Tuesday, June 17, 2003

The mandate rule and its exceptions in the Fourth Circuit

In U.S. v. Butler, the Fourth Circuit in an per curiam decision for the panel of Chief Judge Wilkins and Judges Wilkinson and Luttig concluded that the trial court had failed to comply with the Fourth Circuit's mandate on resentencing the defendant.

The opinion notes the following regarding the "mandate rule" and its exceptions:

"The mandate rule is a 'specific application of the law of the case doctrine,' and requires that a lower court 'carry the mandate of the upper court into execution and . . . not consider the questions which the mandate laid at rest.' United States v. Bell, 5 F.3d 64, 66 (4th Cir. 1993). This rule 'compels compliance on remand with the dictates of a superior court.' Id. And 'except in rare circumstances' the district court must 'implement both the letter and spirit of the . . . mandate, taking into account our opinion and the circumstances it embraces.' Id. (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). The mandate rule binds the lower court except in 'the following extraordinary circumstances: (1) a showing that controlling legal authority has changed dramatically; (2) that significant new evidence, not earlier obtainable in the exercise of due diligence, has come to light; or (3) that a blatant error in the prior decision will, if uncorrected, result in a serious injustice.' United States v. Aramony, 166 F.3d 655, 662 (4th Cir. 1999)."

The panel concluded that none of these exceptions applied.

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