New Federal Rules Regarding Time Periods

Unless Congress takes action, effective December 1, 2009, the rules regarding how time periods are calculated in Federal courts are changing as are some of the time periods.  Under the current version of Rule 6 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays are excluded when calculating periods less than 11 days, but not when calculating periods 11 days or longer.  The version of Rule 6 effective December 1, 2009, does not exclude intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays.

The same changes have been made to the rules for computing time in the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.  The new rules also include changes to the actual time periods under the rules.

But including weekends and holidays effectively shortens many existing periods of less than 11 days in appellate, civil, and criminal proceedings, and 8 days in bankruptcy proceedings. In a major undertaking, the Committee looked at every time period in all the rules and made adjustments to take this into account. Most short periods were extended to offset the shift in the time-computation rules and to ensure that each period is reasonable. “Five-day periods became 7-day periods and 10-day periods became 14-day periods, in effect maintaining the status quo,” said Rosenthal.

Periods shorter than 30 days were also revised to be multiples of 7 days, to reduce the likelihood of ending on weekends.

(Time Changes Coming to Federal Rules, The Third Branch, June 2009).  Examples of the changed time periods include:

  • Fed. R. App. P. 5(b)(2):  Time for filing an answer in opposition changes from 7 to 10 days.
  • Fed. R. App. P. 5(d)(1):  Time for paying fee changes from 10 days to 14 days.
  • Fed. R. App. P. 15(b)(2):  Time for filing an answer to application changes from 20 days to 21 days.
  • Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1)(A):  Time for filing an answer changes from 20 days to 21 days.
  • Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(4):  Time for filing responsive pleadings after motion granted or denied changes from 10 days to 14 days.

The changes in the new Rules include additional provisions to make computing time periods easier.

Other changes to the federal time-computation rules affect how to tell when the last day of a period ends, how to compute hourly time periods, how to calculate a time period when the clerk’s office is inaccessible, and how to compute backward-counted periods that end on a weekend or holiday.

(Time Changes Coming to Federal Rules, The Third Branch, June 2009).

A summary of the changes can be found here.  Additional information, including copies of all of the amended rules and statutes are available here.  Slide shows discussing the changes can be found here (no longer available).

The new time periods will probably cause confusion for a while.  However, in the long run, the simpler method for computing time periods should be beneficial for everyone that practices in the Federal courts.