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United States v. Carelock

August 18, 2006


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. Crim. No. 95-00415-1). District Judge: The Honorable Dennis M. Cavanaugh.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Aldisert, Circuit Judge


Argued July 10, 2006

Before: SMITH, ALDISERT and ROTH, Circuit Judges.


Olanda Carelock appeals the sentence that he received following the revocation of his supervised release. He argues that the sentence-14 months' imprisonment and 36 months' supervised release (which was reduced to 22 months on account of the 14-month period of incarceration)-is unreasonable.*fn1

Because Carelock failed to file a timely notice of appeal that complied with the requirements of Rule 3(c) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure or was the functional equivalent of what the rule requires, we will dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.*fn2


In light of our jurisdictional concerns surrounding Carelock's notice of appeal, we need not discuss the facts underlying the District Court's revocation of his term of supervised release and instead will focus on those events that followed the filing of the District Court's judgment on April 25, 2005. Four days after that date, on April 29, 2005, Carelock's counsel electronically filed a notice of appeal with the District Court. Regrettably, although the notice was filed in Carelock's case in the District Court's electronic filing system, it had the wrong defendant's name, the wrong docket number, the wrong district court judge's name, and the wrong judgment date. The notice instead bore the name and case information of Omar Tecat, a criminal defendant also represented by Carelock's counsel. The District Court clerk's office acknowledged receipt of the notice on April 29, 2005, but also issued a quality control message noting these errors.*fn3 App. at 2. Carelock's counsel was advised by the District Court clerk's office that the defective notice of appeal pertained to Omar Tecat and not Olanda Carelock.*fn4 App. at 7. The clerk later noted on the docket sheet that Carelock's case was not even subject to e-filing in the District Court at this time.*fn5 App. at 2.

At oral argument, Carelock's counsel explained that he had drafted a proper notice for Carelock, but accidentally electronically filed the notice of appeal for Omar Tecat instead. When the District Court notified him of a possible error, however, Carelock's counsel acknowledged that he took no immediate action that corrected the problem. He stated that upon receiving notification of an error from the Court, he reviewed a printout copy of the notice of appeal (the one that bore Carelock's name and information) and concluded that there was nothing wrong. At this time, Carelock's counsel neglected to review the document that he had actually electronically filed with the District Court.

On July 25, 2005, the case was docketed in this Court. That day, the clerk's office of this Court sent a letter to the parties notifying them of the possible jurisdictional defect in this appeal owing from the incorrect notice of appeal. On August 4, 2005, we received a response from Carelock's counsel explaining the mistake and arguing that the mere act of electronically filing the defective notice in Carelock's file should have served as the functional equivalent of a notice of appeal. Aug. 4, 2005 letter to the clerk of this Court (citing In re Continental Airlines, 125 F.3d 120, 129 (3d Cir. 1997)). That same day, we received a corrected notice of appeal that bore Olanda Carelock's name and case information. It bears comment that this attempt to explain and correct the April 29, 2005 notice took place a little over 90 days after the mistake actually had been made and counsel had been alerted that there was a problem with the electronic filing.

On August 8, 2005, we received the government's response, wherein it argued that Carelock's April 29 notice of appeal does not comply with the content requirements of Rule 3 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. Because of this defect, it contends that we lack jurisdiction to hear this appeal because Carelock failed to file a proper notice of appeal of Carelock's case within the ten-day window of Rule 4(b)(1)(A) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.


"An appeal permitted by law as of right from a district court to a court of appeals may be taken only by filing a notice of appeal with the district clerk within the time allowed by Rule 4." Rule 3(a)(1), Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. "Rule 3 and Rule 4 combine to require that a notice of appeal be filed with the clerk of the district court within the time prescribed for taking an appeal [and, because] the timely filing of a notice of appeal is 'mandatory and jurisdictional,' [] compliance with the provisions of those rules is of the utmost importance." Rule 3, Advisory Committee Note, Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (internal citations omitted) (cited with approval in Torres v. Oakland Scavenger Co., 487 U.S. 312, 315 (1988)); Poole v. Fam. Ct. of New Castle County, 368 F.3d 263, 264 (3d Cir. 2004) ("The timeliness of an appeal is a mandatory jurisdictional prerequisite.").*fn6 Per Rule 4, a notice of appeal "must be filed in the district court within 10 days after the later of: (i) the entry of either the judgment or the order being appealed; or (ii) the filing of the government's notice of appeal." Rule 4(b)(1)(A), Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. Here, the judgment was entered on April 25, 2005, so Carelock had ...

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