Charmaine Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services, No. 15-3764 (7th Cir. 2018)

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Justia Opinion Summary

Hamer, a former Intake Specialist for Housing Services and Fannie Mae, sued her former employers, citing the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621, and Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e. The court granted the defendants summary judgment. The deadline for her Notice of Appeal was October 14, 2015. On October 8, Hamer’s counsel filed a “Motion to Withdraw and to Extend Deadline.” The court extended the deadline to December 14. Hamer filed her Notice of Appeal on December 11, consistent with the order, but exceeding the extension allowable under Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(5)(C). The Seventh Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, reasoning that the statutory requirement for filing a timely notice was jurisdictional and Rule 4(a)(5)(C) limits a district court’s authority to extend the deadline to 30 days. The Supreme Court vacated, holding that statutory time limits are jurisdictional but that those imposed by rules are not—though they remain mandatory if properly invoked. On remand, the Seventh Circuit reached the merits and affirmed. Rights under nonjurisdictional rules can be waived in docketing statements; defendants’ docketing statement included affirmative statements that Hamer’s appeal was “timely”. Hamer did not establish a causal link between her EEOC complaint and an adverse action. To retaliate against a complainant, decision-makers must be aware of the complaint. Hamer has not established a genuine dispute about the decision-makers’ knowledge; all filed affidavits asserting they were never told of Hamer’s plan to file an EEOC complaint.

This opinion or order relates to an opinion or order originally issued on August 31, 2016.

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In the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit ____________________ No. 15-3764 CHARMAINE HAMER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. NEIGHBORHOOD HOUSING SERVICES MAE, OF CHICAGO and FANNIE Defendants-Appellees. ____________________ Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. On Remand from the Supreme Court of the United States. No. 12 C 10150 — Rubén Castillo, Chief Judge. ____________________ ARGUED MAY 15, 2018 — DECIDED JULY 30, 2018 ____________________ Before EASTERBROOK, SYKES, and BARRETT, Circuit Judges. EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge. Charmaine Hamer worked at Fannie Mae’s Mortgage Help Center from 2010 to 2012. Fannie Mae contracted with Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (Hamer’s employer) to run the Center but maintained the right to remove individual employees. After Hamer’s application for a promotion was denied and she 2 No. 15-3764 was removed from the Center, she sued both Neighborhood Housing and Fannie Mae for discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e–17, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621–34. The district court granted summary judgment in the defendants’ favor, and Hamer appealed the retaliation claims. A statute requires notices of appeal to be led within thirty days after entry of judgment but provides that district courts may “extend the time for appeal upon a showing of excusable neglect or good cause.” 28 U.S.C. §2107. This statute does not set a limit on extensions’ length, but the rule implementing the statute provides that “[n]o extension under this Rule 4(a)(5) may exceed 30 days after the prescribed time or 14 days after the date when the order granting the motion is entered, whichever is later.” Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(5)(C). On September 14, 2015, the district court entered summary judgment in favor of defendants. On October 8 Hamer’s counsel submijed a motion to withdraw and to extend the time for appeal by 60 days (to December 14), to give Hamer time to acquire new counsel. The district court granted the motion, despite Rule 4(a)(5)(C), and Hamer led her notice of appeal pro se on December 11—within the time erroneously allowed but outside the maximum under Rule 4(a)(5)(C). None of the litigants appears to have given any thought to the violation of Rule 4 until this court, on review of the docketing statements, ordered the parties to submit jurisdictional memoranda on the timeliness issue. This court dismissed Hamer’s appeal, concluding that the time limit imposed by Rule 4(a)(5)(C) is jurisdictional. 835 No. 15-3764 3 F.3d 761 (7th Cir. 2016). The Supreme Court vacated that decision, holding that statutory time limits are jurisdictional but that those imposed by rule are not—though they remain mandatory if properly invoked. 