Bruce Merenstein authored a post for The Legal Intelligencer Blog published on June 23 reviewing several recent decisions from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and from the 9th Circuit that demonstrate that compliance with circuit precedent may present certain challenges and pitfalls.
Generally, numerous procedural and jurisdictional issues that federal court practitioners confront on a daily basis have yet to be addressed by the Supreme Court. Thus, these issues are governed by the law of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in which a case is pending and lawyers dealing with these threshold issues — involving such matters as statutes of limitations and the timeliness of appeals — must stay abreast of circuit precedent to avoid missing deadlines or facing other procedural pitfalls.
However, United States ex rel. Haight v. Catholic Healthcare West, No. 07-16857 (9th Cir. Feb. 4, 2010) and Dique v. New Jersey State Police, No. 05-1159 (3d Cir. May 6, 2010) suggest that practitioners must be aware of potential Supreme Court decisions in the pipeline that may overturn circuit precedent, and may even have to consider the possibility of a Supreme Court decision down the road — in a case not even on the horizon — disrupting settled expectations arising from circuit precedent.