By David Darr

Today, in Schaller v. Colvin, an unpublished per curium opinion, the Fourth Circuit dismissed an appeal from the Eastern District of North Carolina due to failure to enter a timely appeal. Because of this, the Eastern District of North Carolina’s decision denying William Howard Schaller social security benefits stood.

Was Schaller’s Appeal Timely?

The only issue that the Fourth Circuit needed to decide in this appeal was whether Schaller’s notice of appeal was filed timely.

The Eastern District of North Carolina Denied Schaller Social Security Benefits

On December 1, 2009, Schaller filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA) alleging disability since September 18, 2002. Schaller claimed disability from sleep apnea, circadian rhythm disorder, morbid obesity, degenerative disc disease, depression, and a history of alcohol abuse. Schaller claimed that he could no longer work at the North Carolina Department of Transportation as a result of these conditions causing him to be unable to sleep. Schaller claimed that he could not keep a regular sleep schedule and function at his job. The SSA denied his claim initially and again upon reconsideration. Schaller appealed and was heard before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ found that Schaller suffered from severe impairments that resulted in a mild limitation to daily living, mild difficulties in social functioning, and moderate difficulties in concentration. These impairments made it so that Schaller could no longer work at his previous job. However, these limitations were not severe enough to eliminate Schaller from the work force and he could find gainful employment at a number of existing jobs. Therefore, the ALJ denied Schaller’s claim.

Schaller then brought the current action against Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the SSA, in the Eastern District of North Carolina, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3), to seek judicial review of the SSA’s denial of disability benefits. Each party filed cross-motions for summary judgment.  A magistrate found that the ALJ’s decision was not erroneous. The magistrate issued a recommendation that the district court grant the SSA’s motion for summary judgment. The district court then adopted the magistrate’s recommendation as a final decision, dismissing Schaller’s action and upholding the decision of the SSA to deny Schaller’s claim. Schaller filed the current appeal sixty-two days after the district court’s final judgment was entered.

Parties Are Given Sixty Days to File a Notice of Appeal

Rule 4(a)(1)(B)(ii) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure gives parties in a civil action to which an agency of the United States is a party sixty days after the district court’s entry of judgment to file a notice of appeal.

Schaller Filed His Appeal Too Late

Schaller filed his notice of appeal sixty-two days after the district court entered final judgment. Sixty-two days is not considered a timely appeal unless the district court extends the period. Timely filing a notice of appeal in a civil case is a jurisdictional requirement for the appellate court. An appellate court is forced to dismiss an appeal for lack of jurisdiction if the notice of appeal was not timely filed. Therefore, the Fourth Circuit was forced to dismiss the appeal because it was not timely filed.

The Forth Circuit Denied Schaller’s Appeal

The Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction because the appeal was not timely filed.

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