Copyright (c) 2007 by the Tulane Law Review Association
Tulane Law Review
ARTICLE: Timeliness, Equity, and Federal Appellate Jurisdiction: Reclaiming the "Unique Circumstances" Doctrine
Tulane Law Review
82 Tul. L. Rev. 693
Philip A. Pucillo*
A federal court of appeals ordinarily has no authority to entertain an appeal that is filed out of time. 1 On occasion, however, the untimeliness of an appeal will result not from the appellant's carelessness or lack of familiarity with governing timing prescriptions, but instead from reasonable reliance upon a district court's representation that the appeal period would be lengthier than it turned out to be. 2 To provide the courts of appeals with an equitable basis upon which to reach the merits of such an appeal, the United States Supreme Court recognized what has come to be known as the "unique circumstances" doctrine. 3 The courts of appeals, in turn, have employed the doctrine to preserve numerous appeals that were technically untimely. 4
The Supreme Court's latest pronouncements on the unique circumstances doctrine, however, have narrowed it almost completely out of existence. Specifically, the Court recently declared that, given the jurisdictional nature of the timing prescriptions contained in 28 U.S.C. § 2107, the doctrine can no longer be applied in the context in which it was most often implicated: an appeal as of right from a decision by a federal district court in a civil proceeding. 5 Even before that decision, the Court had significantly restricted the scope of the doctrine by suggesting that it applied only when the appellant "performed an act which, if properly done, would postpone the deadline for filing his appeal and has received specific assurance by a judicial ...
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