Semtek Int'l Inc. v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 531 U.S. 497, 9 (2001)

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Cite as: 531 U. S. 497 (2001)

Opinion of the Court

mulgation of Rule 41(b), we have not once done so. See, e. g., Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U. S. 477, 488-489, n. 9 (1994); Federated Department Stores, Inc. v. Moitie, supra, at 398; Blonder-Tongue Laboratories, Inc. v. University of Ill. Foundation, 402 U. S. 313, 324, n. 12 (1971).

We think the key to a more reasonable interpretation of the meaning of "operates as an adjudication upon the merits" in Rule 41(b) is to be found in Rule 41(a), which, in discussing the effect of voluntary dismissal by the plaintiff, makes clear that an "adjudication upon the merits" is the opposite of a "dismissal without prejudice":

"Unless otherwise stated in the notice of dismissal or stipulation, the dismissal is without prejudice, except that a notice of dismissal operates as an adjudication upon the merits when filed by a plaintiff who has once dismissed in any court of the United States or of any state an action based on or including the same claim."

See also 18 Wright & Miller 4435, at 329, n. 4 ("Both parts of Rule 41 . . . use the phrase 'without prejudice' as a contrast to adjudication on the merits"); 9 id., 2373, at 396, n. 4 (" '[W]ith prejudice' is an acceptable form of shorthand for 'an adjudication upon the merits' "). See also Goddard, 14 Cal. 2d, at 54, 92 P. 2d, at 808 (stating that a dismissal "with prejudice" evinces "[t]he intention of the court to make [the dismissal] on the merits"). The primary meaning of "dismissal without prejudice," we think, is dismissal without barring the plaintiff from returning later, to the same court, with the same underlying claim. That will also ordinarily (though not always) have the consequence of not barring the claim from other courts, but its primary meaning relates to the dismissing court itself. Thus, Black's Law Dictionary (7th ed. 1999) defines "dismissed without prejudice" as "re-moved from the court's docket in such a way that the plaintiff may refile the same suit on the same claim," id., at 482, and defines "dismissal without prejudice" as "[a] dismissal that

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