A Question of Time, Specifically, Time to File Notice of an Appeal

Deadlines are critical. And when it comes to appellate-filing deadlines, the Supreme Court recently clarified they come in two flavors.

  • Rigid statutory deadlines are “jurisdictional” and cannot be forfeited or waived.
  • Their more flexible cousins, deadlines set by court rules, are mere “claim-processing rules” that can be forfeit or waived.

Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing

Specifically, Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure requires that a notice of appeal be filed within 30 days. In Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing, counsel obtained a two month extension from the district court. But when the plaintiff filed its notice of appeal, the Seventh Circuit questioned its timeliness.

The appellees seized on the opportunity, now arguing that the appeal was late. Relying on Bowles v. Russell, 551 U.S. 205 (2007), the Seventh Circuit agreed. It concluded that, although the appellant had relied on the extension order, the deadline under Rule 4 was “mandatory.” Thus, the extension impermissibly deprived the Court of Appeals of jurisdiction.

But the Supreme Court disagreed, stating that:

If a time prescription governing the transfer of adjudicatory authority from one Article III court to another appears in a statute, the limitation is jurisdictional . . . otherwise, the time specification fits within the claim-processing category [and is subject to forfeiture or waiver].

The statute corresponding to Rule 4, 28 U.S.C. § 2107, does not limit the length of an extension. The Supreme Court therefore concluded that the district court could extend the filing deadline.

What happens next is up in the air. The Supreme Court remanded the case. So it now falls to the lower court to decide whether the timeliness objections were forfeited or waived if not properly raised.

Citation

Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, Case No. 16-658.