Justice THOMAS delivered the opinion of the Court.
In this case, a District Court purported to extend a party's time for filing an appeal beyond the period allowed by statute. We must decide whether the Court of Appeals had jurisdiction to entertain an appeal filed after the statutory period but within the period allowed by the District Court's order. We have long and repeatedly held that the time limits for filing a notice of appeal are jurisdictional in nature. Accordingly, we hold that petitioner's untimely notice — even though filed in reliance upon a District Court's order — deprived the Court of Appeals of jurisdiction.
In 1999, an Ohio jury convicted petitioner Keith Bowles of murder for his involvement in the beating death of Ollie Gipson. The jury sentenced Bowles to 15-years-to-life imprisonment. Bowles unsuccessfully challenged his conviction and sentence on direct appeal.
Bowles then filed a federal habeas corpus application on September 5, 2002. On September 9, 2003, the District Court denied Bowles habeas relief. After the entry of final judgment, Bowles had 30 days to file a notice of appeal. Fed. Rule App. Proc. 4(a)(1)(A); 28 U.S.C. § 2107(a). He failed to do so. On December 12, 2003, Bowles moved to reopen the period during which he could file his notice of appeal pursuant to Rule 4(a)(6), which allows district courts to extend the filing period for 14 days from the day the district court grants the order to reopen, provided certain conditions are met. See § 2107(c).
On February 10, 2004, the District Court granted Bowles' motion. But rather than extending the time period by 14 days, as Rule 4(a)(6) and § 2107(c) allow, the District Court inexplicably gave Bowles 17 days — until February 27 — to file his notice of appeal. Bowles filed his notice on February 26 — within the 17 days allowed by the District Court's order, but after the 14-day period allowed by Rule 4(a)(6) and § 2107(c).
On appeal, respondent Russell argued that Bowles' notice was untimely and that the Court of Appeals therefore lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. The Court of Appeals agreed. It first recognized that this Court has consistently held the requirement of filing a timely notice of appeal is "mandatory and jurisdictional." 432 F.3d 668, 673 (C.A.6 2005) (citing Browder v. Director, Dept. of Corrections of Ill., 434 U.S. 257, 264, 98 S.Ct. 556, 54 L.Ed.2d 521 (1978)). The court also noted that Courts of Appeals have uniformly held that Rule 4(a)(6)'s 180-day period for
According to 28 U.S.C. § 2107(a), parties must file notices of appeal within 30 days of the entry of the judgment being appealed. District courts have limited authority to grant an extension of the 30-day time period. Relevant to this case, if certain conditions are met, district courts have the statutory authority to grant motions to reopen the time for filing an appeal for 14 additional days. § 2107(c). Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure carries § 2107 into practice. In accord with § 2107(c), Rule 4(a)(6) describes the district court's authority to reopen and extend the time for filing a notice of appeal after the lapse of the usual 30 days:
"The district court may reopen the time to file an appeal for a period of 14 days after the date when its order to reopen is entered, but only if all the following conditions are satisfied:
It is undisputed that the District Court's order in this case purported to reopen the filing period for more than 14 days. Thus, the question before us is whether the Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction to entertain an appeal filed outside the 14-day window allowed by § 2107(c) but within the longer period granted by the District Court.
