The US Supreme Court [official website]ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously Wednesday in Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago [SCOTUSblog materials] that a court-made time limitation rule was not jurisdictional.
The issue was whether the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit erred in dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure (4)(a)(5)(C) [text]. The rule states that a motion to extend the time to file a notice of appeal cannot be granted to extend the time in excess of 30 days after the prescribed deadline, or 14 days after the date of the motion, whichever is later. In this instance, the district court granted a two-month extension for petitioner to find new counsel when her attorneys withdrew from the case. Finding the rule’s time requirements to be jurisdictional, the court of appeals dismissed the appeal.
In its opinion, the Supreme Court drew on previous rulings to reinforce the difference between a congressionally enacted time limitation codified in statute and everything else, a distinction they recognized has been overlooked at times. “[W]hen an ‘appeal has not been prosecuted … within the time limited by the acts of Congress, it must be dismissed for want of jurisdiction.'” However, a time limit not prescribed by Congress is a mandatory claim-processing rule, which can be waived or forfeited. The court went on to state:
The rule of decision our precedent shapes is both clear and easy to apply: 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
The court also addressed the applicability of 28 USC § 2107(c) [text], which specifies the length of an extension for cases in which the appellant lacked notice of the entry of judgment, but for all other cases is silent as to how long an extension should run. Since this did not involve a lack of notice issue, the law was determined to be irrelevant.