Court of Appeals Interprets Statute Setting Post-Judgment Interest Rate

On July 21, 2011, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals decided Burke v. Groover, Christie & Merritt, P.C., Nos. 07-CV-1407 & 07-CV-1420, slip op. (D.C. July 21, 2011), which interprets a District of Columbia statute setting the interest rate applicable to judgments against private parties where the interest rate is not fixed by contract. As explained by the Court, the relevant statute, D.C. Code § 28-3302(c), provides that “the applicable rate of interest is based on the variable Treasury Rate for the underpayment of taxes, absent a reduction under [a] ‘good cause’ exception.” Burke, slip op. at 4. The Court held that “the rate of interest applicable to judgments against private parties in the District of Columbia pursuant to D.C. Code § 28-3302(c)” is not fixed at the time of judgment and instead is variable in that “it continues to fluctuate with the market, on a quarterly basis, from the date of judgment to the date it is paid.” Id. at 28. It further held that a trial court may not lower the rate of interest pursuant to the “good cause” exception “where the only justification is the usual delay caused by post-trial motions and appellate consideration.” Id. Finally, the Court held that a trial court has equitable power in a tort action to award interest to compensate a party for unwarranted delay in payment of an undisputed amount of post-judgment interest. Id. at 27-28.