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Legal Memorandum: Courts Discretion to Reconsider Earlier Rulings

Issue: What discretion do courts have to reconsider earlier rulings?

Area of Law: Business Organizations & Contracts, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Discretion to reconsider issues already decided; Motions for reconsideration; Unconscionable contract
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 959 F. Supp. 270; 341 F.3d 256; 368 F.3d 269; 531 U.S. 79; 283 F.3d 595
Cited Statutes: Local Rule 7.4
Date: 08/01/2006

It is well settled that federal courts retain the discretion to reconsider issues already decided in the same proceedings.  See, e.g., Deisler v. McCormack Aggregates Co., 54 F.3d 1074, 1086 n.209 (3d Cir. 1995); 18 Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Edward H. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure § 4478, at 789-92 (1981).  The purpose of motions for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.  Seleras v. M/V Cartagena De Indias, 959 F. Supp. 270 (E.D. Pa. 1997).  Further, motions for reconsideration serve a legitimate role in federal jurisprudence.  National Union Fire Ins. Co. v. Continental Ill. Corp., 116 F.R.D. 252 (N.D. Ill. 1987).  Reconsideration is proper where it is sought to correct clear error and to prevent manifest injustice.

Local Rule 7.4 provides that a party may seek reconsideration of an order or decision made by a judge or magistrate if there is (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) availability of new evidence; or (3) the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice.  See Local Rule 7.4.    

Under Virgin Islands law, a court is to provide relief from an unconscionable contract or unconscionable terms thereof if the contract is procedurally and substantively unconscionable:

Courts have generally recognized that the doctrine of unconscionability involves both “procedural” and “substantive” elements.  “Procedural unconscionability pertains to the process by which an agreement is reached and the form of an agreement, […]

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