JUSTICE GINSBURG delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case concerns the duration of a right to object to a pleading on the ground that it was filed out of time. Under the Bankruptcy Rules governing Chapter 7 liquidation proceedings, a creditor has "60 days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors" to file a complaint objecting to the debtor's discharge. Fed. Rule Bkrtcy. Proc. 4004(a). That period may be extended "for cause" on motion "filed before the time has expired." Fed. Rule Bkrtcy. Proc. 4004(b). In the matter before us a creditor, in an untimely pleading, objected to the debtor's discharge. The debtor, however, did not promptly move to dismiss the creditor's plea as impermissibly late. Only after the Bankruptcy Court decided, on the merits, that the discharge should be refused did the debtor, in a motion for reconsideration, urge the untimeliness of the creditor's plea.
A debtor in a Chapter 7 liquidation case qualifies for an order discharging his debts if he satisfies the conditions stated in § 727(a) of the Bankruptcy Code. 11 U. S. C. § 727(a).
A debtor's discharge may be opposed by the trustee, the United States trustee, or any creditor. § 727(c)(1). Adjudication of "objections to discharg[e]," Congress provided, is a
In relevant part, Bankruptcy Rule 4004(a) states: "[A] complaint objecting to the debtor's discharge under § 727(a) of the Code shall be filed no later than 60 days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors." Rule 4004(b), governing extensions of the Rule 4004(a) filing deadline, provides: "[T]he court may for cause extend the time [Rule 4004(a) allows] to file a complaint objecting to discharge" if the motion is "filed before the time has expired." Reinforcing Rule 4004(b)'s restriction on extension of the Rule 4004(a) deadline, Rule 9006(b)(3) allows enlargement of "the time for taking action" under Rule 4004(a) "only to the extent and under the conditions stated in [that rule]," i. e., only as permitted by Rule 4004(b).
On April 4, 1997, petitioner, Dr. Andrew J. Kontrick, filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. Respondent, Dr. Robert A. Ryan, a major creditor and Kontrick's former associate in
Ryan filed an amended complaint on May 6, 1998, with leave of court, ibid., but without seeking or gaining a court-approved time extension. The amended complaint particularized for the first time the debtor's violation of § 727(a)(2)(A) in this regard: Debtor Kontrick, creditor Ryan alleged, had fraudulently transferred money to Kontrick's wife, first by removing Kontrick's own name from the family's once-joint checking account, then by continuing regularly to deposit his salary checks into the account, from which his wife routinely paid family expenses (the "family-account" claim). Id., at 52-53.
Kontrick answered Ryan's amended complaint on June 10, 1998. His answer "did not raise the untimeliness of [the family-account] claim," Brief for Petitioner 4; on the merits, he admitted the transfers to the family account but denied violating § 727(a)(2)(A). In March 1999, after the parties engaged in acrimonious discovery, Ryan moved for summary judgment. As Local Bankruptcy Rule 402(M) (Bkrtcy. Ct. ND Ill. 1994) instructs, Ryan appended to his motion "a statement of material facts as to which [he] contend[ed] there [was] no genuine issue." Kontrick cross-moved, in August
Kontrick's motion to strike sought deletion of "new allegations," i. e., allegations making their first appearance in the litigation in Ryan's summary judgment submissions — Ryan's statement of facts pursuant to Local Rule 402(M), accompanying exhibits, and corresponding portions of the summary judgment motion and memorandum. Motion to Strike and Response to [Ryan's] Statement of Facts Under Local Rule 402 N in No. 97 B 10353 (Bkrtcy. Ct. ND Ill.), pp. 2, 5, 26. Although Kontrick noted that the family-account allegations were stated only in the amended complaint and were absent from the original complaint, id., at 3-4, he did not ask the court to strike those allegations. His response, instead, and in line with Local Rule 402(N), addressed the substance of the family-account claim. He admitted taking his name off the account, but observed that he did so "over four years before bankruptcy." Id., at 13. He also acknowledged that, thereafter, he "deposited his paycheck into the account the same way he had always done." Ibid.
