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Thompson v. I. N. S

U.S.
Jan 6, 1964
375 U.S. 384 (1964)

Summary

holding that lower court's representation that Rule 59(b) motion for new trial was timely, when it was not, constituted "unique circumstances" to excuse untimely notice of appeal

Summary of this case from In re Ellis

Opinion

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT.

No. 496.

Decided January 6, 1964.

Twelve days after the District Court entered a final order denying his petition for naturalization, petitioner served notice that he would file motions to amend certain findings of fact and for a new trial. The Government did not object to the timeliness of the motions and the trial judge declared the motion for a new trial was made "in ample time." The motions were later denied and an appeal was filed within 60 days thereafter, but more than 60 days from the entry of judgment. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal since it was filed outside of the limit of 60 days after entry of judgment prescribed in Rule 73(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The time was not considered tolled by the motions since they were themselves untimely having been filed more than 10 days after the final order. Held: In view of petitioner's reliance on the District Court's statement that his motions were timely filed, thus postponing the time to file an appeal, he should have a hearing on the merits. Harris Truck Lines, Inc., v. Cherry Meat Packers, Inc., 371 U.S. 215, followed.

Certiorari granted; 318 F.2d 681, judgment vacated and case remanded.

Hal Witt for petitioner.

Solicitor General Cox, Assistant Attorney General Miller, Beatrice Rosenberg and Julia P. Cooper for respondent.


Petitioner, a native and national of Canada, filed a petition for naturalization under the provisions of § 310(b) of the Nationality Act of 1940, 8 U.S.C. (1946 ed.) § 710(b), now 8 U.S.C. § 1430. On April 18, 1962, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois entered a final order denying the petition on the ground that petitioner had failed to establish his attachment to the United States Constitution. Twelve days later, on April 30, 1962, petitioner served notice on the Immigration and Naturalization Service that he would appear before the trial judge on May 2, 1962, with post-trial motions "to amend certain findings of fact pursuant to Rule 52 F.R.C.P. and for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59 F.R.C.P." The Government raised no objection as to the timeliness of these motions, and the trial court specifically declared that the "motion for a new trial" was made "in ample time." On October 16, 1962, these motions were denied. On December 6, 1962, within 60 days of the denial of the post-trial motions but not within 60 days of the original entry of judgment by the District Court, petitioner filed a notice of appeal. The Government then moved in the Court of Appeals to dismiss the appeal on the ground that notice of appeal had not been filed within the 60-day period prescribed by Rule 73(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and that petitioner's post-trial motions were untimely and hence did not toll the running of the time for appeal. The Court of Appeals granted the motions. Petitioner now seeks review by certiorari of the dismissal of his appeal.

Rule 73(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure designates "the time within which an appeal may be taken" in this type of case as "60 days" from "the entry of the judgment appealed from . . . ." The Rule also declares that:

"the full time for appeal fixed in this subdivision commences to run and is to be computed from the entry of any of the following orders made upon a timely motion under such rules: . . . granting or denying a motion under Rule 52(b) to amend or make additional findings of fact . . .; or granting or denying a motion under Rule 59 to alter or amend the judgment; or denying a motion for a new trial under Rule 59," (Emphasis added.)

It is clear that if petitioner's post-trial motions were "timely," then the appeal, which was filed within 60 days of the disposition of the motions, was timely. The Government alleges, however, that the post-trial motions were not timely since the applicable rules provide that they must be "served not later than 10 days after the entry of the judgment," and these motions were served 12 days after the entry of judgment. The Government concludes, therefore, that since there was no "timely motion" under the rules designated in Rule 73(a), the appeal must be, but was not, filed within 60 days of the entry of the original judgment.

Although petitioner admits that the post-trial motions were not served until 12 days after the entry of judgment, he claims that they should be deemed timely since they were served 10 days "from receipt of notice of entry of the judgment" by his lawyers who were not in court on the day the judgment was entered. He claims, moreover, that he relied on the Government's failure to raise a claim of untimeliness when the motions were filed and on the District Court's explicit statement that the motion for a new trial was made "in ample time"; for if any question had been raised about the timeliness of the motions at that juncture, petitioner could have, and presumably would have, filed the appeal within 60 days of the entry of the original judgment, rather than waiting, as he did, until after the trial court had disposed of the post-trial motions.

