Rule 37. Indicative Ruling on a Motion for Relief That Is Barred by a Pending Appeal (Dec. 1, 2012)

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(a)Relief Pending Appeal. If a timely motion is made for relief that the court lacks authority to grant because of an appeal that has been docketed and is pending, the court may:

(1) defer considering the motion;

(2) deny the motion; or

(3) state either that it would grant the motion if the court of appeals remands for that purpose or that the motion raises a substantial issue.

(b)Notice to the Court of Appeals. The movant must promptly notify the circuit clerk under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 12.1 if the district court states that it would grant the motion or that the motion raises a substantial issue.

(c)Remand. The district court may decide the motion if the court of appeals remands for that purpose.


(Added Jun. 30, 2011, eff. Dec. 1, 2012) 

Committee Notes on Rules—2011 Amendment

This new rule adopts for any motion that the district court cannot grant because of a pending appeal the practice that most courts follow when a party makes a motion under Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 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 a Rule 60(b) motion without a remand.  But it can entertain the motion and deny it, defer consideration, or 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.”  (Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(b)(3) lists three 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 judgment of conviction is entered and the last such motion is ruled upon.  The district court has authority to grant the motion without resorting to the indicative ruling procedure.)

The procedure formalized by Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 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 Criminal Rule 37 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 37 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 appellate jurisdiction.  Rule 37 applies only when those rules deprive the district court of authority to grant relief without appellate permission.  If the district court concludes that it has authority to grant relief without appellate permission, it can act without falling back on the indicative ruling procedure.

To ensure proper coordination of proceedings in the district court and in the appellate court, the movant must notify the circuit clerk under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 12.1 if the district court states that it would grant the motion or that the motion raises a substantial issue.  Remand is in the court of appeals’ discretion under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 12.1.

Often it will be wise for the district court to determine whether it in fact would grant the motion if the court of appeals remands for that purpose.  But a motion may present complex issues that require extensive litigation and that may either be mooted or be presented in a different context by decision of the issues raised on appeal.  In such circumstances the district court may prefer to state that the motion raises a substantial issue, and to state the reasons why it prefers to decide only if the court of appeals agrees that it would be useful to decide the motion before decision of the pending appeal.  The district court is not bound to grant the motion after stating that the motion raises a substantial issue; further proceedings on remand may show that the motion ought not be granted. 

Changes Made After Publication and Comment. No changes were made in the amendment as published.