(a) Filing the Notice of Appeal.
(1) An appeal permitted by law as of right from a district court to a court of appeals may be taken only by filing a notice of appeal with the district clerk within the time allowed by Rule 4. At the time of filing, the appellant must furnish the clerk with enough copies of the notice to enable the clerk to comply with Rule 3(d).
(2) An appellant's failure to take any step other than the timely filing of a notice of appeal does not affect the validity of the appeal, but is ground only for the court of appeals to act as it considers appropriate, including dismissing the appeal.
(3) An appeal from a judgment by a magistrate judge in a civil case is taken in the same way as an appeal from any other district court judgment.
(b) Joint or Consolidated Appeals.
(1) When two or more parties are entitled to appeal from a district-court judgment or order, and their interests make joinder practicable, they may file a joint notice of appeal. They may then proceed on appeal as a single appellant.
(2) When the parties have filed separate timely notices of appeal, the appeals may be joined or consolidated by the court of appeals.
(c) Contents of the Notice of Appeal.
(1) The notice of appeal must:
(A) specify the party or parties taking the appeal by naming each one in the caption or body of the notice, but an attorney representing more than one party may describe those parties with such terms as “all plaintiffs,” “the defendants,” “the plaintiffs A, B, et al.,” or “all defendants except X”;
(B) designate the judgment—or the appealable order—from which the appeal is taken; and
(C) name the court to which the appeal is taken.
(2) A pro se notice of appeal is considered filed on behalf of the signer and the signer's spouse and minor children (if they are parties), unless the notice clearly indicates otherwise.
(3) In a class action, whether or not the class has been certified, the notice of appeal is sufficient if it names one person qualified to bring the appeal as representative of the class.
(4) The notice of appeal encompasses all orders that, for purposes of appeal, merge into the designated judgment or appealable order. It is not necessary to designate those orders in the notice of appeal.
(5) In a civil case, a notice of appeal encompasses the final judgment, whether or not that judgment is set out in a separate document under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58, if the notice designates:
(A) An order that adjudicates all remaining claims and the rights and liabilities of all remaining parties; or
(B) an order described in Rule 4(a)(4)(A).
(6) An appellant may designate only part of a judgment or appealable order by expressly stating that the notice of appeal is so limited. Without such an express statement, specific designations do not limit the scope of the notice of appeal.
(7) An appeal must not be dismissed for informality of form or title of the notice of appeal, or for failure to name a party whose intent to appeal is otherwise clear from the notice, or for failure to properly designate the judgment if the notice of appeal was filed after entry of the judgment and designates an order that merged into that judgment.
(8) Forms 1A and 1B in the Appendix of Forms are suggested forms of notices of appeal.
(d) Serving the Notice of Appeal.
(1) The district clerk must serve notice of the filing of a notice of appeal by sending a copy to each party's counsel of record—excluding the appellant's—or, if a party is proceeding pro se, to the party's last known address. When a defendant in a criminal case appeals, the clerk must also serve a copy of the notice of appeal on the defendant. The clerk must promptly send a copy of the notice of appeal and of the docket entries—and any later docket entries—to the clerk of the court of appeals named in the notice. The district clerk must note, on each copy, the date when the notice of appeal was filed.
(2) If an inmate confined in an institution files a notice of appeal in the manner provided by Rule 4(c), the district clerk must also note the date when the clerk docketed the notice.
(3) The district clerk's failure to serve notice does not affect the validity of the appeal. The clerk must note on the docket the names of the parties to whom the clerk sends copies, with the date of sending. Service is sufficient despite the death of a party or the party's counsel.
(e) Payment of Fees. Upon filing a notice of appeal, the appellant must pay the district clerk all required fees. The district clerk receives the appellate docket fee on behalf of the court of appeals.
(As amended Apr. 30, 1979, eff. Aug. 1, 1979; Mar. 10, 1986, eff. July 1, 1986; Apr. 25, 1989, eff. Dec. 1, 1989; Apr. 22, 1993, eff. Dec. 1, 1993; Apr. 29, 1994, eff. Dec. 1, 1994; Apr. 24, 1998, eff. Dec. 1, 1998; Apr. 25, 2019, eff. Dec. 1, 2019.)
