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Arnold & Porter Achieves Unanimous Supreme Court Victory, Setting New Precedent for Civil Litigants

June 7, 2023

Arnold & Porter was named to Law360's list of Legal Lions for its recent unanimous win at the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the firm successfully represented Lieutenant Neil Dupree, a former prison official in Maryland, in a case that establishes critical procedural rules for civil litigants trying to preserve arguments for appeal.

Lieutenant Dupree was sued by Kevin Younger, a prisoner who alleged that Lieutenant Dupree was involved in an assault by three guards. Lieutenant Dupree filed a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, arguing, among other things, that Mr. Younger failed to exhaust prison remedies before initiating the lawsuit. The district court rejected Lieutenant Dupree's exhaustion argument, concluding that Mr. Younger was not legally required to exhaust his remedies, leading the case to proceed to trial. Ultimately, the jury found the three guards and Lieutenant Dupree liable for the incident, and Lieutenant Dupree did not raise the exhaustion argument again in a post-trial motion.

On appeal, Lieutenant Dupree sought to challenge the denial of his exhaustion defense. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal, holding that Lieutenant Dupree’s failure to raise the issue in a post-trial motion rendered it unreviewable.

Arnold & Porter then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for certiorari to address the longstanding circuit split over whether a post-trial motion is required in order to preserve for appellate review a purely legal issue rejected at summary judgment. The Supreme Court granted review, and the case was argued in April. In a unanimous decision written by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the Court held that a post-trial motion under Rule 50 is not required to preserve a purely legal issue resolved at summary judgment for appellate review.

This landmark procedural ruling will have the broadest significance of any procedural ruling on the Court’s docket this term, affecting nearly every civil case that goes to trial. The decision overturns precedent in five circuits, including the Fourth Circuit, and clarifies that when a purely legal issue is resolved at the summary judgment stage, it is automatically preserved for appellate review. The clear rule established by this case will be invaluable to civil litigants everywhere.

Senior associate Andrew Tutt argued the case with support from a team including partner Stanton Jones; counsel Aaron Bowling; senior associate Sean Mirski, associates Dana Or, Kathryn Reed, Alessandra Lopez, Nicole Masiello, Laurel Ruza, and Ziva Rubinstein; and appellate specialist Kat Lindsey.