FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Jay A. García-Gregory, U.S. District
A. Vivaldi Oliver on brief for appellants.
G. Martínez-Vivas on brief for appellees Bella Vista
Hospital, Inc.; Ruben Perez; Johana Doe 1; and Conjugal
Partnership Perez-Doe 1.
Cristina S. Belaval-Burger on brief for appellee Banco
Popular de Puerto Rico.
A. Marqués-Díaz, Sonia M. López del
Valle-Carrera, and McConnell Valdés LLC, on brief for
appellee Watson Wyatt Company.
Howard, Chief Judge, Boudin and Barron, Circuit Judges.
BOUDIN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Torres and Pedro Bonilla are former employees of Bella Vista
Hospital ("Bella Vista"), a Mayaguez, Puerto
Rico-based hospital operated by the General Conference of
Seventh Day Adventist Church. In 1982, the hospital created a
pension program, advising its employees that the plan was
subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of
1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461.
ERISA is a federal statute imposing obligations on private
employers offering pension plans. See Advocate Health
Care Network v. Stapleton, 137 S.Ct.
1652, 1656 (2017).
types of plans are exempt from ERISA's requirements,
including plans which meet the statutory definition of
"church plan," 29 U.S.C. § 1003(b)(2). In
2000, the Internal Revenue Service, which is empowered to
issue rulings to parties as to the status of their plans,
advised Bella Vista that its pension plan met the definition
of "church plan" and so was exempt from ERISA. In
2003, Bella Vista terminated the plan. Torres and Bonilla had
become disabled some years earlier, and certain benefits they
were receiving from the hospital ended. In November 2006,
Torres and Bonilla sued in federal district court in Puerto
Rico to recover lost benefits.
the plaintiffs claimed federal subject matter jurisdiction
under ERISA, the district court found that the church plan
exception applied so ERISA did not govern the hospital's
pension regime. The court granted summary judgment in favor
of the defendants, dismissing the case on May 21, 2009, for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction--there being no federal
claim in the case outside of the purported ERISA count.
Torres and Bonilla did not appeal that decision and took no
further action in court for five years.
November 24, 2014, Torres and Bonilla filed a motion in the
district court to set aside the 2009 judgment, invoking the
court's authority to vacate a judgment procured by
"fraud on the court." Although such an action is
recognized in the rules, Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(d)(3), the power of
federal courts, both trial and appellate, to set aside or
alter prior judgments obtained by fraud antedates the
rules' adoption in 1938 and is a long-settled equitable
power of the federal courts not constrained by any statute of
limitations, Hazel-Atlas Glass Co. v.
Hartford-Empire Co., 322 U.S. 238, 244-45 (1944).
drastic remedy is hedged with restrictions. Here, plaintiffs
claimed that in the original federal action they brought in
2006, various defendants made deliberate material
misstatements in their answers and various sworn statements.
After referring the reopening request to a magistrate judge,
the district court in September 2015, in agreement with the
magistrate judge, rejected the request as not coming even
close to the level of "fraud on the court."
plaintiffs moved for reconsideration citing evidence
unearthed during the state-court proceeding, which had
resumed following the 2009 dismissal order in the federal
case. The district court denied the motion, and this appeal
followed. The appeal is hopeless on the merits; but the
defendants raise threshold objections that they argue divest
this court of authority over the appeal, namely (1) that the
appeal is untimely, and (2) that the notice of appeal is
is a term used multiple ways," McKenna v. Wells
Fargo Bank, N.A., 693 F.3d 207, 213 (1st Cir. 2012); not
every rule governing the timing of appeals can be said to be
"jurisdictional," only those accorded that status
by statute, Hamerv.Neighborhood
Housing Services of Chicago, 138 S.Ct. 13, 17 (2017), or
where Congress has otherwise made a "clear
indication" of its desire to treat a particular rule as