This Court has long held that the taking of an appeal within the prescribed time is "mandatory and jurisdictional." Griggs v. Provident Consumer Discount Co., 459 U.S. 56, 61, 103 S.Ct. 400, 74 L.Ed.2d 225 (1982) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks omitted);
Although several of our recent decisions have undertaken to clarify the distinction between claims-processing rules and jurisdictional rules, none of them calls into question our longstanding treatment of statutory time limits for taking an appeal as jurisdictional. Indeed, those decisions have also recognized the jurisdictional significance of the fact that a time limitation is set forth in a statute. In Kontrick v. Ryan, 540 U.S. 443, 124 S.Ct. 906, 157 L.Ed.2d 867 (2004), we held that failure to comply with the time requirement in Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 4004 did not affect a court's subject-matter jurisdiction. Critical to our analysis was the fact that "[n]o statute ... specifies a time limit for filing a complaint objecting to the debtor's discharge." 540 U.S., at 448, 124 S.Ct. 906. Rather, the filing deadlines in the Bankruptcy Rules are "`procedural rules adopted by the Court for the orderly transaction of its business'" that are "`not jurisdictional.'" Id., at 454, 124 S.Ct. 906 (quoting Schacht v. United States, 398 U.S. 58, 64, 90 S.Ct. 1555, 26 L.Ed.2d 44 (1970)). Because "[o]nly Congress may determine a lower federal court's subject-matter jurisdiction," 540 U.S., at 452, 124 S.Ct. 906 (citing U.S. Const., Art. III, § 1), it was improper for courts to use "the term `jurisdictional' to describe emphatic time prescriptions in rules of court," 540 U.S., at 454, 124 S.Ct. 906. See also Eberhart v. United States, 546 U.S. 12, 126 S.Ct. 403, 163 L.Ed.2d 14 (2005) (per curiam). As a point of contrast,
This Court's treatment of its certiorari jurisdiction also demonstrates the jurisdictional distinction between court-promulgated rules and limits enacted by Congress. According to our Rules, a petition for a writ of certiorari must be filed within 90 days of the entry of the judgment sought to be reviewed. See this Court's Rule 13.1. That 90-day period applies to both civil and criminal cases. But the 90-day period for civil cases derives from both this Court's Rule 13.1 and 28 U.S.C. § 2101(c). We have repeatedly held that this statute-based filing period for civil cases is jurisdictional. See, e.g., Federal Election Comm'n v. NRA Political Victory Fund, 513 U.S. 88, 90, 115 S.Ct. 537, 130 L.Ed.2d 439 (1994). Indeed, this Court's Rule 13.2 cites § 2101(c) in directing the Clerk not to file any petition "that is jurisdictionally out of time." (Emphasis added.) On the other hand, we have treated the rule-based time limit for criminal cases differently, stating that it may be waived because "[t]he procedural rules adopted by the Court for the orderly transaction of its business are not jurisdictional and can be relaxed by the Court in the exercise of its discretion ...." Schacht, supra, at 64, 90 S.Ct. 1555.
Jurisdictional treatment of statutory time limits makes good sense. Within constitutional bounds, Congress decides what cases the federal courts have jurisdiction to consider. Because Congress decides whether federal courts can hear cases at all, it can also determine when, and under what conditions, federal courts can hear them. See Curry, 6 How., at 113, 12 S.Ct. 363. Put another way, the notion of "`subject-matter'" jurisdiction obviously extends to "`classes of cases ... falling within a court's adjudicatory authority,'"
The resolution of this case follows naturally from this reasoning. Like the initial 30-day period for filing a notice of appeal, the limit on how long a district court may reopen that period is set forth in a statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2107(c). Because Congress specifically limited the amount of time by which district courts can extend the notice-of-appeal period in § 2107(c), that limitation is more than a simple "claim-processing rule." As we have long held, when an "appeal has not been prosecuted in the manner directed, within the time limited by the acts of Congress, it must be dismissed for want of jurisdiction." Curry, supra, at 113. Bowles' failure to file his notice of appeal in accordance with the statute therefore deprived the Court of Appeals of jurisdiction. And because Bowles' error is one of jurisdictional magnitude, he cannot rely on forfeiture or waiver to excuse his lack of compliance with the statute's time limitations. See Arbaugh, supra, at 513-514, 126 S.Ct. 1235.
Bowles contends that we should excuse his untimely filing because he satisfies the "unique circumstances" doctrine, which has its roots in Harris Truck Lines, Inc. v. Cherry Meat Packers, Inc., 371 U.S. 215, 83 S.Ct. 283, 9 L.Ed.2d 261 (1962) (per curiam). There, pursuant to then-Rule 73(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a District Court entertained a timely motion to extend the time for filing a notice of appeal. The District Court found the moving party had established a showing of "excusable neglect," as required by the Rule, and granted the motion. The Court of Appeals reversed the finding of excusable neglect and, accordingly, held that the District Court lacked jurisdiction to grant the extension. Harris Truck Lines, Inc. v. Cherry Meat Packers, Inc., 303 F.2d 609, 611-612 (C.A.7 1962). This Court reversed, noting "the obvious great hardship to a party who relies upon the trial judge's finding of `excusable neglect.'" 371 U.S., at 217, 83 S.Ct. 283.
