U.S. Federal Court Judgments Made Without Opinions Under ‘Rule 36’

Published by Matt Fishman on

Typically, when a United States Federal Court of Appeals decides a case, they release an opinion which explains the impact and justification of their decision.

Under “Rule 36“, however, a judgment “is rendered without an opinion”, meaning no opinion was written. A verdict following Rule 36 would simply just say “AFFIRMED. See Fed. Cir. R. 36.”

For the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, judges may enter a judgment without opinion following Rule 36 when the judgment of the trial court “is based on findings that are not clearly erroneous;” “the evidence supporting the jury’s verdict is sufficient;” or “a judgment or decision has been entered without an error of law”.

In recent years, the number of Rule 36 judgments by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has been increasing. In FY 2019, there were about 1,500 cases; of these, 176 cases were decided under Rule 36.

Other Appellate Courts have different guidelines. For example, judges of the U.S. Federal Court of the Fourth Circuit are required to give opinions when the decision “establishes, alters, modifies, clarifies, or explains a rule of law”; “involves a legal issue of continuing public interest;” “criticizes existing law;” or “contains a historical review of a legal rule”. All other cases may be decided under a Rule 36 judgment.