In the employment law arena, plaintiffs frequently bring in federal court both federal and state law claims arising from the same nucleus of fact. Plaintiffs can do so thanks to 28 U.S.C. § 1367, which permits federal courts to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state claims arising from the “same case or controversy” as the federal claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). If the federal court dismisses the federal claims, often the court will decline to retain jurisdiction over just the state law claims and, consequently, dismisses those, too. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). If that happens, how long does the plaintiff have to re-file in state court the state law claims, which have not been adjudicated on the merits? The answer lies in 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d), which reads in relevant part:
The period of limitations for any claim asserted under subsection (a) [which provides for supplemental jurisdiction for claims that are part of the same case or controversy] . . . 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.
But, “[d]oes 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?” This was the question presented to the U.S. Supreme Court in Artis v. District of Columbia. The Court, by a 5-4 margin, answered: “§ 1367(d)’s instruction to ‘toll’ a state limitations period means to hold it in abeyance, i.e., to stop the clock.” This means that a plaintiff has the length of time that remained on the state law claim limitations period as of the date the claim was filed in federal court, plus 30 days, to refile the claim in state court. Justice Ginsburg delivered the majority opinion, and was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.
The Supreme Court’s decision, which reversed the D.C. Court of Appeals, meant that Stephanie Artis’s D.C. law claims were timely filed in state court 59 days after the U.S. District Court for D.C. had dismissed them. At the time Artis originally filed her claims in federal court, nearly two years remained of the applicable three-year limitations period on two of her D.C. law claims. Her case was pending in federal court for roughly two and one-half years. Under the Supreme Court’s decision, the clock on the applicable three-year limitations period stopped when the claims were filed in federal court. That clock started ticking again 30 days after dismissal. Thus, upon the federal court’s dismissal, Artis had nearly two years, plus 30 days, to refile her D.C. law claims in D.C. court.
Justice Gorsuch, dissenting, stated that § 1367(d) does not stop the state limitations period from running, but provides a “grace period” of 30 days following dismissal from federal court in which to file the claims in state court, unless the applicable state law provides a longer period. According to the dissent, in Artis’s case, because the state law limitations period continued to run (and expired) during the pendency of the claims in federal court, she had 30 days following dismissal by the federal court to refile in state court. Because Artis did not file within that 30-day period, her claims were barred. Justice Gorsuch was joined in the dissent by Justices Kennedy, Thomas and Alito.