Bowles v. Russell Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Bowles was convicted of Murder, and then filed his appeal according to a court ordered time-frame which was not within the statutory limits of filing an appeal.

Facts of the case

“Keith Bowles was convicted of murder. He filed a petition for habeas corpus in federal District Court, and was denied. Bowles did not receive timely notice of the District Court’s ruling, so he missed the deadline for appeal. He filed a motion under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(6) to reopen the appeal period. The District Court granted Bowles’s motion, and gave him until February 27, 2004 to file his appeal. However, Rule 4(a)(6) allows only a 14-day extension of the appeal period, which would put the deadline on February 24, 2004. Bowles filed his appeal on February 26 – on time according to the court’s deadline, but untimely according to Rule 4(a)(6).The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit at first declined to dismiss Bowles’s appeal. Later, on its own motion, the Sixth Circuit “”correct[ed] [its] error”” and dismissed the appeal, saying Rule 4(a)(6) “”is not susceptible to extension through mistake, courtesy, or grace.”””


Whether the Court of Appeals has the jurisdiction to entertain an appeal filed after the statutory time period but within the time specified in the court order.


No. Timely filing of a notice of appeal in a civil case is a jurisdictional requirement. Courts are not allowed to make equitable exceptions to this rule. A party must file the notice of appeal within 30 days after the judgment. Under certain circumstances a district court may reopen the time frame to file, and this court order was given was beyond that time frame. The court makes distinctions when filings are considered transactions of business versus jurisdictional rules. An appeals court lacks jurisdiction to hear a case if it is filed beyond the statutory rules, whereas in Bankruptcy court the rules are transactional and the Court can still hear the motions filed. The distinction is if a time frame is set by Congress it is jurisdictional in nature, whereas if a Court enacts a rule it is only transactional in nature. The reasoning for this distinction is that only Congress may decide the jurisdiction if lower federal courts. Therefore if Congress enacts a law stating a filing should be made in X amount of days, a court can not grant itself jurisdiction by creating an order to state otherwise. Courts lack the authority to carve any exceptions to these rules.


“The Supreme Court found that the 14-day limit on the length of the reopening period was imposed by statute and was therefore mandatory and jurisdictional

  • the limitation under § 2107(c) was not merely a claim-processing rule. Use of the “”unique circumstances”” doctrine under Harris Truck Lines, Inc. v. Cherry Meat Packers, Inc., 371 U.S. 215 (1962), and Thompson v. INS, 375 U.S. 384 (1964), was declared to be illegitimate, and those cases were overruled to the extent that they purported to authorize an exception to a jurisdictional rule.”
    • Case Brief: 2007
    • Petitioner: Keith Bowles
    • Respondent: Harry Russell, Warden
    • Decided by: Roberts Court

    Citation: 551 US 205 (2007)
    Granted Dec 7, 2006
    Argued: Mar 26, 2007
    Decided: Jun 14, 2007