On November 1, 2017, the Supreme Court heard argument in Artis v. District of Columbia, a case involving a dispute over the meaning of tolling as the term is used in the federal supplemental jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d).
In April 2009, Stephanie Artis, a temporary employee for DC’s Department of Health (DOH), filed a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging discrimination by her supervisor, Gerard Brown. Artis followed the charge with a series of grievances challenging notices of proposed infractions against her and alleging other violations of employee rights by Brown. The DOH terminated her employment in November 2010, and she lodged a final grievance in January 2011, alleging the termination was unlawful retaliation.
Artis filed suit against DC in federal district court in December 2011. She asserted a federal claim of unlawful termination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, along with various other claims arising under DC statutes and the common law. In June 2014, the district court granted DC judgment on the pleadings and dismissed Artis’ sole federal claim under Title VII. Given the facial deficiency of that claim, the district court found no basis for exercising supplemental jurisdiction over Artis’ remaining non-federal claims. Fifty-nine days later Artis refiled those remaining claims in DC Superior Court. DC responded with a motion for dismissal on the grounds that the claims were time-barred based on the relevant statutes of limitations plus 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d) of the federal supplemental jurisdiction statute. The Superior Court agreed, concluding that § 1367(d) does not suspend state statutes of limitations at the time of an unsuccessful federal filing, but rather creates a thirty-day period for a claimant to file actions over which the U.S. District Court lacked jurisdiction.
The language of 1367(d) provides that statutes of limitations “shall be tolled while the claim is pending and for a period of 30 days after it is dismissed unless State law provides for a longer tolling period.” On appeal to the DC Court of Appeals, Artis argued that there were nearly two years remaining on the statute of limitations when she filed her suit in the federal district court, and under the language of 1367(d) she had that period (plus thirty days) to file her claims in the Superior Court after her case was dismissed. DC countered that “tolled” should merely mean that a thirty-day “grace period” applies if the limitations period for the non-federal claims expires (as it would have in Artis’ case) while the federal claim is pending in federal court. The DC Court of Appeals found DC’s “grace period” reading more persuasive. As Artis had failed to refile her remaining claims within that grace period following dismissal, the Court of Appeals deemed them time-barred and affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to address the dueling interpretations of § 1367(d): whether that provision suspends the limitations period for a non-federal claim while the claim is pending and for 30 days after the claim is dismissed, or whether the tolling provision does not suspend the limitations period but merely provides 30 days beyond the dismissal for the plaintiff to refile.
To discuss the case, we have Misha Tseytlin, Solicitor General of Wisconsin.