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Gumer v. Shearson

decided: December 16, 1974.

MAX S. GUMER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT-APPELLEE,
v.
SHEARSON, HAMMILL & CO., INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE-APPELLANT, WINSLOW, COHU & STETSON, INC., FREDERICK S. NUSBAUM, AND THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE, DEFENDANTS



Cross-appeals from judgment entered in the Western District of New York, Harold P. Burke, District Judge, granting motion by one of four defendants to dismiss complaint, and denying plaintiff's motion for leave to amend complaint, in action by owner of a brokerage account to recover damages resulting from alleged violations of the federal securities laws, certain rules of the New York Stock Exchange and Regulation T of the Federal Reserve Board, the complaint also having alleged pendent state law claims.

Friendly, Feinberg and Timbers, Circuit Judges.

Author: Timbers

TIMBERS, Circuit Judge:

Max S. Gumer appeals from a judgment entered August 1, 1974 in the Western District of New York, Harold P. Burke, District Judge, dismissing his complaint as against defendant Shearson, Hammill & Co., Inc. (Shearson), nunc pro tunc as of April 1, 1974. Judge Burke's decision and order of April 1 had dismissed the complaint as against Shearson, one of four defendants, and had denied plaintiff leave to amend his complaint; but the April 1 order did not contain a Rule 54(b) certificate and was not a final order. On April 29, plaintiff filed a notice of appeal from the April 1 order. After Shearson moved to dismiss the appeal on the ground there was no final order or judgment, Judge Burke on application of plaintiff entered an order on July 31 which modified his April 1 order by including a Rule 54(b) certificate. From the judgment of August 1, entered on the July 31 order, both plaintiff and Shearson have appealed.

I.

Prior to July 1969, plaintiff had maintained a securities account with a net value of $1,461,437 at the Rochester office of defendant Winslow, Cohu & Stetson, Inc. (Winslow). Defendant Nusbaum was a vice president and manager of Winslow's Rochester office. At the request of Nusbaum and Winslow, plaintiff guaranteed two other accounts in Winslow's Rochester office. These two accounts eventually were consolidated with plaintiff's account. The consolidated account was transferred to Shearson at plaintiff's request in view of the possible financial collapse of Winslow. Shearson and Winslow were both member firms of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

As a result of a series of transactions alleged in the complaint,*fn1 plaintiff ended up losing his entire account. On February 25, 1971, he commenced the instant action to recover damages against each of the four named defendants. He alleged violations of the federal securities laws, certain rules of the NYSE and Regulation T of the Federal Reserve Board.*fn2 He also alleged pendent state law claims.

Shearson's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) was addressed to counts 6, 8 and 10 which alleged violations of the securities laws, rules of the NYSE and Regulation T. The pendent state law claims alleged in counts 7, 9 and 11 were dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). In addition to the complaint and Shearson's four paragraph motion to dismiss, the motion was supported by three affidavits. They showed that plaintiff's margin account agreement contained an arbitration clause, that Shearson had demanded arbitration of the instant dispute and that plaintiff had declined to proceed to arbitration.

II.

Our threshold inquiry is whether we have appellate jurisdiction. This involves the propriety of the Rule 54(b) certificate since the judgment adjudicated only plaintiff's claims against defendant Shearson, not those against the other three defendants.

Technically, we could dismiss the appeal on the ground that the district court had no jurisdiction to enter the Rule 54(b) certificate after the appeal had been taken and without our permission. Williams v. Bernhardt Bros. Tugboat Service, Inc., 357 F.2d 883, 884-85 (7 Cir. 1966); Wolfson v. Blumberg, 340 F.2d 89, 90 (2 Cir. 1965); 6 Moore's Federal Practice [*] 54.41[4], at 774-75 (2d ed. 1974). In view of the broader scope of our remand outlined below, however, we pass over this technical defect which could be readily corrected on remand in any event.

The more difficult issue with respect to the Rule 54(b) certificate, aside from its delayed entry, is whether it was improvidently granted -- an issue which is open to review by us. Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Mackey, 351 U.S. 427, 435-37, 100 L. Ed. 1297, 76 S. Ct. 895 (1956); Campbell v. Westmoreland Farm, Inc., 403 F.2d 939, 942-43 (2 Cir. 1968); Panichella v. Pennsylvania Railroad Co., 252 F.2d 452, 455 (3 Cir. 1958); cf. Gottesman v. General Motors Corp., 401 F.2d 510, 512 (2 Cir. 1968). Specifically, the aspect of the piecemeal appeal here that troubles us most is whether a determination by us of some issues involving defendant Shearson which also may be common to some of the other defendants*fn3 might result in prejudice to the other defendants who would not have had an opportunity before us to participate in the determination of those issues. Robbin v. American University, 117 U.S. App. D.C. 351, 330 F.2d 225 (D.C. Cir. 1964); see Build of Buffalo, Inc. v. Sedita, 441 F.2d 284, 294 (2 Cir. 1971) (dissenting opinion of Anderson, J.).*fn4

We suggest to the district courts that in the future it would be helpful to us in reviewing the exercise of discretion in granting a Rule 54(b) certificate if the court, rather than incorporating in the certificate*fn5 the conclusory language of Rule 54(b), would make a brief reasoned statement in support of its determination that "there is no just reason for delay" and its express direction for "the entry of a final judgment as to one or more but fewer than all of the claims or parties" where the justification for the certificate is not apparent. In addition to the consideration mentioned above, other factors which might appropriately be evaluated in such a statement by the district court are referred to in Judge Smith's opinion in Campbell, supra, 403 F.2d at 942-43.

While we find the question of whether the Rule 54(b) certificate was improvidently granted in the instant case to be a close one, we decline to dismiss the appeal on that ground -- chiefly because we believe that our disposition of the appeal, provided for below, ...


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