U.S. Supreme Court Reverses 7th Circuit on Issue of Jurisdiction to Hear an Appeal

In this civil case, the U.S. Supreme Court took the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to task for dismissing an appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

While the case was in the District Court, after the defendant was granted summary judgment, plaintiff’s counsel filed 2 motions: one to withdraw from representation and one for an extension of time for the plaintiff to find new counsel who could file a Notice of Appeal. The District Court judge granted both motions, which included a 60 day extension. With days left to go on this 60 day extension, new counsel filed a “timely” Notice of Appeal.

The Seventh Circuit questioned this sua sponte, and ordered briefing, since the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure grant up to 30 day extensions. The Seventh Circuit ultimately ruled that they had no jurisdiction to hear this appeal because of the 30 day time limit.

The United States Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Seventh Circuit. In so doing, they noted that only Congress may limit the subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts, not the courts themselves. So if this was a federal statute in question setting the time limit, the Seventh Circuit would be correct, but since this was a federal rule of procedure, then this is a claim processing rule rather than a jurisdictional one, which is subject to forfeiture and waiver rules.

The Court remanded this back to the Seventh Circuit for further proceedings.

While not a criminal case, there is some applicability for federal criminal appellate issues.

The case here is Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago


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