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Sixth Circuit: Courts Must Construe Pro Se Notice of Appeal as Motion for Extension of Time to Appeal

Brandon Young filed a prison-condition lawsuit in the district court when he was on “dry cell protocol” and was later moved to a psychiatric unit. During those moments, he was unaware that the district court had dismissed his lawsuit, triggering the 30 days he had in order to file his notice of appeal. When he later became aware, he filed his notice of appeal but it was eight days late. Attached to his notice, however, he provided proof for why he was late.

Determining on its own whether it had jurisdiction to hear Young’s appeal, the Sixth Circuit noted that Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5) (“FRAP”) allows for a motion to extend the time for filing a notice of appeal for “excusable neglect or good cause,” which is filed in the district court. In prior cases, the Court had held that a “simple notice of appeal alone does not suffice if it doesn’t allege excusable neglect or good cause under the rule.

However, Young’s notice of appeal “effectively reads as a motion for an extension of time to file an appeal,” the Court said. While Young didn’t invoke the exact language of the rule, the Court held that “district courts must liberally construe a document that could reasonably be interpreted as a motion for an extension of time to file a notice of appeal [under FRAP 4(a)(5)] or a motion to reopen the time to file an appeal [under FRAP 4(a)(6)].”

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Related legal case

Young v. Kenney