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1967
General Note. Rule 3 and Rule 4 combine to require that a notice of appeal be filed with the clerk of the district court within the time prescribed for taking an appeal. Because the timely filing of a notice of appeal is “mandatory and jurisdictional,” United States v. Robinson, 361 U.S. 220, 224, 80 S.Ct. 282, 4 L.Ed.2d 259 (1960), compliance with the provisions of those rules is of the utmost importance. But the proposed rules merely restate, in modified form, provisions now found in the civil and criminal rules (FRCP 5 (e), 73; FRCrP 37), and decisions under the present rules which dispense with literal compliance in cases in which it cannot fairly be exacted should control interpretation of these rules. Illustrative decisions are: Fallen v. United States, 378 U.S. 139, 84 S.Ct. 1689, 12 L.Ed.2d 760 (1964) (notice of appeal by a prisoner, in the form of a letter delivered, well within the time fixed for appeal, to prison authorities for mailing to the clerk of the district court held timely filed notwithstanding that it was received by the clerk after expiration of the time for appeal; the appellant “did all he could” to effect timely filing); Richey v. Wilkins, 335 F.2d 1 (2d Cir. 1964) (notice filed in the court of appeals by a prisoner without assistance of counsel held sufficient); Halfen v. United States, 324 F.2d 52 (10th Cir. 1963) (notice mailed to district judge in time to have been received by him in normal course held sufficient); Riffle v. United States, 299 F.2d 802 (5th Cir. 1962) (letter of prisoner to judge of court of appeals held sufficient). Earlier cases evidencing “a liberal view of papers filed by indigent and incarcerated defendants” are listed in Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 442, n. 5, 82 S.Ct. 917, 8 L.Ed.2d 21 (1962).
Subdivision (a). The substance of this subdivision is derived from FRCP 73 (a) and FRCrP 37 (a)(1). The proposed rule follows those rules in requiring nothing other than the filing of a notice of appeal in the district court for the perfection of the appeal. The petition for allowance (except for appeals governed by Rules 5 and 6), citations, assignments of error, summons and severance—all specifically abolished by earlier modern rules—are assumed to be sufficiently obsolete as no longer to require pointed abolition.
Subdivision (b). The first sentence is derived from FRCP 74. The second sentence is added to encourage consolidation of appeals whenever feasible.
Subdivision (d). This subdivision is derived from FRCP 73 (b) and FRCrP 37 (a)(1). The duty of the clerk to forward a copy of the notice of appeal and of the docket entries to the court of appeals in a criminal case extended to habeas corpus and 28 U.S.C. §2255 proceedings.
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1979 Amendment
Subdivision (c). The proposed amendment would add the last sentence. Because of the fact that the timely filing of the notice of appeal has been characterized as jurisdictional (See, e.g., Brainerd v. Beal (C.A. 7th, 1974) 498 F.2d 901, in which the filing of a notice of appeal one day late was fatal), it is important that the right to appeal not be lost by mistakes of mere form. In a number of decided cases it has been held that so long as the function of notice is met by the filing of a paper indicating an intention to appeal, the substance of the rule has been complied with. See, e.g., Cobb v. Lewis (C.A. 5th, 1974) 488 F.2d 41; Holley v. Capps (C.A. 5th, 1972) 468 F.2d 1366. The proposed amendment would give recognition to this practice.
When a notice of appeal is filed, the clerk should ascertain whether any judgment designated therein has been entered in compliance with Rules 58 and 79(a) of the F.R.C.P. See Note to Rule 4(a)(6), infra.
Subdivision (d). The proposed amendment would extend to civil cases the present provision applicable to criminal cases, habeas corpus cases, and proceedings under 28 U.S.C. §2255, requiring the clerk of the district court to transmit to the clerk of the court of appeals a copy of the notice of appeal and of the docket entries, which should include reference to compliance with the requirements for payment of fees. See Note to (e), infra.
This requirement is the initial step in proposed changes in the rules to place in the court of appeals an increased practical control over the early steps in the appeal.
Subdivision (e). Proposed new Rule 3(e) represents the second step in shifting to the court of appeals the control of the early stages of an appeal. See Note to Rule 3(d) above. Under the present rules the payment of the fee prescribed by 28 U.S.C. 1917 is not covered. Under the statute, however, this fee is paid to the clerk of the district court at the time the notice of appeal is filed. Under present Rule 12, the “docket fee” fixed by the Judicial Conference of the United States under 28 U.S.C. §1913 must be paid to the clerk of the court of appeals within the time fixed for transmission of the record, “. . . and the clerk shall thereupon enter the appeal upon the docket.”
Under the proposed new Rule 3(e) both fees would be paid to the clerk of the district court at the time the notice of appeal is filed, the clerk of the district court receiving the docket fee on behalf of the court of appeals.
