__ U.S. __, 16-460, Artis v. District of Columbia

Docket Nº:16-460
Citation:__ U.S. __, 138 S.Ct. 594, 199 L.Ed.2d 473, 27 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 28
Opinion Judge:GINSBURG, Justice
Party Name:Stephanie C. ARTIS, Petitioner v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
Attorney:Adam G. Unikowsky, Washington, DC, for Petitioner. Loren L. AliKhan, Washington, DC, for Respondent. David A. Strauss, Sarah M. Konsky, Jenner & Block, Supreme Court and Appellate Clinic at The University of Chicago Law School, Chicago, IL, Matthew S. Hellman, Adam G. Unikowsky, Tassity S. Johnso...
Judge Panel:GINSBURG, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C.J., and BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. GORSUCH, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined. Justice GORSUCH, with whom Justice KENNEDY, Justice THOMAS, and Justice ALITO join, d...
Case Date:January 22, 2018
Court:United States Supreme Court
SUMMARY

Artis filed a federal-court suit against the District of Columbia, alleging a federal employment discrimination claim and three allied claims under D.C. law; nearly two years remained on the statute of limitations for the D.C. claims. More than two years later, the district court rejected the federal claim and dismissed the D.C.-law claims under 28 U.S.C. 1367(c). Artis refiled those claims in... (see full summary)

 
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Page __

__ U.S. __

138 S.Ct. 594, 199 L.Ed.2d 473, 27 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 28

Stephanie C. ARTIS, Petitioner

v.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.

No. 16-460

United States Supreme Court

January 22, 2018

Argued Nov. 1, 2017.

[138 S.Ct. 595] Syllabus [*]

Federal district courts may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state claims not otherwise within their adjudicatory authority if those claims are " part of the same case or controversy" as the federal claims the plaintiff asserts. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). When a district court dismisses all claims independently qualifying for the exercise of federal jurisdiction, it ordinarily also dismisses all related state claims. See § 1367(c)(3). Section 1367(d) provides that the " period of limitations for" refiling in state court a state claim so dismissed " shall be tolled while the claim is pending [in federal court] and for a period of 30 [138 S.Ct. 596] days after it is dismissed unless State law provides for a longer tolling period."

When petitioner Artis filed a federal-court suit against respondent District of Columbia (District), alleging a federal employment-discrimination claim and three allied claims under D.C. law, nearly two years remained on the applicable statute of limitations for the D.C.-law violations. Two and a half years later, the Federal District Court ruled against Artis on her sole federal claim and dismissed the D.C.-law claims under § 1367(c). Fifty-nine days after the dismissal, Artis refiled her state-law claims in the D.C. Superior Court, but that court dismissed them as time barred. The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that § 1367(d) accorded Artis only a 30-day grace period to refile in state court and rejecting her argument that the word " tolled" in § 1367(d) means that the limitations period is suspended during the pendency of the federal suit.

Held

:

1. Section 1367(d)’s instruction to " toll" a state limitations period means to hold it in abeyance, i.e., to stop the clock. Pp. 600 - 606.

(a) Statutes that shelter from time bars claims earlier commenced in another forum generally employ one of two means. First, the period of limitations may be " tolled," i.e., suspended, while the claim is pending elsewhere; the time clock starts running again when the tolling period ends, picking up where it left off. A legislature may instead elect simply to provide a grace period, permitting the statute of limitations to run while the claim is pending in another forum and averting the risk of a time bar by according the plaintiff a fixed period in which to refile. The District has identified no federal statute in which a grace-period meaning has been ascribed to the word " tolled" or any word similarly rooted. And the one case in which this Court used tolling language to describe a grace period, see Hardin v. Straub, 490 U.S. 536, 109 S.Ct. 1998, 104 L.Ed.2d 582, is a feather on the scale against the weight of decisions in which " tolling" a statute of limitations signals stopping the clock. Pp. 600 - 603.

(b) Considering first the ordinary meaning of the statutory language, § 1367(d) is phrased as a tolling provision. It suspends the statute of limitations both while the claim is pending in federal court and for 30 days postdismissal. Artis’ interpretation is a natural fit with this language. The District, in contrast, reads " tolled" to mean to remove, temporarily, the bar that would ordinarily accompany the expiration of the limitations period. But the District offers no reason to home in only on the word " tolled" itself and ignore information about the verb’s ordinary meaning gained from its grammatical object, " period of limitations." That object sheds light on what it means to " be tolled." The District’s reading also tenders a strained interpretation of the phrase " period of limitations" ; makes the first portion of the tolling period, the duration of the claim’s pendency in federal court, superfluous; and could yield an absurdity, permitting a plaintiff to refile in state court even if the limitations period on her claim had expired before she filed in federal court. Pp. 603 - 604.

