from Walker Circuit Court. (CV-01-578).
Appellant: Phillip A. Laird and Russell B. Robertson of Laird
& Robertson, P.C., Jasper; and Richard E. Fikes of Jackson
Fikes Hood & Brakefield, Jasper.
Appellee: Charles C. Tatum, Jr., Jasper.
Waldrop appeals from a ruling entered by the Walker Circuit
Court on a postjudgment motion filed by Steve Evans, pursuant
to Rule 59, Ala. R. Civ. P. We dismiss the appeal as having
been taken from a nonfinal judgment.
1999, Evans leased from Waldrop a piece of commercial real
property located in Curry. The lease term was five years,
commencing on April 1, 1999, and ending on March 1, 2004.
Evans stopped paying rent in April 2000. Accordingly, in
August 2001, Waldrop sued Evans, alleging a breach of the
November 2012, the trial court held a bench trial. Evans did
not dispute at trial that he had ceased paying rent before
the lease term had expired. He did, however, claim that
Waldrop had unreasonably withheld his consent to a sublease
of the property.
On March 3, 2014, more than a year after the parties had
submitted posttrial briefs, the trial court entered a
judgment in favor of Waldrop. The judgment awarded Waldrop
damages for unpaid rent, as well as prejudgment interest and
to Rule 59, Ala. R. Civ. P., Evans timely filed a
postjudgment motion. In that motion, Evans asked the trial
court " for a new trial or to alter, amend and/or
vacate" the judgment entered in favor of Waldrop and
asked the trial-court judge to recuse himself from further
proceedings and to refer the action to the presiding
circuit-court judge for reassignment to a new circuit-court
judge. In support of his motion, Evans asserted that, before
the trial court had entered the judgment in favor of Waldrop
after the bench trial, Waldrop had filed with the Judicial
Inquiry Commission (" JIC" ) a complaint against
the trial-court judge for allegedly violating Canon 3.A.(5)
of the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics, which requires
judges to " dispose promptly of the business of the
court." Evans alleged further that, " almost
immediately following the filing of the JIC Complaint, [the
trial court] entered the Order favorable to [Waldrop]."
Evans asserted that the timing of the JIC complaint and the
entry of the judgment in favor of Waldrop " create[d]
the appearance that [the trial-court judge] might [have]
rushed to enter the Order at issue to avoid the appearance of
unfairness to [Waldrop]."
April 2014, the trial court entered an order ruling on
Evans's postjudgment motion. Although the trial court
stated in its order that the judgment in favor of Waldrop
" was not in any way influenced by the ... JIC
Complaint," in order to avoid the appearance of
unfairness and lack of impartiality, the trial court vacated
the judgment and the trial-court judge recused himself from
further proceedings and referred the action to the presiding
circuit-court judge for reassignment. The trial court,
however, specifically declined to grant or deny Evans's
request for a new trial, deferring a decision on that matter
to the circuit-court judge to whom the case would be
2014, the action was assigned to a new circuit-court judge.
The trial court never entered an order stating whether a new
trial would or would not take place. In June 2014, Waldrop
appealed to our supreme court, which transferred the appeal
to this court, pursuant to § 12-2-7(6), Ala. Code 1975.
response to Waldrop's appeal, Evans argues that the trial
court's order vacating the judgment that had been entered
in favor of Waldrop is not a final judgment. Specifically, he
asserts that the order did not adjudicate all the rights of
the parties or all matters in controversy because it
contemplated further proceedings after reassignment to a new
circuit-court judge. Thus, he argues, this court does not
have jurisdiction to consider the appeal. See Ex parte