CAFFREY, Senior District Judge.
Although this appeal comes before the Court on the substantive issues raised by the civil forfeiture action through which the claimant-appellant's home was forfeited to the federal government, we must begin and end by answering one question: whether the appellant timely filed her post-judgment motions below. We find that the appellant's notice of appeal was timely only as to the District Court's denial of her motion to vacate. As we find no abuse of discretion in the Court's decision, the ruling below should be affirmed. Because there is some confusion in the pleadings concerning the effect of post-judgment motions on appellate jurisdiction, we detour briefly through the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in order to clarify the proper steps that must be taken to preserve the merits of a district court judgment for later review.
I. The Record Below
The pertinent facts are easily summarized:
1. On May 19, 1988, the claimant-appellant, Alicia Rivera Martinez, was served with a seizure warrant, a copy of the complaint, a warrant for arrest in rem, and a warrant for seizure and monition.
2. On June 13, 1988 — twenty-five (25) days after service of process — the appellant filed a motion for extension of time to file an answer and a motion to intervene.
3. On July 15, 1988, the United States filed a motion to strike all pleadings filed on behalf of the appellant.
4. On July 29, 1988, the District Court granted the United States' motion to strike and entered a partial decree of forfeiture whereby the property at issue was forfeited to the federal government.
5. On August 30, 1988 — thirty-two (32) days after the District Court entered the forfeiture decree — appellant filed a motion to vacate the Court's order to strike the appellant's pleadings. The Court denied this motion.
6. On October 7, 1988 — a full seventy (70) days after the forfeiture decree was entered — the appellant filed a notice of appeal.
II. The Rules
Rule 4(a) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure establishes several different paths to appellate jurisdiction in civil cases. Subsection (1) requires that, when the government is a party to the action, the notice of appeal must be filed within sixty days of the judgment or order being appealed.
Describing how Rule 4(a) operates is easier than applying it, particularly in cases such as this one, where we confront not only timing problems, but also appellant's failure to identify the rule or rules upon which her motions are based. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the substance, and not the nomenclature, of a post-judgment motion determines whether appellate jurisdiction has attached pursuant to Rule 4(a). Browder v. Director, Ill. Dept. of Corrections, 434 U.S. 257, 98 S.Ct. 556, 54 L.Ed.2d 521 (1978). Thus, we turn next to an examination of the substance of appellant's motions.
On July 29, 1988 the District Court issued two orders: the first striking the appellant's pleadings, and the second entering a partial decree of forfeiture of the property at issue.
If, most charitably viewed, the appellant's motion to vacate was based on Rule 60(b), the law concerning appeal is clear: "A motion under this subdivision (b) does not affect the finality of a judgment or suspend its operation." Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). The Supreme Court explains:
Browder, 434 U.S. at 263 n. 7, 98 S.Ct. at 560 (citations omitted). Thus, if appellant wished to preserve the original judgment for appeal and review on the merits, she had to pursue two paths simultaneously: her Rule 60(b) motion before the district court, and her notice of appeal to this court — within sixty days of the court's forfeiture default decree. Textile Banking Co. v. Rentschler, 657 F.2d 844, 849-50 (7th Cir.1981) (citing Puerto Rico v. SS Zoe Colocotroni, 601 F.2d 39, 42 (1st Cir.1979)); Annotation, Tolling the Time for Filing Notice of Appeal in Civil in Federal Court Under Rule 4(a)(4) of Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, 74 A.L.R.Fed. 516 (1985). As the record demonstrates, a full seventy days elapsed between the District Court's order and the filing of the appellant's notice of appeal. Thus, only the District Court order denying the appellant's motion to vacate is properly before us. As we recently observed, "a punctual appeal from an order denying such a motion does not automatically produce a Lazarus-like effect; it cannot resurrect appellant's expired right to contest the merits of the underlying judgment, nor bring the judgment itself before us for review." Rodriguez-Antuna v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 871 F.2d 1, 2 (1st Cir.1989).
We review rulings on Rule 60(b) motions under the abuse of discretion standard, keeping in mind that Rule 60(b) contains "extraordinary relief" which should be granted "only under exceptional circumstances," Lepore v. Vidockler, 792 F.2d 272, 274 (1st Cir.1986), and that "motions to set aside default judgments are left to the sound discretion of the district court and that appellate courts will not reverse the district court's decision unless clearly wrong." United States v. One Urban Lot Located at 1 Street A-1, 865 F.2d 427, 429 (1st Cir.1989). Given the appellant's history of tardy filings, neglect of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and failure to
Rule 59(e) contains a similar provision: "A motion to alter or amend the judgment shall be served not later than 10 days after entry of the judgment."