On February 25, 2000, the Bankruptcy Court ruled on the cross-motions, granting in part Kontrick's motion to strike, awarding summary judgment to Ryan on the family-account claim, and dismissing the remaining claims. The court used the amended complaint as its baseline; it struck as untimely "allegations not included in [that] complaint." App. to Pet. for Cert. 47; see id., at 48-50. Homing in on Kontrick's continuing deposits into the account from which he had removed his name, the court concluded that Kontrick had transferred property with intent "to hinder, delay or defraud at least [creditor] Ryan." Id., at 55. That course of conduct, coupled with Kontrick's testimony,
Kontrick moved for reconsideration. He argued that the Bankruptcy Court lacked jurisdiction over the sole claim on which the court had granted summary judgment, the family-account claim. See id., at 71. The court was powerless to adjudicate the claim, Kontrick insisted, because the amended complaint containing the claim was untimely. Governing Rules 4004(a) and (b) and 9006(b)(3), see supra, at 448, Kontrick maintained, establish a mandatory, unalterable time limit of the kind he then called "jurisdictional." App. to Pet. for Cert. 71. It was the first time Kontrick appended a jurisdictional label to any pleading he filed relating to the family-account claim.
The Bankruptcy Court denied the reconsideration motion on June 8, 2000, and entered final judgment five days later. The court held that Rule 4004's complaint-filing time instructions are not "jurisdictional," and that Kontrick had waived the right to assert the untimeliness of the amended complaint by failing squarely to raise the point before the court reached the merits of Ryan's objections to discharge.
The District Court sustained the Bankruptcy Court's decision denying Kontrick's discharge. App. to Pet. for Cert. 25-38. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in turn, affirmed the judgment of the District Court. In re Kontrick, 295 F.3d 724 (2002). Both courts relied on decisions of sister Circuits holding that "the timeliness provisions at issue here are not jurisdictional." Id., at 733 (citing In re Benedict, 90 F.3d 50, 54-55 (CA2 1996), and Farouki v. Emirates Bank Int'l, Ltd., 14 F.3d 244, 248 (CA4 1994)); accord, App. to Pet. for Cert. 31-32. Both courts also agreed with the Bankruptcy Court that Kontrick had waived the right to challenge Ryan's amended complaint as impermissibly late.
The Seventh Circuit found in Kontrick's papers opposing summary judgment nothing that placed in issue the timeliness
We granted certiorari in view of the division of opinion on whether Rule 4004 is "jurisdictional,"
Only Congress may determine a lower federal court's subject-matter jurisdiction. U.S. Const., Art. III, § 1.
The time constraints applicable to objections to discharge are contained in Bankruptcy Rules prescribed by this Court for "the practice and procedure in cases under title 11." 28 U. S. C. § 2075; cf. § 2072 (similarly providing for Court-prescribed "rules of practice and procedure" for cases in the federal district courts and courts of appeals). "[I]t is axiomatic" that such rules "do not create or withdraw federal jurisdiction." Owen Equipment & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 370 (1978). As Bankruptcy Rule 9030 states, the Bankruptcy Rules "shall not be construed to extend or limit the jurisdiction of the courts." Rule 9030's forerunner — its counterpart in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
This much is common ground. Kontrick does not contend in this Court that the timing rules in question affect the subject-matter jurisdiction of the bankruptcy courts. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 9 (acknowledging that "[t]his case does not deal with subject matter jurisdiction"); id., at 9-10 (explaining that counsel for Kontrick used the word "jurisdiction" "as a shorthand" to indicate a nonextendable time limit).
