Computation of Time and Calculating Deadlines: Changes to Federal Rules Effective December 1, 2009

Some of the changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that are slated to be effective December 1, 2009 will change various timing requirements and how some deadlines are calculated. Although the amendments are intended to simplify deadline calculations, it is hard to imagine changes that are more likely to cause lawyers to experience fear and trepidation.  But there is no need to worry.  The SmartRules Guides will have updated and correct information regarding timing, and all other aspects of filing litigation documents in United States District Courts.

Following is an excerpt from the Report of the Judical Conference regarding the Time Compution Project that led to the amendments regarding time periods and calculation of deadlines:

“The principal simplifying change in the amended time-computation rules is the adoption of a “days-are-days” approach to computing all time periods. Under some of the current rules, intermediate weekends and holidays are omitted when computing short periods but included when computing longer periods. By contrast, under the proposed rules amendments, intermediate weekends and holidays are counted regardless of the length of the specified period. Other changes in the amended time-computation rules clarify how to count forward when the period measured is after an event (for example, 21 days after service of a motion) and the deadline falls on a weekend or holiday; and how to count backward when the period measured is before an event (for example, 14 days before a scheduled hearing) and the deadline falls on a weekend or holiday. The proposed amendments also provide for computing hourly time periods, to address recent legislation affecting court proceedings in which deadlines are expressed in hours (for example, 72 hours for action).

The amended time-computation rules also fill a gap in the present rules by addressing the special timing considerations that accompany electronic filing. Under the proposed amendments, unless a statute, local rule, or court order provides otherwise, the last day of a period for an electronic filing ends at midnight in the court’s time zone, while the last day for a paper filing ends when the clerk’s office is scheduled to close. (Additional refinements to these principles are made in proposed Appellate Rule 26(a)(4) for reasons specific to appellate practice.) Filing deadlines are extended if the clerk’s office is inaccessible. The proposed amendments provide a court with flexibility to define when a deadline should be adjusted or a failure to comply with a deadline should be excused because the clerk’s office was “inaccessible.” The proposed amendments and the Committee Notes do not specify the meaning of “inaccessibility,” which can vary depending on whether a filing is electronic or paper, leaving the definition to local rules and case law development.

The advisory committees also reviewed every rule to ensure that all time periods would be reasonable taking into account the effect of changing the time-computation method. The advisory committees concluded that virtually all short time deadlines should be extended to adjust for the effect of including intermediate weekends and holidays in calculating deadlines. To further simplify time-counting, the advisory committees proposed changing most periods of less than 30 days to multiples of 7 days. The advisory committees adopted 7, 14, 21, and 28-day periods when possible, so that deadlines will usually fall on weekdays. The advisory committees’ comprehensive review of time-computation rules and the rules containing time periods resulted in proposed amendments to a total of 91 rules. In August 2007, proposed amendments to each set of rules were published for comment from the bench and bar. Scheduled public hearings on the amendments were canceled because no one asked to testify. The specific proposed amendments are discussed later in this report in the respective sections describing the advisory committees’ recommendations.”

So what exactly is changing? With respect to timing, the following amendments have been approved, effective March 26, 2009, by the Supreme Court. 

  • The one-day period in Rule 6(c)(2) becomes seven days. The adjustment would extend the time for a party to serve any affidavit opposing a motion to seven days before a hearing.
  • The one-day period in Rule 54(d) becomes 14 days. The increased time period corrects an unrealistic short time period for the clerk to give notice before taxing costs.
  • The three-day period in Rule 55 becomes seven days.
  • Five-day periods in Rules 32, 54, and 81 become seven days.
  • The five-day period in Rule 6(c)(1) becomes 14 days. The adjustment extends the time for a party to serve a written motion and notice of hearing before the scheduled hearing date.
  • Ten-day periods in Rules 12, 14, 15, 23, 38, 59(c), 62, 65, 68, 72, 81, and Supplemental Rule C become 14 days.
  • Ten-day periods in Rules 50, 52, and 59(b), (d), and (e) become 28-day periods. The adjustment extends the present inadequate time allowed to prepare and file postjudgment motions. To prevent unfair results from these unrealistic short time periods, courts have avoided the rule by delaying entry of judgment or permitting timely filing of a barebones motion but permitting the brief to expand the stated grounds.
  • The less-than-11-day period in Rule 32 becomes less than 14 days.
  • Twenty-day periods in Rules 12, 15, 27, 53, 71.1, 81, Forms 3, 4, and 60, and Supplemental Rules B, C and G become 21 days.
  • Rule 6(b)’s reference to provisions for extending the times set by enumerated provisions in Rules 50, 52, 59, and 60, and Rule 59(c)’s reference to a 20-day extension are eliminated.
  • The timing provisions in Rules 56(a) and (c) are replaced by new provisions that recognize authority to set deadlines for summary-judgment motions by local rule or by court order and, in default of a local rule or court order, that allow a motion to be made at any time until 30 days after the close of all discovery. The new provisions also establish default times for response and reply.

For up to date information regarding timing requirements for pleadings, discovery responses, motions and other litigation documents, visit SmartRules.