The Court Is On The Lookout for this Rule Violation
Even when a rule seems tedious, sometimes that rule is a priority for a court. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals underscored this idea in a recent opinion.
In Baez-Sanchez v. Sessions, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12306 (7th Cir., July 10, 2017), the Court discussed Circuit Rule 28 and Rule 28 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. Together, those rules require parties to include a “Jurisdiction Statement” in the front of their appeal briefs. In the first brief, that section states the facts regarding whether the federal courts have jurisdiction over the case, whether the case is ripe for appeal, and whether the parties have met all of the appeal deadlines. After the first brief states those facts, the opposing party’s brief must recite whether that statement is “complete and correct” (and if not, it must identify any deficiency).
The Seventh Circuit explained that these Jurisdiction Statements help the Court to screen out defective appeals. For example, briefs often claim that jurisdiction is based on a federal question, but then never identify the federal statute that is involved. Some briefs claim that jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, but then only discuss the State where each party resides, ignoring whether they are citizens of those States. And some briefs allege diversity jurisdiction in a dispute involving a limited liability company, but then fail to list the citizenship of every member of the LLC, which is required to determine the citizenship of an LLC. Circuit Rule 28 and FRAP 28 require litigants to explain their views on these jurisdiction issues — and to state the relevant facts completely and correctly — so that the Court of Appeals can flag appeals with problems.
In Baez-Sanchez, the Court threw out two briefs because those parties did not use the exact “complete and correct” language in their Jurisdiction Statements. While it seems harsh to reject a brief that does not use the exact words required by a rule, the Court said that it is losing patience: “There is no reason why, month after month, year after year, the court should encounter jurisdictional statements with such obvious flaws.” After that scolding, the Court directed the parties to file corrected briefs.
The lesson is obvious. The rules on Jurisdiction Statements may seem tedious, but they are important. In the Seventh Circuit, lawyers should take extra care to follow these rules precisely.