138 S. Ct. 13 (2017). See also Bowles v. Russell, 551 U.S. 205 (2007). We must now decide whether defendants properly invoked Rule 4(a)(5)(C) and, if not, must reach the merits. Hamer contends that the defendants may not now challenge her appeal as untimely because they failed either to appeal from the district court’s order granting the extension or to cross-appeal from the judgment. An appeal is necessary when a party seeks to ajack the judgment in a way that either expands its own rights or narrows the rights of its opponent. United States v. American Railway Express Co., 265 U.S. 425, 435 (1924); MassachuseDs Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Ludwig, 426 U.S. 479 (1976); Robert L. Stern, When to CrossAppeal or Cross-Petition—Certainty or Confusion?, 87 HARV. L. REV. 763 (1974). Defendants are not seeking to alter the judgment, so they did not need to appeal. This conclusion aligns us with the Tenth Circuit, United States v. Madrid, 633 F.3d 1222 (10th Cir. 2011), although the Third and Sixth Circuits have held otherwise. Amatangelo v. Donora, 212 F.3d 776 (3d Cir. 2000); United States v. Burch, 781 F.3d 342 (6th Cir. 2015). Our conclusion also is in line with the Supreme Court’s rule that an appellee seeking to defend a judgment “may, without taking a cross-appeal, urge in support of [it] any majer appearing in the record, although his argument may involve an ajack upon the reasoning of the lower court or an insistence upon majer overlooked or ignored by it.” American Railway Express, 265 U.S. at 435. 4 No. 15-3764 Hamer’s argument that defendants forfeited the timeliness issue by not protesting in the district court likewise goes nowhere. Because the district judge granted the motion for extension immediately, defendants could not oppose it before the judge acted. And it is never necessary to remonstrate with a judge after an order has been entered. Motions for reconsideration are discretionary, not obligatory. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 46 (“A formal exception to a ruling or order is unnecessary.”). The contention that the defendants waived any challenge to the timeliness of Hamer’s appeal by saying in their docketing statement that the notice of appeal was “timely” requires more discussion. Under the heading “Appellate Court Jurisdiction”, the docketing statement declares that “Plainti -Appellant led a timely Notice of Appeal” and under the heading “The Date of Entry of the Judgment Sought to be Reviewed” that “Plainti -Appellant timely led a Notice of Appeal”. Defendants argue that language in docketing statements cannot waive or forfeit a right and that, by addressing the timeliness issue—in response to this court’s order—before the merits, they have preserved the argument. Mandatory claim-processing rules, “[i]f properly invoked, … must be enforced, but they may be waived or forfeited.” 138 S. Ct. at 17. Since the Supreme Court’s clari cation that time limits imposed by federal rules that do not have a statutory basis are claim-processing rules, Kontrick v. Ryan, 540 U.S. 443 (2004), this court has held that the limit in Rule 4(b) for criminal appeals will not be enforced if waived. See United States v. Ne , 598 F.3d 320, 323 (7th Cir. 2010). Treating timeliness under Rule 4(a)(5)(C) identically respects “the principle of party presentation so basic to our system of No. 15-3764 5 adjudication.” Arizona v. California, 530 U.S. 392, 413 (2000). See also Greenlaw v. United States, 554 U.S. 237, 243–44 (2008). We have found scant authority on docketing statements in general, and we have not located any authority from any circuit on whether representations within docketing statements can constitute waivers. Defendants point to local rules and cases from other circuits that characterize docketing statements as preliminary, nonbinding documents. As defendants observe, however, “a docketing statement is a creature of a court’s local rules,” and this court is not bound by other courts’ pronouncements on the e ect of docketing statements that di er from ours. Many courts of appeals require docketing statements, but the Seventh Circuit may be unique in requiring them to take the form of prose paragraphs rather than responses to a printed form. Docketing statements serve several important functions in this court. They form part of the “short record” that senior court sta reviews “[i]n an e ort to uncover jurisdictional defects very early in the appellate process”. See Practitioner’s Handbook for Appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit 19 (2017 ed.). The court also uses docketing statements to determine “whether an appeal is related to other appeals, where an incarcerated party is housed, and who current public o cials are in o cial capacity suits”. Id. at 119. We require docketing statements to contain all information that Fed. R. App. P. 28 requires in jurisdictional statements. Circuit R. 3(c). Docketing statements are always required of an appellant, but an appellee need submit a docketing statement only if the appellant’s is not “complete and correct”. 