In view of the provision in Rule 3(a) that “[f]ailure of an appellant to take any step other than the timely filing of a notice of appeal does not affect the validity of the appeal, but is ground only for such action as the court of appeals deems appropriate, which may include dismissal of the appeal,” the case law indicates that the failure to prepay the statutory filing fee does not constitute a jurisdictional defect. See Parissi v. Telechron, 349 U.S. 46 (1955); Gould v. Members of N. J. Division of Water Policy & Supply, 555 F.2d 340 (3d Cir. 1977). Similarly, under present Rule 12, failure to pay the docket fee within the time prescribed may be excused by the court of appeals. See, e. g., Walker v. Mathews, 546 F.2d 814 (9th Cir. 1976). Proposed new Rule 3(e) adopts the view of these cases, requiring that both fees be paid at the time the notice of appeal is filed, but subject to the provisions of Rule 26(b) preserving the authority of the court of appeals to permit late payment.
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1986 Amendment
The amendments to Rule 3(d) are technical. No substantive change is intended.
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1989 Amendment
The amendment is technical. No substantive change is intended.
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1993 Amendment
Note to subdivision (c). The amendment is intended to reduce the amount of satellite litigation spawned by the Supreme Court's decision in Torres v. Oakland Scavenger Co., 487 U.S. 312 (1988). In Torres the Supreme Court held that the language in Rule 3(c) requiring a notice of appeal to “specify the party or parties taking the appeal” is a jurisdictional requirement and that naming the first named party and adding “et al.,” without any further specificity is insufficient to identify the appellants. Since the Torres decision, there has been a great deal of litigation regarding whether a notice of appeal that contains some indication of the appellants’ identities but does not name the appellants is sufficiently specific.
The amendment states a general rule that specifying the parties should be done by naming them. Naming an appellant in an otherwise timely and proper notice of appeal ensures that the appellant has perfected an appeal. However, in order to prevent the loss of a right to appeal through inadvertent omission of a party's name or continued use of such terms as “et al.,” which are sufficient in all district court filings after the complaint, the amendment allows an attorney representing more than one party the flexibility to indicate which parties are appealing without naming them individually. The test established by the rule for determining whether such designations are sufficient is whether it is objectively clear that a party intended to appeal. A notice of appeal filed by a party proceeding pro se is filed on behalf of the party signing the notice and the signer's spouse and minor children, if they are parties, unless the notice clearly indicates a contrary intent.
In class actions, naming each member of a class as an appellant may be extraordinarily burdensome or even impossible. In class actions if class certification has been denied, named plaintiffs may appeal the order denying the class certification on their own behalf and on behalf of putative class members, United States Parole Comm'n v. Geraghty, 445 U.S. 388 (1980); or if the named plaintiffs choose not to appeal the order denying the class certification, putative class members may appeal, United Airlines, Inc. v. McDonald, 432 U.S. 385 (1977). If no class has been certified, naming each of the putative class members as an appellant would often be impossible. Therefore the amendment provides that in class actions, whether or not the class has been certified, it is sufficient for the notice to name one person qualified to bring the appeal as a representative of the class.
Finally, the rule makes it clear that dismissal of an appeal should not occur when it is otherwise clear from the notice that the party intended to appeal. If a court determines it is objectively clear that a party intended to appeal, there are neither administrative concerns nor fairness concerns that should prevent the appeal from going forward.
Note to subdivision (d). The amendment requires the district court clerk to send to the clerk of the court of appeals a copy of every docket entry in a case after the filing of a notice of appeal. This amendment accompanies the amendment to Rule 4(a)(4), which provides that when one of the posttrial motions enumerated in Rule 4(a)(4) is filed, a notice of appeal filed before the disposition of the motion becomes effective upon disposition of the motion. The court of appeals needs to be advised that the filing of a posttrial motion has suspended a notice of appeal. The court of appeals also needs to know when the district court has ruled on the motion. Sending copies of all docket entries after the filing of a notice of appeal should provide the courts of appeals with the necessary information.
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1994 Amendment
Subdivision (a). The amendment requires a party filing a notice of appeal to provide the court with sufficient copies of the notice for service on all other parties.
Committee Notes on Rules—1998 Amendment
The language and organization of the rule are amended to make the rule more easily understood. In addition to changes made to improve the understanding, the Advisory Committee has changed language to make style and terminology consistent throughout the appellate rules. These changes are generally intended to be stylistic only; in this rule, however, substantive changes are made in subdivisions (a), (b), and (d).
Subdivision (a). The provision in paragraph (a)(3) is transferred from former Rule 3.1(b). The Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104–317, repealed paragraphs (4) and (5) of 28 U.S.C. §636(c). That statutory change made the continued separate existence of Rule 3.1 unnecessary. New paragraph (a)(3) of this rule simply makes it clear that an appeal from a judgment by a magistrate judge is taken in identical fashion to any other appeal from a district-court judgment.
