Employment Class Action Defense Cases-Jenkins v. BellSouth: Eleventh Circuit Holds District Court Cannot Avoid 10-Day Deadline For Seeking Interlocutory Review of Class Action Certification Order By Vacating And Reentering Order
As Matter Of First Impression, 10-Day Deadline for Seeking Interlocutory Review of Court Order Refusing to Certify Class Action is Jurisdictional and District Court Cannot “Extend” Deadline by Vacating and Reentering its Order Eleventh Circuit Holds
Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against their employer, BellSouth, alleging a “pattern and practice of racial discrimination in promotions and compensation.” Defense attorneys opposed plaintiff’s motion to certify the lawsuit as a class action, and on September 19, 2006, the district court entered its order denying class certification. Jenkins v. BellSouth Corp., ___ F.3d ___, 2007 WL 1881294, *1 (11th Cir. July 2, 2007). On October 3, plaintiffs sought reconsideration of the order denying class action treatment, but on November 7 the court denied that request. Id. On November 24 plaintiffs asked the Eleventh Circuit for permission under FRCP Rule 23(f) to proceed with an interlocutory appeal of the class action certification order, but the Circuit Court dismissed the petition as untimely. Id. In response, plaintiffs asked the district court to “vacate and reenter” the order denying reconsideration, pleading that its petition in the Circuit Court was due November 22 (the day before Thanksgiving), that it attempted on November 21 to file its petition by overnight delivery, and that the package was delivered November 24 (the day after Thanksgiving). Id. The district court granted plaintiffs’ motion on March 5, 2007; specifically, the court “vacated its order of November 7, 2006, and reentered an identical order,” id. Plaintiffs filed their second Rule 23(f) petition on March 14, 2007, id.
The Eleventh Circuit stated that the issue presented had not been addressed previously in the circuit, explaining at page *1: “This petition presents an issue of first impression: whether a district court has the authority to circumvent the ten-day deadline for obtaining interlocutory review of an order denying class certification by vacating and reentering that order, after the aggrieved parties filed and this Court dismissed an untimely petition for an interlocutory appeal.” The Circuit Court held that “the district court lacked the authority to circumvent the ten-day deadline provided in Rule 23(f) by vacating and reentering its earlier order” and, accordingly, that plaintiffs’ petition was untimely, id. Accordingly, the Court dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction.