Bloomberg Law
May 25, 2023, 2:15 PMUpdated: May 25, 2023, 2:55 PM

Prison Official Gets Supreme Court Backing on Appeal Rule (1)

Lydia Wheeler
Lydia Wheeler
Senior Reporter

The US Supreme Court ruled for a Maryland corrections official in a case challenging the procedural rules a litigant has to follow to preserve an argument for an appeal.

In a unanimous ruling, the court said Thursday a post-trial motion under Rule 50 is not required to preserve for appellate review a purely legal issue resolved at summary judgment.

“While factual issues addressed in summary-judgment denials are unreviewable on appeal, the same is not true of purely legal issues—that is, issues that can be resolved without reference to any disputed facts,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote for the court.

Neil Dupree sought a new trial after a jury found him liable in the assault of an inmate. Dupree argued he should’ve been able to make a claim on appeal that the district court had already denied when it refused to rule in his favor before the trial.

Because he failed to raise that argument again in a post-trial motion, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit dismissed his appeal.

But Dupree argued that asking for summary judgment is enough to preserve a purely legal claim or defense for review on appeal.

Kevin Younger, the inmate who was assaulted, urged the court to adopt a bright line rule that says any order denying summary judgment—whether decided on legal or factual grounds—is unreviewable.

But Barrett said that “would come at a steep cost: the loss of appellate review for unwary litigants who think it futile to relitigate an already-rejected legal argument.”

“The Fourth Circuit was wrong to hold that purely legal issues resolved at summary judgment must be renewed in a post-trial motion,” she said.

Barrett said the court wasn’t deciding whether the issue Dupree raised on appeal is purely legal and remanded the case to the Fourth Circuit to evaluate that question in the first instance.

The case is Dupree v. Younger, U.S., No. 22-210, opinion 5/25/23.

(Updated with additional context and commentary from the opinion.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Lydia Wheeler in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at; John Crawley at

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