Subdivision (b). A joint appeal is authorized only when two or more persons may appeal from a single judgment or order. A joint appeal is treated as a single appeal and the joint appellants file a single brief. Under existing Rule 3(b) parties decide whether to join their appeals. They may do so by filing a joint notice of appeal or by joining their appeals after filing separate notices of appeal.
In consolidated appeals the separate appeals do not merge into one. The parties do not proceed as a single appellant. Under existing Rule 3(b) it is unclear whether appeals may be consolidated without court order if the parties stipulate to consolidation. The language resolves that ambiguity by requiring court action.
The language also requires court action to join appeals after separate notices of appeal have been filed.
Subdivision (d). Paragraph (d)(2) has been amended to require that when an inmate files a notice of appeal by depositing the notice in the institution's internal mail system, the clerk must note the docketing date—rather than the receipt date—on the notice of appeal before serving copies of it. This change conforms to a change in Rule 4(c). Rule 4(c) is amended to provide that when an inmate files the first notice of appeal in a civil case by depositing the notice in an institution's internal mail system, the time for filing a cross-appeal runs from the date the district court dockets the inmate's notice of appeal. Existing Rule 4(c) says that in such a case the time for filing a cross-appeal runs from the date the district court receives the inmate's notice of appeal. A court may “receive” a paper when its mail is delivered to it even if the mail is not processed for a day or two, making the date of receipt uncertain. “Docketing” is an easily identified event. The change is made to eliminate the uncertainty.
Committee Notes on Rules—2019 Amendment
Amendments to Subdivision (d) change the words "mailing" and "mails" to "sending" and "sends," and delete language requiring certain forms of service, to allow for electronic service. Other rules determine when a party or the clerk may or must send a notice electronically or non-electronically.
Committee Notes on Rules—2021 Amendment
The notice of appeal is supposed to be a simple document that provides notice that a party is appealing and invokes the jurisdiction of the court of appeals. It therefore must state who is appealing, what is being appealed, and to what court the appeal is being taken. It is the role of the briefs, not the notice of appeal, to focus the issues on appeal.
Because the jurisdiction of the court of appeals is established by statute, an appeal can be taken only from those district court decisions from which Congress has authorized an appeal. In most instances, that is the final judgment, see, e.g., 28 U.S.C. § 1291, but some other orders are considered final within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and some interlocutory orders are themselves appealable, see, e.g., 28 U.S.C. § 1292. Accordingly, Rule 3(c)(1) currently requires that the notice of appeal “designate the judgment, order, or part thereof being appealed.” The judgment or order to be designated is the one serving as the basis of the court’s appellate jurisdiction and from which time limits are calculated.
However, some have interpreted this language as an invitation, if not a requirement, to designate each and every order of the district court that the appellant may wish to challenge on appeal. Such an interpretation overlooks a key distinction between the judgment or order on appeal—the one serving as the basis of the court’s appellate jurisdiction and from which time limits are calculated—and the various orders or decisions that may be reviewed on appeal because they merge into the judgment or order on appeal. Designation of the final judgment confers appellate jurisdiction over prior interlocutory orders that merge into the final judgment. The merger principle is a corollary of the final judgment rule: a party cannot appeal from most interlocutory orders, but must await final judgment, and only then obtain review of interlocutory orders on appeal from the final judgment.
In an effort to avoid the misconception that it is necessary or appropriate to designate each and every order of the district court that the appellant may wish to challenge on appeal, Rule 3(c)(1) is amended to require the designation of “the judgment—or the appealable order—from which the appeal is taken,” and the phrase “or part thereof” is deleted. In most cases, because of the merger principle, it is appropriate to designate only the judgment. In other cases, particularly where an appeal from an interlocutory order is authorized, the notice of appeal must designate that appealable order.
Whether due to misunderstanding or a misguided attempt at caution, some notices of appeal designate both the judgment and some particular order that the appellant wishes to challenge on appeal. A number of courts, using an expressio unius rationale, have held that such a designation of a particular order limits the scope of the notice of appeal to the particular order, and prevents the appellant from challenging other orders that would otherwise be reviewable, under the merger principle, on appeal from the final judgment. These decisions inadvertently create a trap for the unwary.
However, there are circumstances in which an appellant may deliberately choose to limit the scope of the notice of appeal, and it is desirable to enable the appellant to convey this deliberate choice to the other parties.
