487 U.S. 312 (1988), 86-1845, Torres v. Oakland Scavenger Co.

Docket Nº:No. 86-1845
Citation:487 U.S. 312, 108 S.Ct. 2405, 101 L.Ed.2d 285, 56 U.S.L.W. 4740
Party Name:Torres v. Oakland Scavenger Co.
Case Date:June 24, 1988
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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487 U.S. 312 (1988)

108 S.Ct. 2405, 101 L.Ed.2d 285, 56 U.S.L.W. 4740

Torres

v.

Oakland Scavenger Co.

No. 86-1845

United States Supreme Court

June 24, 1988

Argued February 23, 1988

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioner is one of 16 plaintiffs whose complaint seeking intervention in an employment discrimination action against respondent was dismissed by the District Court. On remand following the Court of Appeals' reversal of the dismissal, the District Court granted summary judgment against petitioner on the ground that he had not been named in the notice of appeal to the Court of Appeals, albeit inadvertently. The Court of Appeals affirmed, ruling that exclusion from the notice of appeal constituted a jurisdictional bar.

Held: Failure to file a notice of appeal in accordance with Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c)'s requirement that the notice "specify the party or parties taking the appeal" presents a jurisdictional bar to the appeal. The Rule's caveat that an appeal "shall not be dismissed for [the notice's] informality of form or title" does not aid petitioner, since his exclusion from the notice constitutes a failure to appeal, rather than excusable informality. Nor can petitioner find relief in Rule 2's grant of broad equitable discretion to the courts of appeals, "for good cause shown," to "suspend the requirements . . . of any [Rule]," since Rule 26(b) contains an exception forbidding "enlarg[ing]" Rule 4's mandatory time limits for filing a notice, which would be vitiated if courts could exercise jurisdiction over parties not named in the notice. This reading is supported by the Advisory Committee's Note following Rule 3, and does not contravene Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, since, although, under that decision, a court may construe the Rules liberally and ignore "mere technicalities" in determining compliance, it may not waive the jurisdictional requirements of Rules 3 and 4, even for "good cause shown." Here, petitioner never filed the functional equivalent of a notice of appeal, was not named by implication in the notice that was filed, and did not seek leave to amend the notice within the time limit set by Rule 4. The use of "et al." in the notice was insufficient to notify respondent and the court that petitioner was an appellant, or to allow them to determine with certitude whether he should be bound by an adverse judgment or held liable for costs or sanctions. Pp. 314-318.

807 F.2d 178, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, STEVENS, O'CONNOR, and KENNEDY, JJ.,

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joined. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 318. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 319.

MARSHALL, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether a federal appellate court has jurisdiction [108 S.Ct. 2407] over a party who was not specified in the notice of appeal in accordance with Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c).

I

Petitioner Jose Torres is one of 16 plaintiffs who intervened in an employment discrimination suit against respondent after receiving notice of the action pursuant to a settlement agreement between respondent and the original plaintiffs. In their complaint, the intervenors purported to proceed not only on their own behalf, but also on behalf of all persons similarly situated. On August 31, 1981, the District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim warranting relief. 4 Record, Doc. No. 87. A class had not been certified at the time of the dismissal.

On September 29, 1981, a notice of appeal was filed in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings. Bonilla v. Oakland Scavenger Co., 697 F.2d 1297 (1982). Both the notice of appeal and the order of the Court of Appeals omitted petitioner's name. It is undisputed that the omission in the notice of appeal was due to a clerical error on the part of a secretary employed by petitioner's attorney.

On remand, respondent moved for partial summary judgment on the ground that the prior judgment of dismissal was final as to petitioner by virtue of his failure to appeal. The

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District Court granted respondent's motion. App. to Pet. for Cert. B-l, Civ. Action No. C 75-0060 CAL (ND Cal., Oct. 30, 1985). The Court of Appeals affirmed, judgment order reported at 807 F.2d 178 (1986), holding that, "[u]nless a party is named in the notice of appeal, the appellate court does not have jurisdiction over him." App. to Pet. for Cert A-4, citing Farley Transportation Co. v. Santa Fe Trail Transportation Co., 778 F.2d 1365, 1368 (CA9 1985).

