US Supreme Court holds judicial legal error qualifies as ‘mistake’ under federal law
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US Supreme Court holds judicial legal error qualifies as ‘mistake’ under federal law

The US Supreme Court Monday held 8-1 in Kemp v. United States that the term “mistake” in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(1) “includes a judge’s errors of law.” Rule 60(b)(1) allows a party to a lawsuit to seek relief from a judgement based on a mistake. The court considered “whether the term ‘mistake’ includes a judge’s error of law” and concluded that it does. US Supreme Court Justice Thomas wrote the Court’s opinion.

Petitioner Dexter Kemp was convicted in 2011 of various drug and gun crimes and sentenced to 420 months in prison. Kemp attempted to appeal his conviction and sentence along with other codefendants within the Eleventh Circuit. However, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed their convictions and sentences. In 2015, “Kemp moved the District Court to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. §2255.” The District Court dismissed the motion as untimely. In 2018, Kemp sought “to reopen his §2255 proceedings” under Rule 60(b)(1).

While Thomas and the majority agreed that Kemp’s motion fell within Rule 60(b)(1)’s scope, they determined that Kemp’s motion was nonetheless untimely. Further, Justice Thomas rejected Kemp’s argument that his motion applies under Rule 60(b)(6)’s catchall which “permits reopening for ‘any other reason that justifies relief,’ so long as the motion is filed ‘within a reasonable time.'”