In a recent case involving a closely related issue, we recognized "the obvious great hardship to a party who relies upon the trial judge's finding of `excusable neglect' prior to the expiration of the [applicable period for filing an appeal] and then suffers reversal of the finding . . ." after the time for filing the appeal has expired. Harris Truck Lines, Inc., v. Cherry Meat Packers, Inc., 371 U.S. 215, 217. In that case petitioner had, within the applicable period for filing his appeal, received from the trial court a 30-day extension on the time for filing his appeal on the ground of "excusable neglect based on a failure of a party to learn of the entry of the judgment." Fed. Rules Civ. Proc., 73(a). Petitioner then filed his appeal within the period of the extension but beyond the original period. The Court of Appeals, concluding that there had been no "excusable neglect" within the meaning of Rule 73(a), held that the District Court had erred in granting the extension and dismissed the appeal. We reversed the dismissal and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals "so that petitioner's appeal may be heard on its merits." Ibid. See also Lieberman v. Gulf Oil Corp., 315 F.2d 403, cert. denied, 375 U.S. 823.

The instant cause fits squarely within the letter and spirit of Harris. Here, as there, petitioner did an act which, if properly done, postponed the deadline for the filing of his appeal. Here, as there, the District Court concluded that the act had been properly done. Here, as there, the petitioner relied on the statement of the District Court and filed the appeal within the assumedly new deadline but beyond the old deadline. And here, as there, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court had erred and dismissed the appeal. Accordingly, in view of these "unique circumstances," Harris Truck Lines, Inc., v. Cherry Meat Packers, Inc., supra, at 217, we grant the writ of certiorari, vacate the judgment, and remand the case to the Court of Appeals so that petitioner's appeal may be heard on the merits.

It is so ordered.


I agree with the Court of Appeals that it did not have jurisdiction to hear this appeal on the merits.

Petitioner's motions "to amend certain findings of fact pursuant to Rule 52 F.R.C.P. and for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59 F.R.C.P." were not timely filed, as they were not served until the 12th day after entry of judgment and not filed until the 14th day. The rules are phrased in mandatory terms:

Rule 52(b): "Upon motion of a party made not later than 10 days after entry of judgment the court may amend its findings . . . ."

Rule 59(b): "A motion for a new trial shall be served not later than 10 days after the entry of the judgment."

Rule 59(e): "A motion to alter or amend the judgment shall be served not later than 10 days after entry of the judgment." (Emphasis supplied.)

Rule 6(b) specifically says that the court "may not extend the time for taking any action under rules . . . 52(b), 59(b), (d) and (e) . . . and 73(a) . . . except to the extent and under the conditions stated in them." These requirements are mandatory and cannot be enlarged by the court or by the parties. None of these rules provides for any extension of time except 73(a), which authorizes, "upon a showing of excusable neglect based on a failure of a party to learn of the entry of the judgment," an extension of the time for appeal "not exceeding 30 days from the expiration of the original time herein prescribed." Petitioner has made no claim under this provision of Rule 73(a) in the District Court, the Court of Appeals or in the "questions presented" here. The running of the time for appeal is terminated by the filing of a timely motion under Rule 52 or Rule 59. But here petitioner contends that the trial court's statement that the motions were "in ample time," considered together with the Government's acquiescence, was sufficient to effect such termination. Whether the trial judge's statement was spontaneous or made by agreement is not shown by the record and is of no legal significance. The rules specifically say that motions to amend the findings and for new trial must be made within 10 days and that this time shall not be extended.