We granted certiorari to resolve a conflict in the Circuits over whether a failure to file a notice of appeal in accordance with the specificity requirement of Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c) presents a jurisdictional bar to the appeal.1 484 U.S. 894 (1987). We now affirm.

II

Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c) provides in pertinent part that a notice of appeal "shall specify the party or parties taking the appeal." The Rule was amended in 1979 to add that an appeal "shall not be dismissed for informality of form or title of the notice of appeal." This caveat does not aid petitioner in the instant case. The failure to name a party in a notice of appeal is more than excusable "informality;" it constitutes a failure of that party to appeal.

More broadly, Rule 2 gives courts of appeals the power, for "good cause shown," to "suspend the requirements or provisions of any of these rules in a particular case on application of a party or on its own motion." Rule 26(b), however, contains certain exceptions to this grant of broad equitable discretion.

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The exception pertinent to this case forbids a court to "enlarge" the time limits for filing a notice of appeal, which are prescribed in Rule 4. We believe that the mandatory nature of the time limits contained in Rule 4 would be vitiated if courts of appeals were permitted to exercise jurisdiction over parties not named in the notice of appeal. Permitting courts to exercise jurisdiction over unnamed parties after the time for filing a notice of appeal has passed is equivalent to permitting courts to extend the time for filing a notice of appeal. Because the Rules do not grant courts the latter power, we hold that the Rules likewise withhold the former.

We find support for our view in the Advisory Committee Note following Rule 3:

Rule 3 and Rule 4 combine to require that a notice of appeal be filed with the clerk of the district court within the time prescribed for taking an appeal. Because the timely filing of a notice of appeal is "mandatory and jurisdictional," United States v. Robinson, [361 U.S. 220, 224 (1960)], compliance with the provisions of those rules is of the utmost importance.

28 U.S.C.App. p. 467. This admonition by the Advisory Committee makes no distinction among the various requirements of Rule 3 and Rule 4; rather it treats the requirements of the two Rules as a single jurisdictional threshold. The Advisory Committee's caveat that courts should "dispense with literal compliance in cases in which it cannot fairly be exacted," ibid., is not to the contrary. The examples cited by the Committee make clear that it was referring generally to the kinds of cases later addressed by the 1979 amendment to Rule 3(c), which excuses "informality of form or title" in a notice of appeal.2 Permitting imperfect but substantial compliance with a technical requirement

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is not the same as waiving the requirement altogether as a jurisdictional threshold. Our conclusion that the Advisory Committee viewed the requirements of Rule 3 as jurisdictional in nature, although not determinative, is "of weight" in our construction of the Rule. Mississippi Publishing Corp. v. Murphree, 326 U.S. 438, 444 (1946).

Nor does this Court's decision in Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178 (1962), compel a contrary construction. In Foman, the Court addressed a separate provision of Rule 3(c) requiring that a notice of appeal "designate the judgment, order or part thereof appealed from." Foman was a plaintiff whose complaint was dismissed. He first filed motions in the District Court seeking to vacate the judgment against him and to amend his complaint. While the motions were pending, he filed a notice of appeal from the dismissal. When the District Court denied his motions, Foman filed a second notice of appeal from the denial. The Court of Appeals concluded that the first notice of appeal was premature because of Foman's pending motions, and that the second notice of appeal failed to designate the underlying dismissal as the judgment appealed from. This Court reversed the appellate court's refusal to hear Foman's appeal on the merits of his dismissal, holding that the court should have treated the second notice of appeal as "an effective, although inept, attempt to appeal from the judgment sought to be vacated." Id. at 181.

Foman did not address whether the requirement of Rule 3(c) at issue in that case was jurisdictional in nature; rather, the Court simply concluded that, in light of all the circumstances, the Rule had been complied with. We do not dispute the important principle for which Foman stands -- that the requirements of the rules of procedure should be liberally construed, and that "mere technicalities" should not stand in the way of consideration of a case on its merits. Ibid. Thus, if a litigant files papers in a fashion that is technically

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at variance with the letter of a procedural rule, a court may nonetheless find that the [108 S.Ct. 2409]...

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