Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211, 21 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 211 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

not violate the doctrine of separation of powers." Id., at 407.5

The Solicitor General suggests that even if Sioux Nation is read in accord with its holding, it nonetheless establishes that Congress may require Article III courts to reopen their final judgments, since "if res judicata were compelled by Article III to safeguard the structural independence of the courts, the doctrine would not be subject to waiver by any party litigant." Brief for United States 27 (citing Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n v. Schor, 478 U. S. 833, 850-851 (1986)). But the proposition that legal defenses based upon doctrines central to the courts' structural independence can never be waived simply does not accord with our cases. Certainly one such doctrine consists of the "judicial Power" to disregard an unconstitutional statute, see Marbury, 1 Cranch, at 177; yet none would suggest that a litigant may never waive the defense that a statute is unconstitutional. See, e. g., G. D. Searle & Co. v. Cohn, 455 U. S. 404, 414 (1982). What may follow from our holding that the judicial power unalterably includes the power to render final judgments is not that waivers of res judicata are always impermissible, but rather that, as many Federal Courts of Appeals have held, waivers of res judicata need not always be accepted— that trial courts may in appropriate cases raise the res judicata bar on their own motion. See, e. g., Coleman v. Ramada Hotel Operating Co., 933 F. 2d 470, 475 (CA7 1991); In re Medomak Canning, 922 F. 2d 895, 904 (CA1 1990); Holloway Constr. Co. v. United States Dept. of Labor, 891 F. 2d 1211, 1212 (CA6 1989). Waiver subject to the control of the

5 The dissent quotes a passage from the opinion saying that Congress " 'only was providing a forum so that a new judicial review of the Black Hills claim could take place.' " Post, at 256 (quoting 448 U. S., at 407). That is quite consistent with the res judicata holding. Any party who waives the defense of res judicata provides a forum for a new judicial review.


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