Supreme Court to Consider Appeal Regarding Extension of Time Limits

By: Megan J. Muoio, March 6, 2017

The Supreme Court announced last week that it will hear the matter of Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago during its October 2017 session. The case comes to the Supreme Court on appeal from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals which, plaintiff has argued, issued a decision contrary to the Supreme Court’s precedents when it dismissed her appeal despite an extension of time granted by U.S. District Court Judge Ruben Castillo.

Plaintiff Charmaine Hamer was formerly an intake specialist for Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, Inc. (NHS), a nonprofit neighborhood revitalization organization that works with Fannie Mae’s mortgage help center. Hamer alleged that she was forced to resign by NHS and Fannie Mae on account of her age (she is in her mid-60s) and sex. Hamer brought suit for violations of Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

NHS and Fannie Mae argued that it dismissed Hamer because of her persistent tardiness, a disrespectful communications style, and low production numbers. Judge Castillo of the District Court found in favor of NHS and Fannie Mae and held that the reasons they stated for Hamer’s dismissal were not pretexual. After the decision, Hamer’s attorney withdrew from the case. Thereafter, Judge Castillo granted Hamer’s request for a 60-day extension of time to file her appeal to the Seventh Circuit.

Upon receipt of Hamer’s appeal, which was filed within the extended time set by Judge Castillo, the Seventh Circuit ruled that it lacked jurisdiction over Hamer’s appeal because Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5)(C) states that no extension can exceed 30 days or 14 days after the date the order granting the motion for an extension is entered. The Seventh Circuit held that the Rule’s requirement is “mandatory and jurisdictional” and that Judge Castillo was without authority to grant an extension of more than 30 days.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, Hamer has asked the Court to resolve a circuit court split in the interpretation of Rule (4)(a)(5)(C). While the Seventh Circuit has held that the Rule is a jurisdictional requirement that cannot be altered, the Ninth and D.C. Circuit Courts of Appeal have held the Rule is not a jurisdictional requirement. The Supreme Court accepted this appeal to hopefully resolve the circuit split.

Oral argument is expected next fall.


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