(a) Conditions for an Emergency. The Judicial Conference of the United States may declare a Civil Rules emergency if it determines that extraordinary circumstances relating to public health or safety, or affecting physical or electronic access to a court, substantially impair the court's ability to perform its functions in compliance with these rules.
(b) Declaring an Emergency.
(1) Content. The declaration:
(A) must designate the court or courts affected;
(B) adopts all the emergency rules in Rule 87(c) unless it excepts one or more of them; and
(C) must be limited to a stated period of no more than 90 days.
(2) Early Termination. The Judicial Conference may terminate a declaration for one or more courts before the termination date.
(3) Additional Declarations. The Judicial Conference may issue additional declarations under this rule.
(c) Emergency Rules.
(1) Emergency Rules 4(e), (h)(1), (i), and (j)(2) and for serving a minor incompetent person. The court may by order authorize service on a defendant described in Rule 4(e), (h)(1), (i), or (j)(2)—or on a minor or incompetent person in a judicial district of the United States—by a method that is reasonably calculated to give notice. A method of service may be completed under the order after the declaration ends unless the court, after notice and an opportunity to be heard, modifies or rescinds the order.
(2) Emergency Rule 6(b)(2).
(A) Extension of Time to File Certain Motions. A court may, by order, apply Rule 6(b)(1)(A) to extend for a period of no more than 30 days after an entry of the order the time to act under Rules 50(b) and (d), 52(b), 59(b), (d), and (e), and 60(b).
(B) Effect on Time to Appeal. Unless the time to appeal would otherwise be longer:
(i) if the court denies an extension, the time to file an appeal runs for all parties from the date the order denying the motion to extend is entered;
(ii) if the court grants an extension, a motion authorized by the court and filed within the extended period is, for purposes of Appellate Rule 4(a)(4)(A), filed "within the time allowed by" the Federal Rules of Civil Procedre; and
(iii) if the court grants an extension and no motion authorized by the court is made within the extended period, the time to file an appeal runs for all parties from the expiration of the extended period.
(C) Declaration Ends. An act authorized by an order under this emergency rule may be completed under the order after the emergency declaration ends.
(Added Apr. 24, 2023, eff. Dec. 1, 2023.)
Committee Notes on Rules-2023
Subdivision (a). This rule addresses the prospect that extraordinary circumstances may so substantially interfere with the ability of the court and parties to act in compliance with a few of these rules as to substantially impair the court’s ability to effectively perform its functions under these rules. The responses of the courts and parties to the COVID-19
pandemic provided the immediate occasion for adopting a formal rule authorizing departure from the ordinary constraints of a rule text that substantially impairs a court’s
ability to perform its functions. At the same time, these responses showed that almost all challenges can be effectively addressed through the general rules provisions. The emergency rules authorized by this rule allow departures only from a narrow range of rules that, in rare and extraordinary circumstances, may raise unreasonably high obstacles to effective performance of judicial functions.
The range of the extraordinary circumstances that might give rise to a rules emergency is wide, in both time and space. An emergency may be local—familiar examples include hurricanes, flooding, explosions, or civil unrest. The circumstance may be more widely regional, or national. The emergency may be tangible or intangible, including such events as a pandemic or disruption of electronic communications. The concept is pragmatic and functional. The determination of what relates to public health or safety, or what affects physical or electronic access to a court, need not be literal. The ability of the court to perform its functions in compliance with these rules may be affected by the ability of the parties to comply with a rule in a particular emergency. A shutdown of interstate travel in response to an external threat, for example, might constitute a rules emergency even though there is no physical barrier that impedes access to the court or the parties.
Responsibility for declaring a rules emergency is vested exclusively in the Judicial Conference. But a court may, absent a declaration by the Judicial Conference, utilize all measures of discretion and all the flexibility already embedded in the character and structure of the Civil Rules.
A pragmatic and functional determination whether there is a Civil Rules emergency should be carefully limited to problems that cannot be resolved by construing, administering, and employing the flexibility deliberately incorporated in the structure of the Civil Rules. The rules rely extensively on sensible accommodations among the litigants and on wise management by judges when the litigants are unable to resolve particular problems. The effects of an emergency on the ability of the court and the parties to comply with a rule should be determined in light of the flexible responses to particular situations generally available under that rule. And even if a rules emergency is declared, the court and parties should explore the opportunities for flexible use of a rule before turning to rely on an emergency departure. Adoption of this rule, or a declaration of a rules emergency, does not imply any limitation of the courts’ ability to respond to emergency circumstances by wise use of the discretion and opportunities for effective adaptation that inhere in the Civil Rules themselves.
Subdivision (b). A declaration of a rules emergency must designate the court or courts affected by the emergency. An emergency may be so local that only a single court is designated. The declaration adopts all of the emergency rules listed in subdivision (c) unless it excepts one or more of them. An emergency rule supplements the Civil Rule for the period covered by the declaration.
A declaration must be limited to a stated period of no more than 90 days, but the Judicial Conference may terminate a declaration for one or more courts before the end of the stated period. A declaration may be succeeded by a new declaration made under this rule. And additional declarations may be made under this rule before an earlier declaration terminates. An additional declaration may modify an earlier declaration to respond to new emergencies or a better understanding of the original emergency. Changes may be made in the courts affected by the emergency or in the emergency rules adopted by the declaration.
Subdivision (c). Subdivision (c) lists the only Emergency Rules that may be authorized by a declaration of a rules emergency.
