Court grants review in federal employee’s filing deadlines case

Court grants review in federal employee’s filing deadlines case

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The Supreme Court on Friday afternoon agreed to take up another case exploring the distinction between deadlines that are jurisdictional – so that courts cannot hear a case if they are not met – and those that are instead simply a limitations period that can be waived or extended.

The justices granted review in Harrow v. Department of Defense, the case of a federal government employee who challenged his 2013 furlough. The case was the only grant on a list of orders released from the justices’ private conference earlier on Friday.

The employee, Stuart Harrow, appealed a decision by an agency judge to the Merit Systems Protection Board. But because the MSPB was short-staffed, it did not rule on Harrow’s appeal for more than five years, during which Harrow changed his email address. Harrow therefore did not learn that the MSPB had denied his appeal until the time to seek review of that ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had already passed.

The Federal Circuit threw out Harrow’s appeal, which he filed shortly after learning of the MSPB’s decision. The court of appeals explained that although it was “sympathetic to Mr. Harrow’s situation,” the deadline to file an appeal was jurisdictional and it thus lacked the power to hear his case.

Harrow came to the Supreme Court, which agreed on Friday afternoon to weigh in. The case will likely be argued in the spring, with a decision to follow by summer.

More orders from the justices’ Dec. 8 conference are expected on Monday, Dec. 11, at 9:30 a.m. And although the Dec. 8 conference was the last regularly scheduled conference of 2023, the justices have in recent years issued a second set of grants from their final December conference a few days later, suggesting that additional grants could follow later next week.

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