On July 10, 2017, Chief Judge Wood of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a curious opinion that should serve as a reminder not only to practitioners in that Circuit, but to all attorneys who regularly file documents with a court: local rules exist for a reason.
Judge Wood consolidated two cases, Baez-Sanchez v. Sessions and Bishop v. Air Line Pilots Association, International, in order to issue an opinion addressing litigants’ repeated failure to follow the Seventh Circuit’s local rules regarding jurisdictional statements.
Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 28 requires briefs filed by an appellant or petitioner to provide certain jurisdictional information: (1) the basis for the district court or agency’s jurisdiction; (2) the basis of the appellate court’s jurisdiction; (3) the relevant dates showing that the appeal or petition is timely; and (4) information that establishes either the finality of the judgment or the existence of a relevant exception to the final-judgment rule. Rule 28(b) allows an appellee to omit such a statement “unless the appellee is dissatisfied with the appellant’s statement.” Circuit Rule 28(a) provides a lengthy explanation of what information satisfies the criteria for an appellant or petitioner. Rule 28(b) does the same for appellees, noting that they are required to state “explicitly whether or not the jurisdictional summary in the appellant’s brief is complete and correct.” If the statement is not both, the appellee must provide its own jurisdictional summary. The Seventh Circuit’s local rule 3(c)(1) applies the same requirement to docketing statements.
The appellees’ briefs in the two cases consolidated by Judge Wood failed to comply with the local rule for opposite reasons. In Baez-Sanchez, the Attorney General’s statement said only that the appellant’s jurisdictional statement was “correct,” making no mention of completeness. Conversely, in Bishop, the statement noted only that the appellants’ jurisdictional statement provided “a complete jurisdictional summary,” with no reference to correctness. Both briefs were rejected and sent back to their respective authors for correction.
In doing so, Judge Wood lamented that “[t]here is no reason why, month after month, year after year, the court should encounter jurisdictional statements with such obvious flaws. This imposes needless costs on everyone involved.” Such a reprimand is usually avoidable. As Judge Wood noted, courts provide ample resources to aid practitioners in complying with local rules, and those who take advantage of these resources should probably not run into any problems. So remember: before you file anything, read through the local rules and make sure you have crossed your T’s and dotted your I’s. It may just save you some embarrassment later on.