SCOTUS Interprets Statute Relating to Timeframe For Refiling State Law Claims (Including For Employment Discrimination) When Federal Court Dismisses Them

In Artis v. District of Columbia, 2018 WL 491524 (U.S. Sup. Ct. Jan. 22, 2018), the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted a federal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d), which provides the timeframe for when state claims must be re-filed in state court after their dismissal from a federal action.

In many cases, particularly employment discrimination cases, both federal and state laws may apply to a particular situation. While federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, a plaintiff may assert state-law claims in federal court, as long as there is a basis for the federal court to exercise “supplemental jurisdiction” over them.

The federal supplemental jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1367, provides the basis for asserting a violation of state law in federal court. If the federal court dismisses the federal claims, and declines to continue to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state claims, the plaintiff is often relegated to asserting those claims in state court.

That is where 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d) comes into play. That statute provides:

The period of limitations for any [state] claim [joined with a claim within federal-court competence] shall be tolled while the claim is pending [in federal court] and for a period of 30 days after it is dismissed unless State law provides for a longer tolling period. [Emphasis added; bracketing supplied by Court.]

The court Court addressed the following question:

Does the word “tolled,” as used in § 1367(d), mean the state limitations period is suspended during the pendency of the federal suit; or does “tolled” mean that, although the state limitations period continues to run, a plaintiff is accorded a grace period of 30 days to refile in state court post dismissal of the federal case?

In sum, the Court adopted first (which it labeled the “stop the clock”) interpretation – i.e., section 1367(d) gives plaintiffs more than a 30-day “grace period.”

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