(c) The D.C. Court of Appeals erred in concluding that Congress adopted an American Law Institute (ALI) recommendation to allow refiling in state court only for 30 days after a dismissal. The ALI provision, like § 1367(d), established a 30-day federal floor on the time allowed for refiling, but it did not provide for tolling " while the [state] claim is pending" in federal court. Pp. 604 - 605.

(d) The 30-day provision casts no large shadow on Artis’ stop-the-clock interpretation. [138 S.Ct. 597] The provision accounts for cases in which a plaintiff commenced a federal action close to the expiration date of the relevant state statute of limitations, by giving such a plaintiff breathing space to refile in state court. Adding a brief span of days to the tolling period is not unusual in stop-the-clock statutes. See, e.g., 46 U.S.C. § 53911. Section 1367(d)’s proviso " unless State law provides for a longer tolling period" could similarly aid a plaintiff who filed in federal court just short of the expiration of the state limitations period. Pp. 604 - 606.

2. The stop-the-clock interpretation of § 1367(d) does not present a serious constitutional problem. In Jinks v. Richland County, 538 U.S. 456, 123 S.Ct. 1667, 155 L.Ed.2d 631, the Court rejected an argument that § 1367(d) impermissibly exceeds Congress’ authority under the Necessary and Proper Clause. Id., at 464-465, 123 S.Ct. 1667. The District contends that a stop-the-clock prescription serves " no federal purpose" that could not be served by a grace-period prescription. But both devices are standard, off-the-shelf means of accounting for the fact that a claim was timely pressed in another forum. Requiring Congress to choose one over the other would impose a tighter constraint on Congress’ discretion than this Court has countenanced. A concern that a stop-the-clock prescription entails a greater imposition on the States than a grace-period prescription may also be more theoretical than real. Finally, a stop-the-clock rule like § 1367(d) is suited to the primary purposes of limitations statutes: " ‘preventing surprises’ " to defendants and " ‘barring a plaintiff who has slept on his rights.’ " American Pipe & Constr. Co. v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538, 554, 94 S.Ct. 756, 38 L.Ed.2d 713. Pp. 605 - 608.

135 A.3d 334, reversed and remanded.

GINSBURG, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C.J., and BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. GORSUCH, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined.

Adam G. Unikowsky, Washington, DC, for Petitioner.

Loren L. AliKhan, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

David A. Strauss, Sarah M. Konsky, Jenner & Block, Supreme Court and Appellate Clinic at The University of Chicago Law School, Chicago, IL, Matthew S. Hellman, Adam G. Unikowsky, Tassity S. Johnson, Jenner & Block LLP, Donald M. Temple, Temple Law Offices, Washington, DC, for Petitioner.

Karl A. Racine, General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, Loren L. AliKhan, Deputy Solicitor General, Sonya L. Lebsack, Assistant Attorney General, D.C. Office of the Attorney General, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

OPINION

GINSBURG, Justice

The Supplemental Jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1367, enables federal district courts to entertain claims not otherwise within their adjudicatory authority when those claims " are so related to claims ... within [federal-court competence] that they form part of the same case or controversy." § 1367(a). Included within this supplemental jurisdiction are state claims brought along with federal claims arising from the same episode. When district courts dismiss all claims independently [138 S.Ct. 598] qualifying for the exercise of federal jurisdiction, they ordinarily dismiss as well all related state claims. See § 1367(c)(3). A district court may also dismiss the related state claims if there is a good reason to decline jurisdiction. See § 1367(c)(1), (2), and (4). This case concerns the time within which state claims so dismissed may be refiled in state court.

Section 1367(d), addressing that issue, provides: " The period of limitations for any [state] claim [joined with a claim within federal-court competence] shall be tolled while the claim is pending [in federal court] and for a period of 30 days after it is dismissed unless State law provides for a longer tolling period."

The question presented: Does the word " tolled," as used in § 1367(d), mean the state limitations period is suspended during the pendency of the federal suit; or does " tolled" mean that, although the state limitations period continues to run, a plaintiff is accorded a grace period of 30 days to refile in state court post dismissal of the federal case? Petitioner urges the first, or stop-the-clock, reading. Respondent urges, and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals adopted, the second, or grace-period, reading.

In the case before us, plaintiff-petitioner Stephanie C. Artis refiled her state-law claims in state court 59 days after dismissal of her federal suit.1 Reading § 1367(d) as a grace-period prescription, her complaint would be time barred. Reading § 1367(d) as stopping the limitations clock during the pendency of the federal-court suit, her complaint would be timely. We hold that § 1367(d)’s instruction to " toll" a state limitations period means to hold it in abeyance, i.e., to stop the clock. Because the D.C. Court of Appeals held that § 1367(d) did not stop the D.C. Codes limitations clock, but merely provided a 30-day grace period for refiling in D.C. Superior Court, we reverse the D.C. Court of...

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