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Federal Appeals Court Denies Colorado Prisoner’s “Mail Box Rule” Appeal

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a Colorado district court’s order to alter the judgment in a suit won by a Colorado prisoner.

Michael N. Milligan filed suit against Brian Matthews, a prison official at the prison in which Milligan was housed. Milligan’s 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleged First Amendment rights violations. After a jury trial, Milligan was awarded $100 nominal damages and $10,000 in punitive damages. Matthews filed a motion for new trial or to alter the judgment. The district court granted in part, reducing Milligan’s award to $1 nominal damages and $7,500 in punitive damages.

Milligan was late filing his notice of appeal due to a misunderstanding with his attorney. After filing for a time extension, which the district court denied, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Milligan’s appeal was untimely due to his failure to use the proper language to evoke the “mail box rule.”

The Court of Appeals held Milligan was not entitled to the “mail box rule,” as Milligan’s motion stated only that he placed the motion “in the U.S. mail, postage paid.” It failed to state the motion was given to “prison officials for mailing” as is required under Fed. R. App. P.23 (c). Therefore, the motion was not filed until it was received by the court, which was untimely by two days.

The court affirmed the district court’s denial of Milligan’s extension of time to file an appeal motion to his motion being untimely.

See: Milligan v. Matthews, 166 Fed.Appx. 335, 2006 WL 182057 (C.A.10 (Colo.)).

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Related legal case

Milligan v. Matthews