Grunenthal v. Long Island Railroad Company/Dissent Harlan

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Dissenting Opinions

United States Supreme Court

393 U.S. 156

Grunenthal  v.  Long Island Railroad Company

 Argued: Oct. 24, 1968. --- Decided: Nov 18, 1968

Mr. Justice HARLAN, dissenting.

I think it clear that the only issue which might conceivably justify the presence of this case in this Court is whether a United States Court of Appeals may constitutionally review the refusal of a district court to set aside a verdict for excessiveness. The Court purports not to decide that question, preferring to rest its decision upon the alleged correctness of the District Court's action in the circumstances of this case. Like my Brother STEWART, I am at an utter loss to understand how the Court manages to review the District Court's decision and find it proper while at the same time proclaiming that it has avoided decision of the issue whether appellate courts ever may review such actions.

Even assuming that this feat of legal gymnastics has been successfully performed, I believe that the correctness of this particular District Court decision, a matter whose proper resolution depends upon a detailed examination of the trial record and which possesses little if any general significance, is not a suitable issue for this Court. Accordingly, I think it appropriate to vote to dismiss the writ as improvidently granted, even though the case formally is here on an unlimited writ. See my dissenting opinion in Protective Committee for Independent Stockholders of TMT Trailer Ferry, Inc. v. Anderson, 390 U.S. 414, 454, 88 S.Ct. 1157, 1178, 20 L.Ed.2d 1 (1968). To the extent that this position is inconsistent with my having joined the per curiam opinion in Neese v. Southern R. Co., 350 U.S. 77, 76 S.Ct. 131, 100 L.Ed. 60 (1955), in which the Court adopted a course similar to that followed today, I feel bound frankly to say that the incongruity of today's decision brings me face-to-face with the question whether that earlier disposition was correct, and that I now believe it to have been wrong. [*] Since the Court professes not to reach the constitutional issue in this case, I consider it inappropriate for me, as an individual Justice, to express my opinion on it.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).