Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, a Delaware limited liability partnership | This website contains attorney advertising.
May 25, 2023

Supreme Court Decides Dupree v. Younger

On May 25, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Dupree v. Younger, No. 22-210, holding that a purely legal question raised in a motion for summary judgment is preserved for appellate review, even if the issue is not renewed during or after trial.

Younger sued Dupree, a corrections officer, for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Dupree and others used excessive force in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights. On summary judgment, Dupree argued that Younger failed to exhaust all administrative remedies before filing suit in the district court, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The district court held that the prison’s internal investigation satisfied the exhaustion requirement and denied summary judgment.

Dupree did not present any evidence relating to administrative exhaustion at trial or raise the issue in his Rule 50(a) motion for judgment as a matter of law. Younger prevailed at trial and was awarded damages. Dupree’s sole basis for appeal was that Younger had failed to exhaust administrative remedies. The Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal, citing its precedent that a claim or defense rejected at summary judgment is not preserved unless it is renewed in a post-trial motion.

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court reversed. It held that purely legal issues “that can be resolved without reference to any disputed facts” are preserved for appeal if they are raised in a summary judgment motion. No provision of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires litigants to “copy and paste . . . summary-judgment motions into post-trial format,” or else risk waiving legal claims or defenses that are not impacted by factual evidence developed at trial.

The Court clarified that “[f]act-dependent appeals must be appraised in light of the complete trial record,” so pre-trial rulings are not preserved for appellate review “if they are overcome by later developments in the litigation.” However, “legal conclusions at summary judgment are not ‘superseded’ by later developments in the litigation.”

The Court did not address whether the basis of Dupree’s appeal was “purely legal,” remanding for the Fourth Circuit to determine whether administrative exhaustion is a fact-dependent issue.

Justice Barrett authored the unanimous opinion.

The material contained in this communication is informational, general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. The material contained in this communication should not be relied upon or used without consulting a lawyer to consider your specific circumstances. This communication was published on the date specified and may not include any changes in the topics, laws, rules or regulations covered. Receipt of this communication does not establish an attorney-client relationship. In some jurisdictions, this communication may be considered attorney advertising.

Related Legal Services

Related Topics

The Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP website uses cookies to make your browsing experience as useful as possible. In order to have the full site experience, keep cookies enabled on your web browser. By browsing our site with cookies enabled, you are agreeing to their use. Review Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP's cookies information for more details.