Rule 12.1 Remand After an Indicative Ruling by the District Court on a Motion for Relief That Is Barred by a Pending Appeal

(a) Notice to the Court of Appeals. If a timely motion is made in the district court for relief that it lacks authority to grant because of an appeal that has been docketed and is pending, the movant must promptly notify the circuit clerk if the district court states either that it would grant the motion or that the motion raises a substantial issue.

(b) Remand After an Indicative Ruling. If the district court states that it would grant the motion or that the motion raises a substantial issue, the court of appeals may remand for further proceedings but retains jurisdiction unless it expressly dismisses the appeal. If the court of appeals remands but retains jurisdiction, the parties must promptly notify the circuit clerk when the district court has decided the motion on remand.

 

Notes

(As added Mar. 26, 2009, eff. Dec. 1, 2009.)

Committee Notes on Rules—2009

This new rule corresponds to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 62.1, which adopts for any motion that the district court cannot grant because of a pending appeal the practice that most courts follow when a party moves under Civil Rule 60(b) to vacate a judgment that is pending on appeal. After an appeal has been docketed and while it remains pending, the district court cannot grant relief under a rule such as Civil Rule 60(b) without a remand. But it can entertain the motion and deny it, defer consideration, state that it would grant the motion if the court of appeals remands for that purpose, or state that the motion raises a substantial issue. Experienced lawyers often refer to the suggestion for remand as an “indicative ruling.” (Appellate Rule 4(a)(4) lists six motions that, if filed within the relevant time limit, suspend the effect of a notice of appeal filed before or after the motion is filed until the last such motion is disposed of. The district court has authority to grant the motion without resorting to the indicative ruling procedure.)

The procedure formalized by Rule 12.1 is helpful when relief is sought from an order that the court cannot reconsider because the order is the subject of a pending appeal. In the criminal context, the Committee anticipates that Rule 12.1 will be used primarily if not exclusively for newly discovered evidence motions under Criminal Rule 33(b)(1) (see United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 667 n.42 (1984)), reduced sentence motions under Criminal Rule 35(b), and motions under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c).

Rule 12.1 does not attempt to define the circumstances in which an appeal limits or defeats the district court's authority to act in the face of a pending appeal. The rules that govern the relationship between trial courts and appellate courts may be complex, depending in part on the nature of the order and the source of appeal jurisdiction. Appellate Rule 12.1 applies only when those rules deprive the district court of authority to grant relief without appellate permission.

To ensure proper coordination of proceedings in the district court and in the court of appeals, the movant must notify the circuit clerk if the district court states that it would grant the motion or that the motion raises a substantial issue. The “substantial issue” standard may be illustrated by the following hypothetical: The district court grants summary judgment dismissing a case. While the plaintiff's appeal is pending, the plaintiff moves for relief from the judgment, claiming newly discovered evidence and also possible fraud by the defendant during the discovery process. If the district court reviews the motion and indicates that the motion “raises a substantial issue,” the court of appeals may well wish to remand rather than proceed to determine the appeal.

If the district court states that it would grant the motion or that the motion raises a substantial issue, the movant may ask the court of appeals to remand so that the district court can make its final ruling on the motion. In accordance with Rule 47(a)(1), a local rule may prescribe the format for the litigants’ notifications and the district court's statement.

Remand is in the court of appeals’ discretion. The court of appeals may remand all proceedings, terminating the initial appeal. In the context of postjudgment motions, however, that procedure should be followed only when the appellant has stated clearly its intention to abandon the appeal. The danger is that if the initial appeal is terminated and the district court then denies the requested relief, the time for appealing the initial judgment will have run out and a court might rule that the appellant is limited to appealing the denial of the postjudgment motion. The latter appeal may well not provide the appellant with the opportunity to raise all the challenges that could have been raised on appeal from the underlying judgment. See, e.g., Browder v. Dir., Dep't of Corrections of Ill., 434 U.S. 257, 263 n.7 (1978) (“[A]n appeal from denial of Rule 60(b) relief does not bring up the underlying judgment for review.”). The Committee does not endorse the notion that a court of appeals should decide that the initial appeal was abandoned—despite the absence of any clear statement of intent to abandon the appeal—merely because an unlimited remand occurred, but the possibility that a court might take that troubling view underscores the need for caution in delimiting the scope of the remand.

The court of appeals may instead choose to remand for the sole purpose of ruling on the motion while retaining jurisdiction to proceed with the appeal after the district court rules on the motion (if the appeal is not moot at that point and if any party wishes to proceed). This will often be the preferred course in the light of the concerns expressed above. It is also possible that the court of appeals may wish to proceed to hear the appeal even after the district court has granted relief on remand; thus, even when the district court indicates that it would grant relief, the court of appeals may in appropriate circumstances choose a limited rather than unlimited remand.

