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Brandon v. Chicago Board of Education

    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff, Brandon, sought relief under Rule 60 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure after judgment was entered for Defendant, Chicago Board of Education, due to Plaintiff’s failure to prosecute his case.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure can be used to overturn a final judgment, but the Rule 60(b)(6) catchall provision will not be available if the other provisions are applicable.

    Facts. Plaintiff was represented by Paul F. Peters in his Americans with Disabilities action against Defendant. The district court clerk mistakenly listed another attorney, Paul A. Peters as Plaintiff’s attorney in the court’s docket. Therefore, Plaintiff’s attorney was not receiving any correspondence from the court. Plaintiff’s lawyer missed notices for status hearings, and after missing the second hearing the case was dismissed for want of prosecution. Plaintiff’s attorney filed a Rule 60 motion one year and three days after the dismissal, arguing that the error was due to the court clerk and through no fault of their own. The district court denied Rule 60 relief. On appeal, Plaintiffs seek relief under the catchall provision of Rule 60(b)(6), while Defendants argue that only Rule 60(b)(1) applies, which means that Plaintiff would miss the one-year deadline.

    Issue. The issue is whether Plaintiff is entitled to Rule 60(b) relief for the court clerk’s docketing error.

    Held. The court held that Plaintiff’s attorney had a duty to check on Plaintiff’s case, and this lack of diligence resulted in the error as much as the clerk’s docketing error. Plaintiff also could not seek relief under the Rule 60(b)(6) catchall provision since it is only applicable if the previous provisions do not apply. Since Rule 60 (b)(1), which covers mistakes or excusable neglect, would apply to the circumstances, Plaintiff was also bound by the 1-year statute of limitation to file after the dismissal. They did not make the deadline, so the relief was not granted.

    Discussion. The court’s sympathy was tempered by the fact that Plaintiff’s attorney never followed up with the court, and he made his own mistake in associating his filing with the wrong case number.


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