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Amicus Briefs

Kemp v. U.S.

When the Supreme Court adopted the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the 1930s, it provided that Rule 60 should be available to correct judicial errors of law. The Court granted cert in Kemp because it presented an ideal opportunity to remedy a decades-long split that had divided courts of appeals over how Rule 60(b) applies to “legal error.”

In 2018, Mr. Kemp, a federal prisoner, moved under Rule 60(b) in the district court to reopen his case, arguing that the court failed to account for Supreme Court Rule 13.3 when it dismissed his post-conviction petition as untimely. The Government and the Eleventh Circuit both recognized that the district court committed a legal error. The Question Presented was whether Rule 60(b)(1) authorizes relief from final judgment based on legal error, “as well as mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect”—or does “legal error” fall into a different subsection, Rule 60(b)(6), that also authorizes relief to Mr. Kemp based on the district court’s error?

Congress enacted Rule 60(b) to simplify, expand, and standardize post-judgment review with the goal of “accomplish[ing] justice” and avoiding “undermining the public’s confidence in the judicial process.” Congress designed the Rule and its subsections to provide for correction of judgments that were flawed in particular ways. Moreover, Congress updated the Rule soon after its initial implementation to expand litigants’ ability to obtain relief from erroneous judgments. Reading the Rule to provide for overlapping or alternate remedies in the way proposed by the Government defeats the design of the Rule, contradicts the harmonious reading canon of statutory interpretation, and fails to serve the Rule’s purpose of doing substantial justice.

Mark Chenoweth
President and Chief Legal Officer
Margaret A. Little
Senior Litigation Counsel

Opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court

June 13, 2022 | Read More

Brief Amicus Curiae of the New Civil Liberties Alliance in Support of the Petitioner

March 1, 2022 | Read More


NCLA Backs SCOTUS Case Seeking to Resolve Circuit Split on Interp of Federal Civil Proc. Rule 60(b)

March 2, 2022 | Read More



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