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Legal Memorandum: Doctrine of the Law of the Case Preclusion

Issue: Under the laws of the U.S. Virgin Islands, how is the doctrine of the ‘law of the case’ preclusion applied?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: 'Law of the Case' Preclusion; Applicability
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 07/01/2007

If a Defendant contends that “[a]ll prior Court orders [should] remain law of the case” but fails to specify which legal issues it contends are subject to that doctrine, then, as a threshold matter, the Defendant’s argument is fatally deficient because it fails to designate the issue or issues that it contends are subject to the doctrine.  Even if Defendant had stated clearly the issues that it contends are subject to “law of the case” preclusion, there are two additional reasons the doctrine may not apply under certain circumstances.

First, the law of the case doctrine may only be invoked on appeal “to preclude review of only those legal issues that the court in a prior appeal actually decided, either expressly or by implication.”  In re City of Philadelphia Litig., 158 F.3d 711, 718 (3d Cir. 1998). 

Second, the doctrine is discretionary; it “does not limit a federal court’s power [but] rather directs its exercise of discretion.”  Pub. Interest Research Group, Inc. v. Magnesium Elektron, Inc., 123 F.3d 111, 116 (3d Cir 1997).  Indeed, the doctrine does not preclude a court from reconsidering its rulings of law at any time prior to entry of final judgment.  In re Crysen/Montenay Energy Co., 226 F.3d 160, 165 (2d Cir 2000) (because law of case doctrine is discretionary and final judgment not yet entered, court could grant motion to stay even though it had earlier denied motion to stay).

Certainly, a court can reconsider an earlier ruling […]

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