Wednesday, January 04, 2006

D.C. Circuit Issues FRCP Rule 6(b) Decision

Per Smith v. District of Columbia, 430 F.3d 450 (D.C. Cir. Dec 06, 2005):

Smith argues that the district court abused its discretion in entertaining the District's late motion for summary judgment. The District filed its third motion for summary judgment on April 9, 2004, contending that Smith's disability discrimination claim was not timely, as she did not file it in the district court within 90 days after her first “right to sue” letter was issued. Although the District concedes it never moved for an extension of the December 27, 2002, deadline for filing summary judgment motions, the district court granted the late motion without discussing the lack of a request for an extension. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b) governs extensions of time for various filings with the trial court. When a court sets a deadline, the court may, for cause, exercise its discretion “upon motion made after the expiration of the specified period” and permit the belated action “where the failure to act was the result of excusable neglect.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b). In Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, the Supreme Court noted the distinction between this provision and Rule 6(b)(1), which allows a court to grant an extension if a “request” is made before the time for filing expires. 497 U.S. 871, 896 n. 5, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990). By contrast, the Court emphasized that post-deadline extensions may be granted only “for cause shown” and “upon motion.” Id. at 896, 110 S.Ct. 3177. Any post-deadline motion “must contain a high degree of formality and precision, putting the opposing party on notice that a motion is at issue and that he therefore ought to respond.” Id. at 896 n. 5, 110 S.Ct. 3177. We review the district court's decisions under Rule 6(b) for abuse of discretion. See In re Vitamins Antitrust Class Actions, 327 F.3d 1207, 1209 (D.C.Cir.2003).

We have been quite deferential to Rule 6(b) decisions in the past, even affirming a deadline extension that was granted without a formal finding of excusable neglect when the court found no prejudice to the other party. FN5 See Yesudian ex rel. United States v. Howard Univ., 270 F.3d 969, 971 (D.C.Cir.2001). In Yesudian, however, we found that the Rule 6(b)(2) motion requirement may have been satisfied by a memorandum filed by the requesting party. Id. Here, the District concedes that it never moved for an extension of the deadline. In the absence of any motion for an extension, the trial court had no basis on which to exercise its discretion. See Lujan, 497 U.S. at 896, 110 S.Ct. 3177 (stating that “any post deadline extension must be ‘upon motion made’ ”). Under these circumstances, then, we are compelled to conclude that the district court abused its discretion in entertaining the late motion for summary judgment on Smith's disability discrimination claim.


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