U.S. Supreme Court

Deadline-Error Case Overrules Precedent

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The lawyer for a convicted murderer who lost his Supreme Court appeal over a mistaken filing deadline says the court “went for form over substance.”

Yesterday’s 5-4 Supreme Court ruling held that the filing deadline was jurisdictional and the appeal was not permitted.

Cleveland lawyer Paul Mancino Jr. had filed a habeas appeal for his client, Keith Bowles, one day before the deadline set by a judge. But the judge was wrong, giving Mancino a 17-day extension, rather than 14 days as allowed by statute.

“The way the judge made it out, I didn’t bother to check” the deadline, Mancino told Tony Mauro of Legal Times. The court “went for form over substance.”

Mancino told the Supreme Court the case should come within the “unique circumstances” doctrine, which permits departure from jurisdictional rules in special instances, Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times reports. But Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his majority opinion that the court was overruling two 1960s cases that created the doctrine.

The breakdown of the justices was the same as in the recent ruling requiring employees to file civil-rights pay discrimination complaints within 180 of the initial pay decision.

Mancino told Legal Times he once asked the judge why he gave him the wrong deadline. “I think he said he was allowed to add three-day extensions in other kinds of cases, so he did it here.”

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