Carlisle v. United States, 517 U.S. 416 (1996)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the sixth circuit

No. 94-9247. Argued January 16, 1996—Decided April 29, 1996

At his trial on a federal marijuana charge, petitioner filed his motion for a judgment of acquittal under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29(c) after the jury returned a guilty verdict and was discharged. The District Court granted the motion even though it was filed one day outside the time limit prescribed by Rule 29(c), which provides, inter alia, that "[i]f the jury returns a verdict of guilty . . . , a motion for judgment of acquittal may be made or renewed within 7 days after the jury is discharged or within such further time as the court may fix during the 7-day period." In reversing and remanding for reinstatement of the verdict and for sentencing, the Sixth Circuit held that under Rule 29 a district court has no jurisdiction to grant an untimely motion for judgment of acquittal, or to enter such a judgment sua sponte after submission of the case to the jury.

Held: The District Court had no authority to grant petitioner's motion for judgment of acquittal filed one day outside the Rule 29(c) time limit. Pp. 419-433. (a) The Rules do not permit the granting of an untimely postverdict motion for judgment of acquittal. Rule 29(c)'s text, when read with Rule 45(b)'s statement that "the court may not extend the time for taking any action under Rul[e] 29 . . . except to the extent and under the conditions stated in [the Rule]," is plain and unambiguous: If, as in this case, a guilty verdict is returned, a motion for judgment of acquittal must be filed either within seven days of the jury's discharge or within an extended period fixed by the court during that 7-day period. Furthermore, in light of Rule 29(c)'s clarity, petitioner cannot rely either on Rule 2, which requires that ambiguous Rules "be construed to secure simplicity in procedure, fairness in administration and the elimination of unjustifiable expense and delay," or on Rule 57, which allows district courts discretion to regulate practice when there is no controlling law. Pp. 419-425. (b) This Court rejects petitioner's invocation of courts' "inherent supervisory power" as alternative authority for the District Court's action. Whatever the scope of federal courts' inherent power to formulate procedural rules not specifically required by the Constitution or the Congress, it does not include the power to develop rules that circumvent or conflict with the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

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