To alert readers to the merger principle, a new provision is added to Rule 3(c): “The notice of appeal encompasses all orders that, for purposes of appeal, merge into the designated judgment or appealable order. It is not necessary to designate those orders in the notice of appeal.” The general merger rule can be stated simply: an appeal from a final judgment permits review of all rulings that led up to the judgment. Because this general rule is subject to some exceptions and complications, the amendment does not attempt to codify the merger principle but instead leaves its details to case law.
The amendment does not change the principle established in Budinich v. Becton Dickinson & Co., 486 U.S. 196, 202-03 (1988), that “a decision on the merits is a ‘final decision’ for purposes of § 1291 whether or not there remains for adjudication a request for attorney’s fees attributable to the case.” See also Ray Haluch Gravel Co. v. Cent. Pension Fund of Int’l Union of Operating Eng’rs & Participating Emp.’s, 571 U.S. 177, 179 (2014) (“Whether the claim for attorney’s fees is based on a statute, a contract, or both, the pendency of a ruling on an award for fees and costs does not prevent, as a general rule, the merits judgment from becoming final for purposes of appeal.”).
To remove the trap for the unwary, while enabling deliberate limitations of the notice of appeal, another new provision is added to Rule 3(c): “An appellant may designate only part of a judgment or appealable order by expressly stating that the notice of appeal is so limited. Without such an express statement, specific designations do not limit the scope of the notice of appeal.”
A related problem arises when a case is decided by a series of orders, sometimes separated by a year or more. For example, some claims might be dismissed for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), and then, after a considerable period for discovery, summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 is granted in favor of the defendant on the remaining claims. That second order, because it resolves all of the remaining claims, is a final judgment, and an appeal from that final judgment confers jurisdiction to review the earlier Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) dismissal. But if a notice of appeal describes the second order, not as a final judgment, but as an order granting summary judgment, some courts would limit appellate review to the summary judgment and refuse to consider a challenge to the earlier Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) dismissal. Similarly, if the district court complies with the separate document requirement of Fed. R. Civ. P. 58, and enters both an order granting summary judgment as to the remaining claims and a separate document denying all relief, but the notice of appeal designates the order granting summary judgment rather than the separate document, some courts would likewise limit appellate review to the summary judgment and refuse to consider a challenge to the earlier Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) dismissal. This creates a trap for all but the most wary, because at the time that the district court issues the order disposing of all remaining claims, a litigant may not know whether the district court will ever enter the separate document required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 58.
To remove this trap, a new provision is added to Rule 3(c): “In a civil case, a notice of appeal encompasses the final judgment, whether or not that judgment is set out in a separate document under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58, if the notice designates . . . an order that adjudicates all remaining claims and the rights and liabilities of all remaining parties . . . .”
Frequently, a party who is aggrieved by a final judgment will make a motion in the district court instead of filing a notice of appeal. Rule 4(a)(4) permits a party who makes certain motions to await disposition of those motions before appealing. But some courts treat a notice of appeal that designates only the order disposing of such a motion as limited to that order, rather than bringing the final judgment before the court of appeals for review. (Again, such an appeal might be brought before or after the judgment is set out in a separate document under Fed. R. Civ. P. 58.) To reduce the unintended loss of appellate rights in this situation, a new provision is added to Rule 3(c): “In a civil case, a notice of appeal encompasses the final judgment, whether or not that judgment is set out in a separate document under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58, if the notice designates . . . an order described in Rule 4(a)(4)(A).” This amendment does not alter the requirement of Rule 4(a)(4)(B)(ii) (requiring a notice of appeal or an amended notice of appeal if a party intends to challenge an order disposing of certain motions).
Rule 3(c)(5) is limited to civil cases. Similar issues may arise in a small number of criminal cases, and similar treatment may be appropriate, but no inference should be drawn about how such issues should be handled in criminal cases.
On occasion, a party may file a notice of appeal after a judgment but designate only a prior nonappealable decision that merged into that judgment. To deal with this situation, Rule 3(c)(7) provides that an appeal must not be dismissed for failure to properly designate the judgment if the notice of appeal was filed after entry of the judgment and designates an order that merged into that judgment. In this situation, a court should act as if the notice had properly designated the judgment. In determining whether a notice of appeal was filed after the entry of judgment, Rules 4(a)(2) and 4(b)(2) apply.
The new provisions are added as Rules 3(c)(4), 3(c)(5), and 3(c)(6), with the existing Rules 3(c)(4) and 3(c)(5) renumbered. In addition, to reflect these changes to the rule, Form 1 is replaced by Forms 1A and 1B, and Form 2 is amended.