Today we make clear that the timely filing of a notice of appeal in a civil case is a jurisdictional requirement. Because this Court has no authority to create equitable exceptions to jurisdictional requirements, use of the "unique circumstances" doctrine is illegitimate. Given that this Court has applied Harris Truck Lines only once in the last half century, Thompson v. INS, 375 U.S. 384, 84 S.Ct. 397, 11 L.Ed.2d 404 (1964) (per curiam), several courts have rightly questioned its continuing validity. See, e.g., Panhorst v. United States, 241 F.3d 367, 371 (C.A.4 2001) (doubting "the continued viability of the unique circumstances doctrine"). See also Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 282, 108 S.Ct. 2379, 101 L.Ed.2d 245 (1988) (SCALIA, J., dissenting) ("Our later cases... effectively repudiate the Harris Truck Lines approach ..."); Osterneck v. Ernst & Whinney, 489 U.S. 169, 170, 109 S.Ct. 987, 103 L.Ed.2d 146 (1989) (referring to "the so-called `unique circumstances' exception" to the timely appeal requirement). We see no compelling reason to resurrect the doctrine from its 40-year slumber. Accordingly, we reject Bowles' reliance on the doctrine, and we overrule Harris Truck Lines and Thompson to the extent they purport to authorize an exception to a jurisdictional rule.
If rigorous rules like the one applied today are thought to be inequitable, Congress may authorize courts to promulgate rules that excuse compliance with the statutory time limits. Even narrow rules to this effect would give rise to litigation testing their reach and would no doubt detract from the clarity of the rule. However, congressionally authorized rulemaking would likely lead to less litigation than court-created exceptions without authorization. And in all events, for the reasons discussed above, we lack present authority to make the exception petitioner seeks.
The Court of Appeals correctly held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider Bowles' appeal. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.
It is so ordered.
Justice SOUTER, with whom Justice STEVENS, Justice GINSBURG, and Justice BREYER join, dissenting.
The District Court told petitioner Keith Bowles that his notice of appeal was due on February 27, 2004. He filed a notice of appeal on February 26, only to be told that he was too late because his deadline had actually been February 24. It is intolerable for the judicial system to treat people this way, and there is not even a technical justification for condoning this bait and switch. I respectfully dissent.
"`Jurisdiction,'" we have warned several times in the last decade, "`is a word of many, too many, meanings.'" Steel Co. v. Citizens for Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 90, 118 S.Ct. 1003, 140 L.Ed.2d 210 (1998) (quoting United States v. Vanness, 85 F.3d 661, 663, n. 2 (C.A.D.C.1996)); Kontrick v. Ryan, 540 U.S. 443, 454, 124 S.Ct. 906, 157 L.Ed.2d 867 (2004) (quoting Steel Co.); Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 510, 126 S.Ct. 1235, 163 L.Ed.2d 1097 (2006) (same); Rockwell Int'l Corp. v. United States, 549 U.S. 457, 467, 127 S.Ct. 1397, 1405, 167 L.Ed.2d 190 (2007) (same). This variety of meaning has insidiously tempted courts, this one included, to engage in "less than meticulous," Kontrick, supra, at 454, 124 S.Ct. 906, sometimes even "profligate ... use of the term," Arbaugh, supra, at 510, 126 S.Ct. 1235.
In recent years, however, we have tried to clean up our language, and until today we have been avoiding the erroneous jurisdictional conclusions that flow from indiscriminate use of the ambiguous word. Thus, although we used to call the sort of time limit at issue here "mandatory and jurisdictional," United States v. Robinson, 361 U.S. 220, 229, 80 S.Ct. 282, 4 L.Ed.2d 259 (1960), we have recently and repeatedly corrected that designation as a misuse of the "jurisdiction" label, Arbaugh, supra, at 510, 126 S.Ct. 1235 (citing Robinson as an example of improper use of the term "jurisdiction"); Eberhart v. United States, 546 U.S. 12, 17-18, 126 S.Ct. 403, 163 L.Ed.2d 14 (2005) (per curiam) (same); Kontrick, supra, at 454, 124 S.Ct. 906 (same).
But one would never guess this from reading the Court's opinion in this case, which suddenly restores Robinson's indiscriminate use of the "mandatory and jurisdictional" label to good law in the face of three unanimous repudiations of Robinson's error. See ante, at 2363 - 2364. This is puzzling, the more so because our recent (and, I repeat, unanimous) efforts to confine jurisdictional rulings to jurisdiction proper were obviously sound, and the majority makes no attempt to show they were not.
