In today’s 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case, Chief Judge Diane P. Wood, in chambers, issued an opinion for all to be aware of regarding the proper jurisdictional statement appellant or appellee must file to perfect an appeal pursuant to Circuit Court Rule on Briefs 28(a)(2(v).

Seventh Circuit Rule 28(a)(2)(v) provides, in pertinent part, that the jurisdictional statement of the appellant and, if the appellant fails to provide a complete and correct statement, the appellee must file a complete and correct statement, including, among others, the following:

“(2)(i)The date of the entry of the judgment sought to be reviewed.”

“(2)(v) If the case is a direct appeal from the decision of a magistrate judge, the dates on which each party consented in writing to entry of a final judgment by the magistrate judge.”

Wood gave counsel, in two magistrate judge cases, seven days to file an amended jurisdictional statement.

Wood explained the flaws in the two cases as follows:

“The information provided in each of these appeals fell short of the requirements of Circuit Rule 28. In Lowrey v. Tilden, No. 19-1365, the appellees informed the court in their jurisdictional statement that the parties had consented to have a magistrate judge hear the case; they did so after observing that the pro se appellant’s jurisdictional statement was not complete and correct and appropriately moving on to provide their own complete jurisdictional summary. See Circuit Rule 28(b).

“But counsel failed to provide the dates of consent of each party to the magistrate judge’s jurisdiction. In McCray v. Wilkie, No. 19-3145, counsel not only failed to provide the dates of consent, but he also neglected to mention that the decision from which the appeal was being taken had been rendered by a magistrate judge.”

Commenting on the important and recurring failure to file complete and correct statements, the court explained:

“Another recurring problem justifies the same approach. In the two cases I have consolidated only for purposes of this opinion, a magistrate judge issued the final judgment from which the appeal has been taken. Circuit Rule 28(a)(2)(v) requires an appellant in such a case to include in its jurisdictional statement not only information about the magistrate judge’s involvement, but also ‘the dates on which each party consented in writing to the entry of final judgment by the magistrate judge.’ See also 28 U.S.C. Section 636(c).”

The errant statements were discovered during routine screening, Wood noted:

“Our routine jurisdictional screening sometimes reveals recurrent problems that would benefit from a published opinion. A few years ago, I addressed such an issue, when in Baez-Sanchez v. Sessions, 862 F.3d 638 (7th Cir. 2017) (Wood, C.J., in chambers), I reminded attorneys practicing before this court that we rely on accurate jurisdictional statements. In Baez-Sanchez, the problem was the failure on the part of many appellees to specify precisely whether, in counsel’s view, the appellant’s jurisdictional statement was complete and correct. Either the jurisdictional statement is both complete and correct, or appellee must furnish a comprehensive jurisdictional statement of its own.

“This court takes jurisdictional issues seriously — indeed, it is proud to have a reputation as a jurisdictional hawk. As part of our routine procedure, we screen all briefs filed before oral argument or submission on the briefs to ensure that our jurisdiction is secure and to catch any potential problems.”

Wood stressed the importance of a complete and correct jurisdictional statement for perfecting an appeal from a magistrate’s judgment, without which there is no valid judgment, stating:

“The significance of the information about the magistrate judge’s involvement and the consent of all parties to that judge’s resolution of the merits cannot be overstated. See Coleman v. Labor & Industry Review Commission of the State of Wisconsin, 860 F.3d 461 (7th Cir. 2017) (a magistrate judge has no authority to issue a final decision that is directly appealable to the court of appeals unless all parties consent).”

Pointing out that, in addition to the rule, the court’s Practitioner’s Handbook for Appeals is readily available on the court’s website and noting its partial contents, the court encouraged use, stating:

“The [h]andbook explicitly refers to the failure to provide dates of consent to proceed before a magistrate judge as one of the recurring problems that the court encounters when performing jurisdictional screening. See Handbook at 145.”

Observing the court expects attorneys to know and follow the rules, Wood concluded her opinion with these words:

“We once again encourage counsel to consult the [h]andbook. It is a useful guide, regularly updated by the court and its staff, for both experienced and novice practitioners. It can help counsel avoid the common pitfalls in drafting a jurisdictional statement. See [h]andbook at 142-45.

“We expect attorneys who practice before this court to give close attention to all of the rules, including Circuit Rule 28. I hope that this reminder will serve its intended purpose and that such readily avoided flaws will cease.”