Iacurci v. Lummus Company/Dissent Harlan

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Dissenting Opinion
Harlan

United States Supreme Court

387 U.S. 86

Iacurci  v.  Lummus Company

 Argued: May 15, 1967. ---


Mr. Justice HARLAN (dissenting).

In Neely v. Eby Construction Co., 386 U.S. 317, 87 S.Ct. 1072, 18 L.Ed.2d 75, we held that a court of appeals might, despite denial by the trial judge of motions for a new trial and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, appropriately instruct the district court to enter judgment against the jury-verdict winner. We also recognized in Neely, however, that there might be situations in which the necessity for a new trial would be better determined by the trial court, and that in such situations the court of appeals should return the case to the district court for such an assessment.

In joining Neely, I did not understand the opinion to require this Court to interpose in each case its own judgment of the relative competence of the court of appeals and of the district court to pass on the new trial motion. Rather, I understood Neely to place upon the cur t of appeals the responsibility for determining 'in its informed discretion,' supra, at 329, at 1080 of 87 S.Ct., which, if any, of the issues urged in support of a new trial 'should be reserved for the trial court.' Ibid. I think that sound judicial administration demands that this Court should overturn a considered judgment of a court of appeals on such issues only in situations of manifest abuse of discretion.

The Court in this instance states that it does 'not share the Court of Appeals' confidence as to the meaning, in light of the trial court's instructions, of the jury's failure to answer' subquestions included in the interrogatories. The ambiguities upon which the Court now relies were earnestly urged by petitioner in her petition for rehearing to the Court of Appeals. Petition for Rehearing 5-6, 7-8. They were, as the Court in Neely intended, before the Court of Appeals for its judgment whether the case should be returned to the District Court for determination of the necessity for a new trial. Had I been sitting on the Court of Appeals I might not have agreed with the view taken of this case by the majority there, but I cannot agree that their conclusion was a manifest abuse of their 'informed discretion.' I hope that this decision does not indicate that the Court is about to embark on a course comparable to that it set for itself in FELA cases.

I would affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Notes[edit]

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).