United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION & ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
PROCESS NOTICE OF APPEAL (DKT. 771)
A. GOLDSMITH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
August 18, 2017, this Court issued an Opinion and Order
denying Defendant Shawn Renard Smith's motion to vacate
his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Dkt. 749). On
February 27, 2018, Smith filed the instant motion to process
notice of appeal (Dkt. 771), where he claims that he timely
filed a notice of appeal of the Court's August 18, 2017
Order, but that this notice of appeal was not docketed by the
Court. He asks that the Court now vacate and reenter its
judgment denying the § 2255 motion so that Smith may
file anew a notice of appeal. After briefing on the motion
was complete, the Court ordered supplemental briefing
regarding the Court's jurisdiction to grant Smith's
requested relief. 7/6/2018 Order (Dkt. 777); 10/17/2018 Order
(Dkt. 787). The Court concludes that it does not have
jurisdiction to grant Smith's request and, therefore,
denies his motion.
notice of appeal from denial of a § 2255 motion must be
filed within sixty days after entry of the order being
appealed. See Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(1)(B). Thus,
Smith's notice of appeal needed to be filed by October
17, 2017. However, pursuant to the prison mailbox rule,
“a pro se prisoner's notice of appeal is
deemed ‘filed at the time [pro se prisoner]
delivered it to the prison authorities for forwarding to the
court clerk.'” U.S. v. Smotherman, 838
F.3d 736, 737 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting Houston v.
Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 276 (1988)) (alterations in
Smotherman). “If a prison maintains two
internal mail systems, one for regular mail and another for
legal mail, the prisoner gains the benefit of the mailbox
rule only if he deposits his notice of appeal in the
‘system designed for legal mail.'”
Porchia v. Norris, 251 F.3d 1196, 1198 (8th Cir.
2001) (quoting Fed. R. App. P. 4(c)(1)). Smith claims that he
deposited a notice of appeal in the internal mail system at
Federal Correctional Institution (“FCI”) Elkton,
where he is imprisoned, on October 13, 2017. Def. Mot. at 2.
He also claims to have mailed correspondence to the Clerk of
the Court on three occasions since then, inquiring as to the
status of his case. Id. at 2-3. However, none of
these filings was received by the Clerk.
concedes that FCI Elkton has a legal mail system, and that he
did not use the legal mail system to mail his notice of
appeal on October 13, 2017. However, he argues that the issue
“is not simply whether FCI Elkton has a legal mail
system, but whether that system was readily accessible to Mr.
Smith.” Def. Reply at 2 (Dkt. 774). He states that the
“procedures for processing legal mail at FCI Elkton
interfered with his attempt to access legal mail” and
that the circumstances in his case “left him no
alternative but to use the regual [sic] institutional mailing
system.” Id. at 4.
circumstances appear to be that, during the week of October
8, 2017, Smith's housing unit was last on meal rotation.
The mailroom closes at 6:30 a.m., and his housing unit was
not released for breakfast until after the mailroom closed.
Smith would be required to forego breakfast in order to make
it to the mailroom before it closed.
Id. In a footnote, Smith also mentions that
around the time he placed his notice of appeal in the
internal mail system, prison officials believed that
contraband was being introduced via legal mail, and
“several instances of mishandling of mail w[ere]
reported.” Def. Resp. at 5 n.1. Due to these
“impractical conditions, ” Smith deposited his
notice of appeal in the institutional mail system.
claims that this Court has authority to vacate its judgment
pursuant to Bowles v. Russell, 551 U.S. 205 (2007).
Def. Mot. at 3. The Court in Bowles explained that
“the timely filing of a notice of appeal in a civil
case is a jurisdictional requirement, ” 551 U.S. at
214, and that courts lack power to create equitable
exceptions. It held that the district court had no authority
to extend the deadline to file a notice of appeal beyond the
fourteen days provided by statute. Bowles did not
state that a court may vacate its judgment when a party
claims to have timely filed a notice of appeal that was not
received by the district court.
Court does have limited authority to vacate its judgment. But
Smith provides no authority that would permit the Court to do
so in this circumstance. The Court may to correct a
“clerical mistake or a mistake arising from oversight
or omission” in the judgment pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 60(a), but that is not the case here. And
while Rule 60(b) permits the Court to relieve a party from
judgment for a variety of reasons, including “any other
reason that justifies relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6),
a party cannot use Rule 60(b) to circumvent the requirement
of a timely filing of a notice of appeal. See Hall v.
Scutt, 482 Fed.Appx. 990, 990 (6th Cir. 2012); In re
Sealed Case (Bowles), 624 F.3d 482, 486 (D.C. Cir. 2010)
(rejecting the idea “that a court could vacate and
reinstate a judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b) because of
‘unique circumstances' in order to allow a party to
appeal where Appellate Rule 4(a)(6) would otherwise withhold
course, Smith does not contend that he is now trying to file
a timely appeal; he claims that he has already done so. Smith
essentially asks this Court to determine whether his notice
of appeal was timely filed. But this is a decision typically
left to the appellate court, not the district court. Further,
if Smith's notice was timely, as he argues, the
Court of Appeals has exclusive jurisdiction over his claims,
as the filing of a notice of appeal divests the district
court of jurisdiction. See, e.g., Marrese v. Am.
Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 470 U.S. 373, 379
although Smith does not ask the Court to extend the deadline
for him to file a notice of appeal, it is worth noting that a
district court is limited in this respect, as well. The
Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure provide that, when a
party does not receive proper notice of a judgment, the
district court may reopen the time to file an appeal if a
motion to reopen is filed within 180 days after the judgment
is entered, or within fourteen days after the party receives
notice, whichever is earlier. Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(6). This
Rule provides no relief to Smith, as he does not contend that
he failed to receive notice of the judgment.
Court finds no authority that would permit it to vacate and
re-enter its judgment and, as such, Smith's motion is
denied. Out of an abundance of caution, however, the Court
will address Smith's motion on its merits.
Application of the ...