Courts, including this Court, it is true, have been less than meticulous in this regard; they have more than occasionally used the term "jurisdictional" to describe emphatic time prescriptions in rules of court. "Jurisdiction," the Court has aptly observed, "is a word of many, too many, meanings." Steel Co. v. Citizens for Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 90 (1998) (internal quotation marks omitted). For example, we have described Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b), on time enlargement, and correspondingly, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 45(b), on extending time, as "mandatory and jurisdictional." United States v. Robinson, 361 U.S. 220, 228-229 (1960). But see Carlisle v. United States, 517 U.S. 416, 419-433 (1996) (holding that, over the prosecutor's objection, a court may not grant a postverdict motion for a judgment of acquittal filed one day outside the time limit allowed by Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 29(c); this Court did not characterize
Though Kontrick concedes that Rules 4004 and 9006(b)(3) are not properly labeled "jurisdictional" in the sense of describing a court's subject-matter jurisdiction, he maintains that the Rules have the same import as provisions governing subject-matter jurisdiction. A litigant generally may raise a court's lack of subject-matter jurisdiction at any time in the same civil action, even initially at the highest appellate instance. Mansfield, C. & L. M. R. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382 (1884) (challenge to a federal court's subject-matter jurisdiction may be made at any stage of the proceedings, and the court should raise the question sua sponte); Capron v. Van Noorden, 2 Cranch 126, 127 (1804) (judgment loser successfully raised lack of diversity jurisdiction for the first time before the Supreme Court); Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 12(h)(3) ("Whenever it appears by suggestion of the parties or otherwise that the court lacks jurisdiction of the subject matter, the court shall dismiss the action.").
The equation Kontrick advances overlooks a critical difference between a rule governing subject-matter jurisdiction and an inflexible claim-processing rule. Characteristically, a court's subject-matter jurisdiction cannot be expanded to account for the parties' litigation conduct; a claim-processing rule, on the other hand, even if unalterable on a party's application, can nonetheless be forfeited if the party asserting the rule waits too long to raise the point.
We turn back now to the relevant claim-processing rules in this case. Bankruptcy Rules 4004(a) and (b) and 9006(b)(3), governing proceedings over which bankruptcy courts have subject-matter jurisdiction,
It is uncontested that creditor Ryan filed his complaint objecting to debtor Kontrick's discharge outside the Rules'
We can assume, arguendo, that had Kontrick timely asserted the untimeliness of Ryan's amended complaint, Kontrick would have prevailed in the litigation. The question, in that event, would have been "whether the time restrictions in th[e] Rules are in such `emphatic form'" as to preclude equitable exceptions. Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 16 (citation omitted). See, e. g., Carlisle, 517 U. S., at 419-433 (upholding timely challenge to one-day-late filing under Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 29(c)); Taylor, 503 U. S., at 642-646 (similar ruling regarding Fed. Rule Bkrtcy. Proc. 4003(b)); Robinson, 361 U. S., at 222-230 (similar ruling regarding Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 45(b)). Here, however, the sole question is whether Kontrick forfeited his right to assert the untimeliness of Ryan's amended complaint by failing to raise the issue until after that complaint was adjudicated on the merits.
The Court of Appeals, we agree, followed the proper path on this key question. See 295 F. 3d, at 734-735. Time bars, that court noted, generally must be raised in an answer or responsive pleading. See Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(c) (made applicable to adversary proceedings in bankruptcy courts by
Kontrick not only failed to assert the time constraints of Rules 4004(a) and (b) and 9006(b)(3) in a pleading or amended pleading responsive to Ryan's amended complaint. As earlier recounted, see supra, at 449-450, Kontrick moved to delete certain items from Ryan's summary judgment filings, but, even that far into the litigation, he did not ask the Bankruptcy Court to strike the family-account claim.
Ordinarily, under the Bankruptcy Rules as under the Civil Rules, a defense is lost if it is not included in the answer or amended answer. See Fed. Rule Bkrtcy. Proc. 7012(b) ("Rule 12(b)-(h) F. R. Civ. P. applies in adversary proceedings."); 5A C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1347, p. 184 (2d ed. 1990) ("A defense or objection that is not raised by motion or in the responsive pleading is waived unless it is protected by Rules 12(h)(2) or 12(h)(3) or by the successful invocation of the liberal amendment policy of Rule 15."). Rules 12(h)(2) and (3) prolong the life of certain defenses, but time prescriptions are not among those provisions. Even if a defense based on Bankruptcy Rule 4004 could be equated to "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted," the issue could be raised, at the latest, "at the trial on the merits." Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 12(h)(2). Only lack of subject-matter jurisdiction is preserved post-trial. Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 12(h)(3). And, as we earlier explained, see supra, at 452-456, Kontrick's resistance to the
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For the reasons stated, the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is