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Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 30, 2018

Charmaine Hamer, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago and Fannie Mae, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued May 15, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. On Remand from the Supreme Court of the United States. No. 12 C 10150 - Rubén Castillo, Chief Judge.

          Before Easterbrook, Sykes, and Barrett, Circuit Judges.


         Charmaine Hamer worked at Fannie Mae's Mortgage Help Center from 2010 to 2012. Fannie Mae contracted with Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (Hamer's employer) to run the Center but maintained the right to remove individual employees. After Hamer's application for a promotion was denied and she was removed from the Center, she sued both Neighborhood Housing and Fannie Mae for discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-34. The district court granted summary judgment in the defendants' favor, and Hamer appealed the retaliation claims.

         A statute requires notices of appeal to be filed within thirty days after entry of judgment but provides that district courts may "extend the time for appeal upon a showing of excusable neglect or good cause." 28 U.S.C. §2107. This statute does not set a limit on extensions' length, but the rule implementing the statute provides that "[n]o extension under this Rule 4(a)(5) may exceed 30 days after the prescribed time or 14 days after the date when the order granting the motion is entered, whichever is later." Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(5)(C).

         On September 14, 2015, the district court entered summary judgment in favor of defendants. On October 8 Hamer's counsel submijed a motion to withdraw and to extend the time for appeal by 60 days (to December 14), to give Hamer time to acquire new counsel. The district court granted the motion, despite Rule 4(a)(5)(C), and Hamer filed her notice of appeal pro se on December 11-within the time erroneously allowed but outside the maximum under Rule 4(a)(5)(C). None of the litigants appears to have given any thought to the violation of Rule 4 until this court, on review of the docketing statements, ordered the parties to submit jurisdictional memoranda on the timeliness issue.

         This court dismissed Hamer's appeal, concluding that the time limit imposed by Rule 4(a)(5)(C) is jurisdictional. 835 F.3d 761 (7th Cir. 2016). The Supreme Court vacated that decision, holding that statutory time limits are jurisdictional but that those imposed by rule are not-though they remain mandatory if properly invoked. 138 S.Ct. 13 (2017). See also Bowles v. Russell, 551 U.S. 205 (2007). We must now decide whether defendants properly invoked Rule 4(a)(5)(C) and, if not, must reach the merits.

         Hamer contends that the defendants may not now challenge her appeal as untimely because they failed either to appeal from the district court's order granting the extension or to cross-appeal from the judgment. An appeal is necessary when a party seeks to attack the judgment in a way that either expands its own rights or narrows the rights of its opponent. United States v. American Railway Express Co., 265 U.S. 425, 435 (1924); Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Ludwig, 426 U.S. 479 (1976); Robert L. Stern, When to Cross-Appeal or Cross-Petition-Certainty or Confusion?, 87 Harv. L. Rev. 763 (1974). Defendants are not seeking to alter the judgment, so they did not need to appeal. This conclusion aligns us with the Tenth Circuit, United States v. Madrid, 633 F.3d 1222 (10th Cir. 2011), although the Third and Sixth Circuits have held otherwise. Amatangelo v. Donora, 212 F.3d 776 (3d Cir. 2000); United States v. Burch, 781 F.3d 342 (6th Cir. 2015). Our conclusion also is in line with the Supreme Court's rule that an appellee seeking to defend a judgment "may, without taking a cross-appeal, urge in support of [it] any matter appearing in the record, although his argument may involve an attack upon the reasoning of the lower court or an insistence upon matter overlooked or ignored by it." American Railway Express, 265 U.S. at 435.

          Hamer's argument that defendants forfeited the timeliness issue by not protesting in the district court likewise goes nowhere. Because the district judge granted the motion for extension immediately, defendants could not oppose it before the judge acted. And it is never necessary to remonstrate with a judge after an order has been entered. Motions for reconsideration are discretionary, not obligatory. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 46 ("A formal exception to a ruling or order is unnecessary.").

         The contention that the defendants waived any challenge to the timeliness of Hamer's appeal by saying in their docketing statement that the notice of appeal was "timely" requires more discussion. Under the heading "Appellate Court Jurisdiction", the docketing statement declares that "Plaintiff-Appellant filed a timely Notice of Appeal" and under the heading "The Date of Entry of the Judgment Sought to be Reviewed" that "Plaintiff-Appellant timely filed a Notice of Appeal". Defendants argue that language in docketing statements cannot waive or forfeit a right and that, by addressing the timeliness issue-in response to this court's order-before the merits, they have preserved the argument.

         Mandatory claim-processing rules, "[i]f properly invoked, … must be enforced, but they may be waived or forfeited." 138 S.Ct. at 17. Since the Supreme Court's clarification that time limits imposed by federal rules that do not have a statutory basis are claim-processing rules, Kontrick v. Ryan, 540 U.S. 443 (2004), this court has held that the limit in Rule 4(b) for criminal appeals will not be enforced if waived. See United States v. Neff, 598 F.3d 320, 323 (7th Cir. 2010). Treating timeliness under Rule 4(a)(5)(C) identically respects "the principle of party presentation so basic to our system of adjudication." Arizona v. California, 530 U.S. 392, 413 (2000). See also Greenlaw v. United States, 554 U.S. 237, 243-44 (2008).

         We have found scant authority on docketing statements in general, and we have not located any authority from any circuit on whether representations within docketing statements can constitute waivers. Defendants point to local rules and cases from other circuits that characterize docketing statements as preliminary, nonbinding documents. As defendants observe, however, "a docketing statement is a creature of a court's local rules," and this court is not bound by other courts' pronouncements on the effect of docketing statements that differ from ours. Many courts of appeals require docketing statements, but the Seventh Circuit may be unique in requiring them to take the form of prose paragraphs rather than responses to a printed form.

         Docketing statements serve several important functions in this court. They form part of the "short record" that senior court staff reviews "[i]n an effort to uncover jurisdictional defects very early in the appellate process". See Practitioner's Handbook for Appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit 19 (2017 ed.). The court also uses docketing statements to determine "whether an appeal is related to other appeals, where an incarcerated party is housed, and who current public officials are in official capacity suits". Id. at 119. We require docketing statements to contain all information that Fed. R. App. P. 28 requires in jurisdictional statements. Circuit R. 3(c). ...

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