Could Someone Ask Bobby Chen to Call the U.S. Supreme Court?

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The Court was planning to hear his case, but now it can't find him.

Of course there are lots of Bobby Chens out there, but the Court is interested in the Bobby Chen who filed this petition for certiorari (via SCOTUSblog) that the Court granted on November 7. This was already unusual, because very few petitions are granted, and the odds are especially long if you wrote the petition yourself and English is not your first language. I don't mean to be too critical of Mr. Chen's work, because (1) I've seen a lot worse, to be honest, and (2) the Court did after all grant the petition he filed. Not many lawyers can say that. I'm really just pointing out that it is unusual for a pro se petition to be granted.

It is even more unusual if, once it's granted, the person who filed it then disappears.

At least, as the Wall Street Journal reports, Chen hasn't responded to the Court at all (there are various plans that need to be made) and his main brief is due on the 22nd. The case will almost certainly be dismissed if he doesn't show up, but for now the Court is still trying to locate him. The WSJ sent someone to the address given in the papers, but whoever answered the door said Bobby moved a long time ago. (I have to wonder whether that guy was actually Bobby himself, not entirely sure why "a supreme court" was trying to find him.)

It would be a drag if the case did not go forward, because then the world would not get an answer to the question presented: "Whether, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m), a district court has discretion to extend the time for service of process absent a showing of good cause, as the Second, Third, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits have held, or whether the district court lacks such discretion, as the Fourth Circuit has held?" Bobby Chen cares about the answer to that question, or at least he used to, because it will determine whether he can continue with his claim that Baltimore destroyed his property without a hearing. Or, as he put it, "after he came back from a trip he found his house was demolishing and all his personal belonging had disappeared."

Grammatical or not, the petition lays out the arguments reasonably well and points out that federal circuit courts disagree about the answer to the question presented (the version above is the Court's, not Mr. Chen's). It also makes public-policy arguments, for example arguing that if deadlines can be extended and vacated without good cause, "all proceeding will become uncertainty."

It also does this in less than ten pages, which just goes to show you don't necessarily need to drone on at length or use lawyer words (like "malfeasance," "to wit" or "redress," for example) to be successful.

Because the Court takes so few cases, Mr. Chen will have no trouble finding a lawyer to help him with this one for free. So if you see him, please ask him to call the Court at 202-479-3000. The sooner the better, really.