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Civil Procedure Fall 2014

Note on Collateral Order Doctrine

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Will v. Hallock is just one of numerous examples where the Supreme Court has held that a party's interlocutory appeal based on the collateral order doctrine should be rejected despite hardship for the appealing party.  See, e.g., Lauro Lines S.L.R. v. Chasser, 490 U.S. 495 (1989) (holding that a defendant's argument that a case should have been filed in Italy instead of the United States in accordance with a contract would be reviewable only at the end of the case); Digital Equip. Corp. v. Desktop Direct, Inc., 511 U.S. 863 (1994) (holding that immediate review was not available from an order rejecting a party's claim to immunity from a suit under a private settlement agreement).  Conversely, in circumstances where a party refuses to obey a court order and has been held in criminal contempt, the Suprme Court has held that the issue is so distinct and so important that an appeal is permitted.  See, e.g., United States v. Ryan, 402 U.S. 530 (1971).  In some unique circumstances, the Court has gone even further to allow an appeal.  For instance, in United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 690 - 92 (1974), the Court held that an appeal of an order requiring the President of the United States to produce certain tape recordings was appealable even though the President had not refused to comply and thus had not been held in contempt.  According to the Court, "[t]o require a President of the United States to place himself in a posture of disobeying an order of a court merely to trigger the procedural mechanism for review of the ruling would be unseemly, and would present an unnecessary occasion for constitutional confrontation between two branches of government."