A Rule 50 Motion is Not Required to Preserve for Appellate Review a Purely Legal Issue Resolved at Summary Judgment, But Should You Roll the Dice?

October 18, 2023

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held in Dupree v. Younger, 598 U.S. 729, 143 S. Ct. 1382 (2023), that a post-trial motion under Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is not required to preserve for appellate review purely legal issues resolved on summary judgment.  While Dupree is a prisoner-rights case, its application is not limited to this context.


The decision, delivered by Justice Barrett, provides a good discussion on why the procedures for preserving factual issues—sufficiency of the evidence claims—for appellate review should not equally apply to purely legal issues. 598 U.S. at 731-37.  The Court acknowledged that difficulty in distinguishing between factual and purely legal questions may arise and that it would not be surprising if “prudent counsel … make sure to renew their arguments in a Rule 50 motion out of an abundance of caution.” Id. at 737-38.  It concluded, though, that “the need for a bright-line rule in this area” was overstated by Younger and that appellate courts “have long found it possible to separate factual from legal matters.” Id.