6 No. 15-3764 The fact that some information required in docketing statements relates to subject-majer jurisdiction—a topic that cannot be waived—does not imply that pronouncements within docketing statements on other topics can never waive a right under a claim-processing rule. This court has emphasized the importance of docketing statements. United States v. Lloyd, 398 F.3d 978, 980–81 (7th Cir. 2005); Baez-Sanchez v. Sessions, 862 F.3d 638, 639 (7th Cir. 2017) (Wood, C.J., in chambers). And we enforce our requirements in a manner calculated to induce compliance. See, e.g., BondPro Corp. v. Siemens Power Generation, Inc., 466 F.3d 562 (7th Cir. 2006) (penalizing failures to comply with jurisdictional-statement requirements). Giving an a rmative statement the same e ect whether it is made in a docketing statement, in the argument section of a brief, or at oral argument creates an incentive for litigants and lawyers to take the rules and their representations to this court seriously. Defendants aren’t helped by cases holding that litigants may raise in their briefs issues that were not in their docketing statements. That substantive arguments are not forfeited by omission from a docketing statement does not bear on whether they can be waived by language included in a docketing statement. Rights under nonjurisdictional rules, we therefore hold, can be waived in docketing statements. In holding so, we are not the rst court of appeals to give language contained in a docketing statement e ect on a majer other than subject-majer jurisdiction: Several courts have looked to information included in docketing statements to supplement otherwise-insu cient notices of appeal. Díaz Aviation Corp. v. Airport Aviation Services, Inc., 716 F.3d 256, 261–63 (1st Cir. 2013); Haney v. Addison, 175 F.3d 1217, 1219 No. 15-3764 7 (10th Cir. 1999); Small Business in Telecommunications v. FCC, 251 F.3d 1015, 1020–21 (D.C. Cir. 2001). And the Fourth Circuit has looked to the list of issues in a docketing statement, among other things, to nd that a party was aware of an argument, then intentionally abandoned it by omijing it from the appellate brief. South Atlantic Limited Partnership of Tennessee, LP v. Riese, 356 F.3d 576, 587 (4th Cir. 2004). So the question now is whether the declarations in defendants’ docketing statement constitute waivers. They take the traditional form of a waiver: a rmative statements that Hamer’s appeal is “timely”. Defendants contend, however, that because docketing statements pertain primarily to jurisdiction, the two relevant sentences assert only that the appeal was timely in a jurisdictional sense, while reserving the right to challenge nonjurisdictional timeliness. Yet both sentences are unconditional statements that the appeal is timely. Defendants could have included a caveat that they were discussing only jurisdictional timeliness, but they didn’t. The common-sense meaning of defendants’ a rmative statements: the appeal is timely, period. Defendants argue that Circuit Rule 3(c)’s imperative— that appellees supplement appellants’ docketing statements that are not “complete and correct”—does not encompass a duty to identify nonjurisdictional defects. But “complete and correct” doesn’t mean “complete and correct on jurisdictional majers alone.” And even if defendants’ reading of Rule 3(c) were correct, language doesn’t fall into a safe haven from waiver merely because it is included at a litigant’s discretion. Waiver is an “intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right”. Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458, 464 8 No. 15-3764 (1938). But courts look to litigants’ (and their ajorneys’) words and actions as objective manifestations, rather than asking what parties were thinking when they said or did something. See, e.g., United States v. Fuentes, 858 F.3d 1119, 1121 (7th Cir. 2017); United States v. Ford, 798 F.3d 655, 660 (7th Cir. 2015). The requirement that a right be “known” in this case means only that defendants had to know that timeliness majers. Cf. Iowa v. Tovar, 541 U.S. 77, 92 (2004); United States v. Ruiz, 536 U.S. 622, 629 (2002). Because defendants actively asserted that the appeal was timely, they cannot now argue otherwise. Defendants contend that, even if they waived the timeliness argument, Hamer likewise waived the bene t of that waiver. Because Hamer argued in her jurisdictional memorandum during the rst round of appellate litigation that defendants “forfeited and wa[i]ved their right to