The federal court rules are different than those in Illinois. Lawyers who may be used to operating under the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure need to be aware of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a), which says, “A motion to alter or amend a judgment must be filed no later than 28 days after entry of the judgment.” Under the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/2-1202(c) and 5/2-1203(a), one is allowed 30 days to ask a state court judge to reconsider a judgment.
Unfortunately for Patricia Banks and her lawyer, she may have been following the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure rather than Federal Rule 59 when she asked the federal district court judge to reconsider the summary judgment it entered against her and in favor of the defendants.
Banks sued her former employer, the Chicago Board of Education, and her former supervisor, Florence Gonzalez, alleging race discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related violations of federal and state law. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
The district court judge granted summary judgment for the defendants on all of Banks’s claims. Twenty-nine days after the district court entered the judgment, Banks filed what she called a motion to alter the entry of summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a), which the district court denied six days later.
Banks then filed a notice of appeal. She argued that the district court erred by granting summary judgment for the defendants and denying her post-judgment motion.
“A Rule 59(e) motion must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment. Because Banks missed the deadline by one day, her motion was not effective as a Rule 59(e) motion that could have tolled the time to file a notice of appeal from the judgment. Accordingly, we must treat her post-judgment motion as a Rule 60(b) motion that did not toll the time to appeal the summary judgment. Banks’ notice of appeal was timely only as to the district court’s denial of her post-judgment motion. The district court did not abuse its discretion by denying that motion, so we affirm.”
Under the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, a party in a civil case must file a notice of appeal within 30 days after entry of a judgment or order appealed from. The filing of a timely motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), however, will toll the time for filing a notice of appeal.
Under the current version of Rule 59(e), a motion must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment to be timely. This time limit is unyielding. Courts may not extend the time limit imposed by Federal Rule 59(e). See Justice v. Town of Cicero, 682 F.3d 662 (7th Cir. 2012).
Banks filed her post-motion outside of the 28-day window. At oral argument however, Banks’ attorney conceded that her motion became a Rule 60(b) motion and it was treated as such.
A district court may grant Rule 60(b) relief in six specified circumstances. Only two are relevant to the Banks’ appeal: “(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect” and “(6) any other reason that justifies relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). Errors of law in fact generally do not warrant relief under Rule 60(b)(1) and certainly do not require such relief.
Here the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Banks’ post-judgment motion for relief. In her motion, Banks argued that the district court erred by finding that she had not offered sufficient evidence to support her claims and by misrepresenting the Illinois Whistleblower Act. In her brief before this court, she advanced the same errors of fact and law. These arguments could have been raised in a direct appeal, but Banks forfeited her opportunity to appeal the judgment because she failed to file a notice of appeal that would have been timely with respect to the entry of judgment.
To protect her ability to raise these arguments, Banks had to file either a timely Rule 59(e) motion or a timely notice of appeal, but she did neither. The court of appeals went on to state that the narrow operation of the provisions of Rule 60 reinforced their interest barring the use of the rule as a substitute for direct appeal. Because Banks presented only arguments suitable for a direct appeal for which the court did not have jurisdiction, those arguments could not be considered. The appeals panel reviewed only the district court’s denial of Banks’s post-judgment motion for abuse of discretion and found that there was none. Accordingly, the district court’s denial of Banks’s post-judgment motion is affirmed.
Patricia Banks v. Chicago Board of Education, No. 13-2018, U.S Court of Appeals for the 7th Cir. (April 24, 2014).
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling state and federal trial litigation for individuals and families for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Schaumburg, Homewood, Highwood, Hillside, Hanover Park, Schiller Park, Calumet City, Morton Grove, Mundelein, Naperville, St. Charles, Gurnee, Long Grove and Evanston, Ill.
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