appeals in Civil Cases. In a civil case, unless otherwise provided by statute, the notice of appeal required by Rule 3 shall be filed with the clerk of the lower court within thirty days of the date of the entry of the judgment appealed from; but if the Commonwealth or an officer or agency thereof is a party, the notice of appeal may be filed by any party within sixty days of such entry, except in child welfare cases, in which the notice of appeal shall be filed within thirty days from the date of the entry of the judgment, decree, order, or adjudication. If a notice of appeal is mistakenly filed in an appellate court, the clerk of such appellate court shall note the date on which it was received and transmit it to the clerk of the lower court from which the appeal was taken and it shall be deemed filed in such lower court on the date so noted. If a timely notice of appeal is filed by a party, any other party may file a notice of appeal within fourteen days of the date on which the first notice of appeal was filed, or within the time otherwise prescribed by this rule whichever period last expires.
If a timely motion under the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure is filed in the lower court by any party: (1) for judgment under Rule 50(b); (2) under Rule 52(b) to amend or make additional findings of fact, whether or not an alteration of the judgment would be required if the motion is granted; (3) to alter or amend a judgment under Rule 59 or for relief from judgment under Rule 60, however titled, if either motion is served within ten days after entry of judgment; or (4) under Rule 59 for a new trial, the time for appeal for all parties shall run from the entry of the order denying a new trial or granting or denying any other such motion. A notice of appeal filed before the disposition of any of the above motions shall have no effect. A new notice of appeal must be filed within the prescribed time measured from the entry of the order disposing of the motion as provided above. No additional fees shall be required for such filing.
(b) Appeals in Criminal Cases. In a criminal case, unless otherwise provided by statute, the notice of appeal required by Rule 3 shall be filed with the clerk of the lower court within thirty days after entry of judgment or order appealed from; or entry of a notice of appeal by the Commonwealth; or the imposition of sentence. The running of the time for filing a notice of appeal shall be terminated as to the moving party by a motion for a new trial pursuant to Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure 30 filed in the lower court within thirty days after the verdict or finding of guilt or within thirty days after imposition of sentence and the full time fixed by this rule shall commence to run and shall be computed from the date of entry of an order denying such motion.
(c) Extension of Time for Filing Notice of Appeal. Upon a showing of excusable neglect, the lower court may extend the time for filing the notice of appeal by any party for a period not to exceed thirty days from the expiration of the time otherwise prescribed by this rule. Such an extension may be granted before or after the time otherwise prescribed by this rule has expired; but if a request for an extension is made after such time has expired, it shall be made by motion with such notice as the lower court shall deem appropriate.
Amended May 15, 1979, effective July 1, 1979; July 20, 1984, effective January 1, 1985; June 7, 1985, effective July 1, 1985; amended July 28, 1999, effective September 1, 1999; March 6, 2000, effective April 3, 2000; March 22, 2013, effective May 1, 2013.
Reporter's Notes (2013). The 2013 amendment to Appellate Rule 4(a) changed item (3) to provide that, if served within ten days after entry of judgment, a motion under Mass. R. Civ. P. 59 to alter or amend a judgment or a motion under Mass. R. Civ. P. 60 for relief from judgment will toll the time period to claim an appeal from the underlying judgment.
The language “however titled” in the amended version is intended to make clear that the substance and not the title of the motion should control. See Pentucket Manor Chronic Hospital, Inc. v. Rate Setting Commission, 394 Mass. 233, 235-236 (1985). Thus a post-judgment motion under either Mass. R. Civ. P. 59 or 60, whether titled as a motion to alter, amend, or vacate, for relief from judgment, or for reconsideration, if served within ten days, will toll the time period to file a notice of appeal.
The 2013 amendment to Mass. R. A. P. 4(a) was intended to address the confusion that sometimes arose when a post-judgment motion, denominated a motion for “reconsideration,” was served within ten days after entry of judgment. Since the text of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure does not refer to motions for reconsideration, a motion for reconsideration, if served within ten days of judgment, could have been treated as a motion under Rule 59 (for new trial or to alter or amend judgment) or as a motion under Rule 60(b) (for relief from judgment). If treated as a Rule 59 motion, the motion for reconsideration would have operated to toll the time period to claim an appeal. If treated as a Rule 60(b) motion, the motion for reconsideration would not have served to toll the time period to claim an appeal. Mass. R. A. P. 4(a), as it existed prior to the 2013 amendment. The 2013 amendment to Mass. R. A. P. 4(a) eliminates this potential for confusion by tolling the time period to claim an appeal where a motion for reconsideration is served within ten days after entry of judgment.
This amendment is not intended to provide a litigant with multiple opportunities to extend the time period to claim an appeal. Assume that the defendant serves a motion for relief from judgment within ten days of entry of judgment, thereby staying the time period to claim an appeal from the judgment. Two months later, the judge enters an order denying the motion for relief. Entry of that order starts the clock running to file a notice of appeal. If the defendant moves for reconsideration of the order denying relief from judgment, the motion for reconsideration should have no effect on the time period to claim appeal from the original judgment.
A 2009 amendment to Rule 4(a)(4)(a) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure similarly recognized that a motion for relief from judgment under Rule 60 tolls the time period to file a notice of appeal.