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U.S. Supreme Court

Browder v. Director, Dept. of Corrections, 434 U.S. 257 (1978)

Browder v. Director, Dept. of Corrections

No. 76-5325

Argued October 31, 1977

Decided January 10, 1978

434 U.S. 257


After unsuccessful efforts to overturn his state court conviction on direct appeal and state collateral attack, petitioner sought a writ of habeas corpus in a Federal District Court, which on October 21, 1975, ordered his release from respondent Corrections Director's custody unless the State retried him within 60 days. The court held no evidentiary hearing, but based its order on the habeas corpus petition, respondent's "motion to dismiss," and the state court record. Twenty-eight days after entry of the order, respondent moved for a stay of the conditional release order and for an evidentiary hearing. The District Court granted the motion, but, after a hearing, ruled, on January 26, 1976, that the writ of habeas corpus was properly issued. Respondent immediately filed a notice of appeal seeking review of both the October 21 and January 26 orders, and the Court of Appeals reversed. Federal Rule App.Proc. 4(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 2107 require that a notice of appeal in a civil case be filed within 30 days of entry of the judgment or order from which the appeal is taken, but, under Rule 4(a), the running of time for filing an appeal may be tolled by a timely motion filed in the district court pursuant to Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 52(b) or 59.

Held: The Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction to review the original October 21 order because respondent's motion for a stay and an evidentiary hearing (in essence a motion for rehearing or reconsideration) was untimely under Rule 52(b) or 59 and hence could not toll the running of the "mandatory and jurisdictional" 30-day time limit of Rule 4(a). Pp. 434 U. S. 264-271.

(a) The October 21 order was final for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 2253, which provides for an appeal in a habeas corpus proceeding from a "final order." The District Court discharged its duty under 28 U.S.C. § 2243 "summarily [to] hear and determine the facts" by granting the habeas corpus petition on the state court record, and the absence of an evidentiary hearing, whether error or not, did not render the release order nonfinal. Pp. 434 U. S. 265-267.

(b) Habeas corpus is a civil proceeding, and Rules 52(b) and 59 were applicable. While the procedures set forth in the habeas corpus

Page 434 U. S. 258

statutes apply during the pendency of such a proceeding and Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 81(a)(2) recognizes the supremacy of such procedures over the Federal Rules, the habeas corpus statutes say nothing about the proper method for obtaining correction of asserted errors after judgment, whether on appeal or in the district court. Accordingly, the timeliness of respondent's postjudgment motion was governed by Rule 52(b) or 59. Pp. 434 U. S. 267-271.

534 F.2d 331, reversed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. BLACKMUN, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 434 U. S. 272.

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