In the light of these facts I cannot say that this case "fits squarely within the letter and spirit" of Harris Truck Lines, Inc., v. Cherry Meat Packers, Inc., 371 U.S. 215 (1962). As I read the facts in the two cases, Harris Lines does not touch the problem here. In that case the District Court, after denying a timely motion for a new trial, granted an application under Rule 73(a) based on "excusable neglect" to enlarge the time for appeal. The trial court had jurisdiction and "properly entertained the motion . . . before the initial 30 days allowed for docketing the appeal had elapsed." At 216. We said that a finding of "excusable neglect" by a motions judge was entitled to "great deference by the reviewing court" in the light of the "obvious great hardship to a party who relies upon the trial judge's finding." At 217. Finally, we said that the showing of "excusable neglect" was of "unique circumstances sufficient that the Court of Appeals ought not to have disturbed the motion judge's ruling." Ibid. That is a far cry from this case where the trial court had no jurisdiction to pass upon the untimely motions to amend the findings and for a new trial. To escape this, the Court either reads into the rules, contrary to the specific prohibition of 6(b), authorization for the District Court to enlarge the time for filing such motions, or treats the motions as being within the provisions of Rule 73(a), despite failure to allege any "excusable neglect." By thus authorizing the trial judge to entertain the motions it thereby extends the time for appeal. And, as I have said, the error of the trial judge in entertaining the motions could not be validated by the acquiescence of the Government. It is elementary that the parties cannot confer jurisdiction on the court.

We have said that untimely motions to amend the findings and for new trial are of no legal significance whatsoever because the limiting language of Rule 6(b) is "mandatory and jurisdictional and [can]not be extended regardless of excuse." United States v. Robinson, 361 U.S. 220, 229 (1960). In my view we should abide by these rules or amend them, rather than emasculate them.

Rules of procedure are a necessary part of an orderly system of justice. Their efficacy, however, depends upon the willingness of the courts to enforce them according to their terms. Changes in rules whose inflexibility has turned out to work hardship should be effected by the process of amendment, not by ad hoc relaxations by this Court in particular cases. Such dispensations in the long run actually produce mischievous results, undermining the certainty of the rules and causing confusion among the lower courts and the bar. Cf. Lieberman v. Gulf Oil Corp., 315 F.2d 403, 406, 407.

Accordingly, I would have denied certiorari in the present case, but now that it is here I would affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.


Summaries of

Thompson v. I. N. S

U.S.
Jan 6, 1964
375 U.S. 384 (1964)

holding that lower court's representation that Rule 59(b) motion for new trial was timely, when it was not, constituted "unique circumstances" to excuse untimely notice of appeal

Summary of this case from In re Ellis

holding that the appeals court can consider an appellant's argument on the merits even though the notice of appeal was not timely filed

Summary of this case from Hunt v. Parkway Transport, Inc.

holding that under "unique circumstances," the court of appeals should entertain the merits of an appeal even though the appeal was not filed in a timely fashion

Summary of this case from Hunt v. Parkway Transport, Inc.

finding that an assurance by the district court that a posttrial motion had been timely and thus extended the time for appeal was a “unique circumstance” allowing appeal to be heard even if the motion in truth had been untimely and would not have extended time for appeal

Summary of this case from Satkar Hospitality, Inc. v. Fox Television Holdings

rejecting position that time for filing appeal is "jurisdictional" and can never be waived

Summary of this case from Widdoss v. Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services

permitting appeal, when petitioner conceded that post-trial motions were served late, in part because petitioner "relied on the Government's failure to raise a claim of untimeliness when the motions were filed"

Summary of this case from Eberhart v. U.S.

In Thompson v. INS, 375 U.S. 384 (1964), on the other hand, the Court assumed without discussion that Rules 52(b) and 59 applied in a "proceeding for admission to citizenship" in which, as in a habeas corpus proceeding, the applicability of the Civil Rules is qualified by Rule 81(a)(2).

Summary of this case from Browder v. Director, Ill. Dept. of Corrections

In Thompson, the district court denied a party's petition for naturalization. 375 U.S. at 384–85, 84 S.Ct. 397. Twelve days later, the petitioner filed a motion for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59, id. at 385, 84 S.Ct. 397, which, at that time, required such motions to be filed within 10 days of the entry of the final judgment.

Summary of this case from Obaydullah ex rel. Obaydullah v. Obama

In Thompson, the trial court explicitly accepted, and the government did not object to, the timeliness of a motion for a new trial that was actually two days late.