motion for dismissal of case based on untimely ling of appellant’s motion to appeal”, this contention is unavailing. See 835 F.3d at 763 (recognizing that Hamer had argued that defendants waived the timeliness issue). So we must reach the merits of Hamer’s retaliation claim. Hamer was passed over for a promotion in February 2012 in favor of a younger, male colleague. Believing that this adverse employment action constituted age and sex discrimination, Hamer met with Linda Anderson, Neighborhood Housing’s Director of Human Resources, on February 27, and discussed her intention to le a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Anderson called Toya Glenn, Hamer’s supervisor, on February 28 to discuss the reasons that Hamer was not o ered the promotion. On March 1, Anderson emailed Robin Co ey, Neighborhood Housing’s Assistant No. 15-3764 9 Deputy Director, to request a meeting to “discuss a personnel issue.” Later that day, Co ey replied to Anderson’s email that the decision had been made to remove Hamer from the Mortgage Help Center. (Defendants assert that Glenn and Co ey made this decision without Fannie Mae exercising its right to remove employees from the Mortgage Help Center, but Hamer points to evidence that Mark Green, the Fannie Mae Site Manager, requested her removal. Given this factual dispute, which the district court did not resolve, we refer to all three as “decisionmakers”.) Hamer was temporarily assigned alternative duties at Neighborhood Housing’s central o ce. On March 14 Anderson told Hamer she could stay with Neighborhood Housing in a job that came with a 25% pay cut and a longer, more expensive commute, or she could refuse the job and be deemed to have resigned. She chose the lajer. Neighborhood Housing argues that Hamer’s removal was prompted, not by a complaint that the decisionmakers were unaware of, but by ongoing communication issues that her supervisor had noted in multiple performance reviews and that Green complained of during February 2012. According to Hamer, these issues could not have been the real reason for her removal because Glenn, the day before Anderson called her, drafted a career progression plan giving Hamer a month to improve her communication skills and, hours before the call, arranged for Hamer to ajend a conference in March. This suspicious timing, Hamer asserts, is evidence that Neighborhood Housing’s pro ered reason is pretextual. The district court held that being given the choice between accepting a demotion and voluntarily resigning was 10 No. 15-3764 not a constructive discharge and that Hamer had failed to show that her removal from the Center (which defendants conceded was an adverse employment action) was caused by the discrimination complaint. We don’t need to decide whether the district court was correct on the constructive discharge point, however, because Hamer has not established a causal link between her discrimination complaint and either adverse action. To retaliate against a complainant, decisionmakers must be aware of the complaint. Anderson knew of Hamer’s intention to le a charge but didn’t make any employment decisions, and Hamer has not established a genuine dispute about the decisionmakers’ knowledge. Glenn, Co ey, and Green all led a davits asserting they were never told of Hamer’s plan to le a complaint with the EEOC, and Anderson asserts that she never told anyone about it. In response Hamer o ers only speculation. Hamer observes that the a ants say they were not “told” about her plan to le a complaint but do not discuss whether they learned of the plan in some other way, as she conjectures they might. Glenn knew that Hamer had met with Anderson; maybe she inferred, when Anderson called the next day to discuss the reasons Hamer wasn’t promoted, that the meeting concerned allegations of discrimination. Or the notes that Anderson took while meeting with Hamer may have fallen into the decisionmakers’ laps. But Hamer did not depose Glenn, Co ey, Green, or anyone else, and she has not o ered any support for her speculation. Hamer has not provided even a “scintilla” of evidence, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248–52 (1986), to support her conjecture that the notes may have been included in her personnel No. 15-3764 11 le and that the decisionmakers looked in it. Speculative assertions about decisionmakers’ knowledge are insu cient to establish a genuine dispute about a material fact. See Nagle v. Calumet Park, 554 F.3d 1106, 1121–22 (7th Cir. 2009). The judgment of the district court is therefore AFFIRMED.
Primary Holding
Rights under nonjurisdictional rules, such as Fed. R. App. P 4(a)(5)(c)'s 30-day limit on extensions for filing a notice of appeal, can be waived in docketing statements.

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