The rule of civil procedure authorizing relief from judgment contains two sections commonly referred to as “catch-all’ provisions. These sections are routinely cited by a litigant who cannot justify a request for relief on the grounds of excusable neglect, surprise, mistake, newly discovered evidence or fraud by the other party. While the time limitation for a motion based on those grounds is no more than one year from judgment, only a limitation of reasonableness is imposed by the catch-all provisions. The catch-all provisions cannot be relied upon when, in reality, the grounds for relief fall within one of the other provisions.
If a judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged it can be vacated at any reasonable time. If a judgment should no longer have prospective application it can be vacated by motion filed within a reasonable time. To be successful in vacating a judgment because it should no longer have prospective application, one must be able to establish that it is no longer equitable to enforce the judgment. There must have been a significant change of circumstances not contemplated when the judgment was issued.
It has been held that for purposes of this provision, a change in financial circumstances is always foreseeable, and cannot be used as a basis for modifying a support obligation. The application of this catch-all provision to domestic relations matters is limited. In most cases it is cited when one has failed to timely assert other grounds.
The second catch-all provision simply provides for relief for “any other reason.” Again, the relief sought must not, in reality, be on grounds covered by other provisions of the rule. Fraud or misrepresentation by a party to the other party is a claim which must be filed within a year. Fraud by a party on the court which prevents the court from functioning in an impartial manner is a claim that can be brought within a reasonable time. Bribery of a judge and fabrication of evidence are examples of such egregious misconduct justifying relief under this catch-all provision. There must be extraordinary circumstances and undue hardship justifying the relief sought.
A request for relief from judgment under any of the provisions discussed in this and preceding articles cannot be used as an alternative to a timely appeal. If one waits beyond the appeal time, usually, thirty days, to file a motion for relief from judgment, appeal rights will be forfeited. The judgment can only be reviewed under the provisions of the civil rule.