Emergency Rules 4. Each of the Emergency Rules 4 authorizes the court to order service by means not otherwise provided in Rule 4 by a method that is appropriate to the circumstances of the emergency declared by the Judicial Conference and that is reasonably calculated to give notice. The nature of some emergencies will make it appropriate to rely on case-specific orders tailored to the particular emergency and the identity of the parties. The court should explore the opportunities to make effective service under the traditional methods provided by Rule 4, along with the difficulties that may impede effective service under Rule 4. Any means of service authorized by the court must be calculated to fulfill the fundamental role of serving the summons and complaint in providing notice of the action and the opportunity to respond. Other emergencies may make it appropriate for a court to adopt a general practice by entering a standing order that specifies one or possibly more than one means of service appropriate for most cases. Service by a commercial carrier requiring a return receipt might be an example.
The final sentence of Emergency Rule 4 addresses a situation in which a declaration of a civil rules emergency ends after an order for service is entered but before service is completed. Service may be completed under the order unless the court modifies or rescinds the order. A modification that continues to allow a method of service specified by the order but not within Rule 4, or rescission that requires service by a method within Rule 4, may provide for effective service. But it may be better to permit completion of service in compliance with the original order. For example, the summons and complaint may have been delivered to a commercial carrier that has not yet delivered them to the party to be served. Allowing completion and return of confirmation of delivery may be the most efficient course. Allowing completion of a method authorized by the order may be particularly important when a claim is governed by a statute of limitations that requires actual service within a stated period after the action is filed.
Emergency Rule 6(b)(2). Emergency Rule 6(b)(2) supersedes the flat prohibition in Rule 6(b)(2) of any extension of the time to act under Rules 50(b) and (d), 52(b), 59(b), (d), and (e), and 60(b). The court may extend those times under Rule 6(b)(1)(A). Rule 6(b)(1)(A) requires the court to find good cause. Some emergencies may justify a standing order that finds good cause in general terms, but the period allowed by the extension ordinarily will depend on case-specific factors as well.
Rule 6(b)(1)(A) authorizes the court to extend the time to act under Rules 50(b), 50(d), 52(b), 59(b), 59(d), 59(e), and 60(b) only if it acts, or if a request is made, before the original time allowed by those rules or an extension granted under Emergency Rule 6(b)(2) expires. For all but Rule 60(b), the time allowed by those rules is 28 days after the entry of judgment. For Rule 60(b), the time allowed is governed by Rule 60(c)(1), which requires that the motion be made within a reasonable time, and, for motions under Rule 60(b)(1), (2), or (3), no more than a year after the entry of judgment. The maximum extension is not more than 30 days after entry of the order granting an extension. If the court acts on its own, extensions for Rule 50, 52, and 59 motions can extend no later than 58 days after the entry of judgment unless the court acts before expiration of an earlier extension. If an extension is sought by motion, an extension can extend no later than 30 days after entry of the order granting the extension.
Appeal time must be reset to support an orderly determination whether to order an extension and, if an extension is ordered, to make and dispose of any motion authorized by the extension. Subparagraph 6(b)(2)(B) integrates the emergency rule with Appellate Rule 4(a)(4)(A) for four separate situations.
The first situation is governed by the initial text: “Unless the time to appeal would otherwise be longer.” One example that illustrates this situation would be a motion by the plaintiff for a new trial within the time allowed by Rule 59, followed by a timely motion by the defendant for an extension of time to file a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(b). The court denies the motion for an extension without yet ruling on the plaintiff’s motion. The time to appeal after denial of the plaintiff’s motion is longer for all parties than the time after denial of the defendant’s motion for an extension.
Item (B)(i) resets appeal time to run for all parties from the date of entry of an order denying a motion to extend.
Items (B)(ii) and (iii) reset appeal time after the court grants an extended period to file a post-judgment motion. Appellate Rule 4(a)(4)(A) is incorporated, giving the authorized motion the effect of a motion filed “within the time allowed by” the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. If more than one authorized motion is filed, appeal time is reset to run from the order “disposing of the last such remaining motion.” If no authorized motion is made, appeal time runs from the expiration of the extended period.
These provisions for resetting appeal time are supported for the special timing provisions for Rule 60(b) motions by a parallel amendment of Appellate Rule 4(a)(4)(A)(vi) that resets appeal time on a timely motion “for relief under Rule 60 if the motion is filed within the time allowed for filing a motion under Rule 59.” This Rule 4 provision, as amended, will assure that a Rule 60(b) motion resets appeal time for review of the final judgment only if it is filed within the 28 days ordinarily allowed for post-judgment motions under Rule 59 or any extended period for filing a Rule 59 motion that a court might authorize under Emergency Rule 6(b)(2). A timely Rule 60(b) motion filed after that period, whether it is timely under Rule 60(c)(1) or under an extension ordered under Emergency Rule 6(b)(2), supports an appeal from disposition of the Rule 60(b) motion, but does not support an appeal from the original final judgment.
Emergency Rule 6(b)(2)(C) addresses a situation in which a declaration of a Civil Rules emergency ends after an order is entered, whether the order grants or denies an extension. This rule preserves the integration of Emergency Rule 6(b)(2) with the appeal time provisions of Appellate Rule 4(a)(4)(A). An act authorized by the order, which may be either a motion or an appeal, may be completed under the order. If the order denies a timely motion for an extension, the time to appeal runs from the order. If an extension is granted, a motion may be filed within the extended period. Appeal time starts to run from the order that disposes of the last remaining authorized motion. If no authorized motion is filed within the extended period, appeal time starts to run on expiration of the extended period. Any other approach would sacrifice opportunities for post-judgment relief or appeal that could have been preserved if no emergency rule motion had been made.
Emergency rules provisions were added to the Appellate, Bankruptcy, Civil, and Criminal Rules in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. They were made as uniform as possible. But each set of rules serves distinctive purposes, shaped by different origins, traditions, functions, and needs. Different provisions were compelled by these different purposes.