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Paul v. United States – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In Paul v. United States, 734 F.2d 1064 (5th Cir. 1984), Paul earlier had been granted relief by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 35. See United States v. Edmonson, 659 F.2d 549, 550-51 (5th Cir. 1981).

In its decision in Edmonson, the Court directed the trial court as to the maximum sentence it could impose. See id. at 551. After re-sentencing, Paul filed a second motion to correct his sentence.

Applying the law of the case doctrine, the Fifth Circuit declined to reconsider the issues previously decided in Edmonson.

It explained:

The "law of the case" rule is based on the salutary and sound public policy that litigation should come to an end. It is predicated on the premise that "there would be no end to a suit if every obstinate litigant could, by repeated appeals, compel a court to listen to criticisms on their opinions or speculate of chances from changes in its members," and that it would be impossible for an appellate court "to perform its duties satisfactorily and efficiently" and expeditiously "if a question, once considered and decided by it were to be litigated anew in the same case upon any and every subsequent appeal" thereof.

While the "law of the case" doctrine is not an inexorable command, a decision of a legal issue or issues by an appellate court establishes the "law of the case" and must be followed in all subsequent proceedings in the same case in the trial or on a later appeal in the appellate court, unless (1) the evidence on a subsequent trial was substantially different, (2) controlling authority has since made a contrary decision of the law applicable to such issues, or (3) the decision was clearly erroneous and would work a manifest injustice. (Paul, 734 F.2d at 1065-66.)