Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee News Roundup is an NCSL electronic newsletter for Committee members and interested staff. This newsletter provides quarterly updates and links to the latest research and news highlights related to law, criminal justice and public safety.
While Artis was waiting for the federal district court to rule, the three-year statutes of limitations on all her state law claims passed. She waited 59 days to refile her claims in state court after the federal district court dismissed her case. Was her claim timely? The District of Columbia Court of Appeals held “no.” Under the suspension theory the state statute of limitations freeze on the day the federal suit is filed and unfreeze with the addition of 30 days when the federal lawsuit is dismissed. Under this theory Artis would have about two years to refile her lawsuit in state court. Under the grace-period theory, if the state statute of limitations would have expired while the federal case was pending, a litigant has 30 days from federal court dismissal to refile in state court. Under this theory Artis’s lawsuit in state court is time-barred because she waited longer the 30 days to refile in state court.
The SLLC amicus brief argues in favor of the grace-period theory. As this case illustrates, local governments are regularly sued in cases involving federal and state law claims. The longer the tolling period the greater the costs and burden are on resource constrained local governments. The brief also points out that many states have state law tolling provisions longer 30 days which would be preempted per Artis’s interpretation, “despite the fact that state statutes of limitations schemes reflect careful balancing of competing policy concerns that are the province of state legislatures.”
Please contact your Committee staff, Alison Lawrence in Denver and Susan Parnas-Frederick in D.C., with any questions or needs.