Counting Rule for Court Closure Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a)(3) Applies Even Though Appellant Could Have Filed Notice of Appeal Electronically

In Circuitronix, LLC v. Kinwong Electronic (Hong Kong) Co., Ltd., No. 19-12547 (11th Cir. Apr. 8, 2021) – an appeal from the trial of a breach of contract claim – the Eleventh Circuit holds that a motion for judgment as a matter of law was timely under Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a), because the courthouse was closed for a holiday on the due date.

Judgment for plaintiff Circuitronix was filed on June 6, 2019. “Under [Fed. R. Civ. P.] 50(b), Kinwong had 28 days after the entry of judgment to renew its motion” for judgment as a matter of law. “Because this clock ran to Thursday, July 4, a legal holiday, Kinwong’s deadline automatically tolled to July 5 …. But Kinwong did not file its renewed motion until Monday, July 8.” Kinwong contended that the motion was timely filed “because the clerk’s office was closed on Friday, July 5, its deadline tolled to July 8 and made its filing timely.”

The Eleventh Circuit holds that the motion was timely filed. “The question here is whether the closure of a courthouse tolls the filing deadline. Rule 6 establishes that ‘[u]nless the court orders otherwise, if the clerk’s office is inaccessible . . . on the last day for filing . . . , then the time for filing is extended to the first accessible day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.’ [Fed. R. Civ. P.] 6(a)(3)(A). The Chief Judge of the Southern District of Florida had designated July 5 as a holiday such that ‘the Court will be closed.’

“We conclude that the closure of the courthouse—and with it, the physical closure of the clerk’s office—made the clerk’s office inaccessible for purposes of Rule 6(a)(3)(A). As we have explained in another context, “[o]fficial closure of the [c]lerk’s office for any reason makes that office ‘inaccessible’ …. This rule distinguishes official closure from inaccessibility that arises while the clerk’s office remains physically open—where the office is open but difficult to access, we require proof of extenuating circumstances.

“We reject the argument that the clerk’s office remained accessible on July 5 because Kinwong could have filed its motion electronically. Rule 6 refers to the clerk’s physical office. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a)(4)(B) (tying deadlines for non-electronic filing to ‘when the clerk’s office is scheduled to close’). The clerk’s office is inaccessible when its building is officially closed or otherwise unavailable, even if the parties are still able to submit filings electronically … or through other means.

“Circuitronix responds that other aspects of the Federal Rules support its interpretation of accessibility, but we do not see how. True, ‘an outage of the electronic filing system’ is sufficient to make the clerk’s office inaccessible. Fed. R. Civ. P. 6, advisory committee’s note to 2009 amendment. But we know that other problems, including weather, remain independent triggers of inaccessibility. Id. So an outage is not a necessary condition of inaccessibility. Nor does a recent amendment to Rule 5—making electronic filing ordinarily mandatory for represented parties, id. R. 5(d)(3)(A)—limit the scope of inaccessibility under Rule 6. We presume that a change to one provision does not impliedly amend another provision … and nothing displaces that presumption here. Kinwong’s Rule 50(b) motion was timely.”

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