If the court of appeals remands but retains jurisdiction, subdivision (b) requires the parties to notify the circuit clerk when the district court has decided the motion on remand. This is a joint obligation that is discharged when the required notice is given by any litigant involved in the motion in the district court.

When relief is sought in the district court during the pendency of an appeal, litigants should bear in mind the likelihood that a new or amended notice of appeal will be necessary in order to challenge the district court's disposition of the motion. See, e.g., Jordan v. Bowen, 808 F.2d 733, 736–37 (10th Cir. 1987) (viewing district court's response to appellant's motion for indicative ruling as a denial of appellant's request for relief under Rule 60(b), and refusing to review that denial because appellant had failed to take an appeal from the denial); TAAG Linhas Aereas de Angola v. Transamerica Airlines, Inc., 915 F.2d 1351, 1354 (9th Cir. 1990) (“[W]here a 60(b) motion is filed subsequent to the notice of appeal and considered by the district court after a limited remand, an appeal specifically from the ruling on the motion must be taken if the issues raised in that motion are to be considered by the Court of Appeals.”).

Changes Made After Publication and Comment. No changes were made to the text of Rule 12.1. The Appellate Rules Committee made two changes to the Note in response to public comments, and made additional changes in consultation with the Civil Rules Committee and in response to some Appellate Rules Committee members’ suggestions. The Standing Committee made two further changes to the Note.

As published for comment, the second paragraph of the Note read: “[Appellate Rule 12.1 is not limited to the Civil Rule 62.1 context; Rule 12.1 may also be used, for example, in connection with motions under Criminal Rule 33. See United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 667 n.42 (1984).] The procedure formalized by Rule 12.1 is helpful whenever relief is sought from an order that the court cannot reconsider because the order is the subject of a pending appeal.” The Appellate Rules Committee discussed the Solicitor General's concern that Appellate Rule 12.1 might be misused in the criminal context. In response, the Appellate Rules Committee deleted the second paragraph as published and substituted the following language: “The procedure formalized by Rule 12.1 is helpful when relief is sought from an order that the court cannot reconsider because the order is the subject of a pending appeal. In the criminal context, the Committee anticipates that Rule 12.1's use will be limited to newly discovered evidence motions under Criminal Rule 33(b)(1) (see United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 667 n.42 (1984)), reduced sentence motions under Criminal Rule 35(b), and motions under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c).” The Standing Committee further revised the latter sentence to read: “In the criminal context, the Committee anticipates that Rule 12.1 will be used primarily if not exclusively for newly discovered evidence motions under Criminal Rule 33(b)(1) (see United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 667 n.42 (1984)), reduced sentence motions under Criminal Rule 35(b), and motions under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c).”

As published for comment, the first sentence of the Note's last paragraph read: “When relief is sought in the district court during the pendency of an appeal, litigants should bear in mind the likelihood that a separate notice of appeal will be necessary in order to challenge the district court's disposition of the motion.” In response to a suggestion by Public Citizen, the Appellate Rules Committee revised this sentence to refer to a “new or amended” notice of appeal rather than a “separate” notice of appeal.

The Appellate Rules Committee, in consultation with the Civil Rules Committee, added the following parenthetical at the end of the Note's first paragraph: “(The effect of a notice of appeal on district-court authority is addressed by Appellate Rule 4(a)(4), which lists six motions that, if filed within the relevant time limit, suspend the effect of a notice of appeal filed before or after the motion is filed until the last such motion is disposed of. The district court has authority to grant the motion without resorting to the indicative ruling procedure.)” This parenthetical is designed to forestall confusion concerning the effect of tolling motions on a district court's power to act. The Standing Committee approved a change to the first sentence of the parenthetical; it now reads: “Appellate Rule 4(a)(4) lists six motions that, if filed within the relevant time limit, suspend the effect of a notice of appeal filed before or after the motion is filed until the last such motion is disposed of.”

The Appellate Rules Committee, acting at the suggestion of the Civil Rules Committee, altered the wording of one sentence in the first paragraph and one sentence in the fifth paragraph of the Note. The changes are designed to remove references to remands of “the action,” since those references would be in tension with the Note's advice concerning the advisability of limited remands. Thus, in the Note's first paragraph “if the action is remanded” became “if the court of appeals remands for that purpose,” and in the Note's fifth paragraph “may ask the court of appeals to remand the action” became “may ask the court of appeals to remand.”

The Appellate Rules Committee also made stylistic changes to the Note's first and third paragraphs. “Experienced appeal lawyers” became “Experienced lawyers,” and “act in face of a pending appeal” became “act in the face of a pending appeal.”

Taxonomy upgrade extras