The time limit at issue here, far from defining the set of cases that may be adjudicated, is much more like a statute of limitations, which provides an affirmative defense, see Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(c), and is not jurisdictional, Day v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 198, 205, 126 S.Ct. 1675, 164 L.Ed.2d 376 (2006). Statutes of limitations may thus be waived, id., at 207-208, 126 S.Ct. 1675, or excused by rules, such as equitable tolling, that alleviate hardship and unfairness, see Irwin v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 498 U.S. 89, 95-96, 111 S.Ct. 453, 112 L.Ed.2d 435 (1990).
Consistent with the traditional view of statutes of limitations, and the carefully limited concept of jurisdiction explained in Arbaugh, Eberhart, and Kontrick, an exception to the time limit in 28 U.S.C. § 2107(c) should be available when there is a good justification for one, for reasons we recognized years ago. In Harris Truck Lines, Inc. v. Cherry Meat Packers, Inc., 371 U.S. 215, 217, 83 S.Ct. 283, 9 L.Ed.2d 261 (1962) (per curiam), and Thompson v. INS, 375 U.S. 384, 387, 84 S.Ct. 397, 11 L.Ed.2d 404 (1964) (per curiam), we found that "unique circumstances" excused failures to comply with the time limit. In fact, much like this case, Harris and Thompson involved District Court errors that misled litigants into believing they had more time to file notices of appeal than a statute actually provided. Thus, even back when we thoughtlessly called time limits jurisdictional, we did not actually treat them as beyond exemption to the point of shrugging at the inequity of penalizing a party for relying on what a federal judge had said to him. Since we did not dishonor reasonable reliance on a judge's official word back in the days when we
The majority avoids clashing with Harris and Thompson by overruling them on the ground of their "slumber," ante, at 2366, and inconsistency with a time-limit-as-jurisdictional rule.
In ruling that Bowles cannot depend on the word of a District Court Judge, the Court demonstrates that no one may depend on the recent, repeated, and unanimous statements of all participating Justices of this Court. Yet more incongruously, all of these pronouncements by the Court, along with two of our cases,
We have the authority to recognize an equitable exception to the 14-day limit, and we should do that here, as it certainly seems reasonable to rely on an order from a federal judge.
Thompson should control. In that case, and this one, the untimely filing of a notice of appeal resulted from reliance on an error by a District Court, an error that caused no evident prejudice to the other party. Actually, there is one difference between Thompson and this case: Thompson filed his post-trial motions late, and the District Court was mistaken when it said they were timely; here, the District Court made the error out of the blue, not on top of any mistake by Bowles, who then filed his notice of appeal by the specific date the District Court had declared timely. If anything, this distinction ought to work in Bowles's favor. Why should we have rewarded Thompson, who introduced the error, but now punish Bowles, who merely trusted the District Court's statement?
Under Thompson, it would be no answer to say that Bowles's trust was unreasonable because the 14-day limit was clear and counsel should have checked the judge's arithmetic. The 10-day limit on post-trial motions was no less pellucid in Thompson, which came out the other way. And what is more, counsel here could not have uncovered the court's error simply by counting off the days on a calendar. Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(6) allows a party to file a notice of appeal within 14 days of "the date when [the district court's] order to reopen is entered." See also 28 U.S.C. § 2107(c)(2) (allowing reopening for "14 days from the date of entry"). The District Court's order was dated February 10, 2004, which reveals the date the judge signed it but not necessarily the date on which the order was entered. Bowles's lawyer therefore could not tell from reading the order, which he received by mail, whether it was entered the day it was signed. Nor is the possibility of delayed entry merely theoretical: the District Court's original judgment in this case, dated July 10, 2003, was not entered until July 28. See App. 11 (District Court docket). According to Bowles's lawyer, electronic access to the docket was unavailable at the time, so to learn when the order was actually entered he would have had to call or go to the courthouse and check. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 56-57. Surely this is more than equity demands, and unless every statement by a federal court is to be tagged with the warning "Beware of the Judge," Bowles's lawyer had no obligation to go behind the terms of the order he received.
I have to admit that Bowles's counsel probably did not think the order might have been entered on a different day from
I would vacate the decision of the Court of Appeals and remand for consideration of the merits.
Regardless of this Court's past careless use of terminology, it is indisputable that time limits for filing a notice of appeal have been treated as jurisdictional in American law for well over a century. Consequently, the dissent's approach would require the repudiation of a century's worth of precedent and practice in American courts. Given the choice between calling into question some dicta in our recent opinions and effectively overruling a century's worth of practice, we think the former option is the only prudent course.