In In re Jones, Case No. 12-1198, the Sixth Circuit construed a plaintiff’s objections to the district court’s judgment as a notice of appeal because it was filed within thirty days of the judgment.  The objections did not name the Sixth Circuit as required by Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c)(1)(C), but the Court held that because it was the only appellate forum available to Jones, the Court could still construe the filing as a notice of appeal.  Even though the Court applied this “notice” flexibly, the case provides a good reminder of the importance of complying with the Federal Rules for notices of appeal.

The Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure require that the notice of appeal in a civil case be filed with the district clerk within 30 days after the judgment or order appealed from is entered.  FRAP 4(a)(1)(A).  The notice of appeal must specify the party or parties taking the appeal, designate the judgment or order being appealed, and name the court to which the appeal is taken.  FRAP 3(c)(1)(A)-(C).

However, Rule 3(c)(4) states that “An appeal must not be dismissed for informality of form or title of the notice of appeal, or for failure to name a party whose intent to appeal is otherwise clear from the notice.”  The Sixth Circuit held in Dillon v. United States, 184 F.3d 556, 558 (6th Cir. 1999), that the rational of Rule 3(c)(4) applies equally to the requirement to name the court.  The Court noted that it was not their intention to “waive” the jurisdictional requirement that a notice of appeal designate the court to which the appeal is taken, but when there is only one possible appellate forum, the filing of a notice of appeal has the practical effect of “naming” that forum.

Although the Court has used Rule 3(c)(4) to liberally construe FRAP 3(c)(1)(A)-(C), the timeliness of a notice of appeal cannot be liberally construed.  Without a timely filed notice of appeal, the Sixth Circuit lacks jurisdiction to entertain an appeal.  Rhoden v. Campbell, 153 F.3d 773, 774 (6th Cir. 1998).  Even with “good cause shown,” the Sixth Circuit cannot waive jurisdictional requirements of Rule 3 and 4.