Summary of this case from Bowles v. Russell

In Thompson v. INS, 375 U.S. 384, 84 S.Ct. 397, 11 L.Ed.2d 404 (1964), the Court expanded this idea to include cases in which a party had relied on a district court's conclusion that an act had properly been done, and the appeal was timely under a mistaken new deadline. It clarified that rule in Osterneck v. Ernst Whinney, 489 U.S. 169, 179, 109 S.Ct. 987, 103 L.Ed.2d 146 (1989), holding that the party filing late would be excused if he "has received specific assurance by a judicial officer that this act has been properly done."

Summary of this case from Prop Unlimited Realtors v. Cendant Mobility

In Thompson v. INS, 375 U.S. 384, 84 S.Ct. 397, 11 L.Ed.2d 404 (1964), the plaintiff filed an untimely motion for a new trial.

Summary of this case from Lawrence v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters

remanding to the Court of Appeals, which had dismissed the appeal as untimely, "in view of these `unique circumstances'"

Summary of this case from Schneider ex Rel. Estate of Schneider v. Fried

giving effect to a notice of appeal filed after the deadline where the petitioner had relied on a statement of the District Court

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Marquez

In Thompson v. INS, 375 U.S. 384, 84 S.Ct. 397, 11 L.Ed.2d 404 (1964) (per curiam), the petitioner filed a naturalization petition with the district court, which was denied on April 18, 1962.

Summary of this case from Spencer v. Sutton

announcing the "unique circumstances" exception

Summary of this case from Weitz v. Lovelace Health System, Inc.

In Thompson, the petitioner had filed in the district court a postjudgment motion pursuant to Civil Rule 59 for a new trial, which if timely filed would have tolled the time for taking an appeal.

Summary of this case from Lichtenberg v. Besicorp Group Inc.

agreeing with Thompson that "if any question had been raised about the timeliness of the motions [in the district court], petitioner could have, and presumably would have, filed the appeal within 60 days of the entry of the original judgment, rather than waiting, as he did, until after the trial court had disposed of the post-trial motions"

Summary of this case from Lichtenberg v. Besicorp Group Inc.

In Thompson v. INS, 375 U.S. 384, 386-87 (1964), the Supreme Court articulated a "unique circumstances" doctrine that authorizes courts of appeals to hear appeals that would have been timely but for some error by the district court.

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Rapoport

In Thompson, however, because the trial court specifically announced that it considered the motion for new trial as timely, the Supreme Court held that the time for filing the notice of appeal ran from the order denying the motion for new trial, instead of from the date of the original judgment.

Summary of this case from Prudential-Bache Securities, Inc. v. Fitch

In Thompson, petitioner had filed a post-trial motion with the district court, which, had it been timely, would have postponed the running of the time for filing appeal until a ruling on the motion.

Summary of this case from Parke-Chapley Const. Co. v. Cherrington

In Thompson v. Immigration Naturalization Service, 375 U.S. 384, 387, 84 S.Ct. 397, 398-99, 11 L.Ed.2d 404 (1964) (per curiam), the Supreme Court suggested merely that assurances of timeliness by the district court might save an appeal.

Summary of this case from MacDonald Miller Co. v. N.L.R.B

In Thompson, the Supreme Court allowed an appeal to lie because of the "unique circumstances" of the appellant's deferral of the filing of his appeal in reliance on the district court's assurances that his post-trial motions were timely when, in fact, they were not. In this case, defendants claim a similar reliance on the district court's erroneous grant of additional time for the filing of post-trial motions.

Summary of this case from Kropinski v. World Plan Executive Council—US

In Thompson v. I.N.S., 375 U.S. 384, 84 S.Ct. 397, 11 L.Ed.2d 404 (1964) (per curiam), the appellant served a motion for new trial twelve days after entry of judgment.

Summary of this case from Smith v. Evans

In Thompson, the district court denied the petitioner's petition for naturalization. Twelve days later, the petitioner served notice that he would file motions to amend the trial court's findings and for a new trial.

Summary of this case from Mann v. Lynaugh

In Thompson, twelve days after final judgment, Thompson notified INS that he would file motions to amend certain findings and for new trial.

Summary of this case from Fairley v. Jones
Case details for

Thompson v. I. N. S

Case Details

Full title:THOMPSON v . IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE

Court:U.S.

Date published: Jan 6, 1964

Citations

375 U.S. 384 (1964)
84 S. Ct. 397
11 L. Ed. 2d 404

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