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Will v. Hallock

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Brief Fact Summary.

Hallock sued the United States Customs Service under the Federal Tort Claims Act. She also filed a separate action against customs agents. The first action was dismissed, and the agents moved to dismiss the second action, arguing that the dismissal of the first action barred the second under 28 USC 2676. The district court denied the dismissal motion. The Court of Appeals held that the appeal was permissible under the “collateral order” doctrine despite the lack of a final judgment, and affirmed the district court’s decision. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The requirements for appeal from a collateral order are:

  1. the order conclusively determines the disputed question
  2. the order resolves an important issue apart from the merits of the action
  3. the order is unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

The third Cohen question, whether a right is adequately vindicable or effectively reviewable, simply cannot be answered without a judgment about the value of the interests that would be lost through rigorous application of a final judgment requirement.

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Facts.

Hallock sued the United States Customs Service under the Federal Tort Claims Act for damage to computer equipment that was seized and returned after no charges were brought against her. While the first action was pending, Hallock also filed a separate action against customs agents. The first action was dismissed; the agents moved to dismiss the second action arguing that the dismissal of the first action barred the second under 28 USC 2676. The district court denied the dismissal motion, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, finding that the appeal was permissible under the “collateral order” doctrine despite the lack of a final judgment. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Issue.

Did the “collateral order” doctrine justify the appeal before the Court of Appeals in this case despite the lack of a final judgment?

Held.

No. The “collateral order” doctrine did not justify the appeal before the Court of Appeals in this case despite the lack of a final judgment.

Discussion.

The claim of the customs agents did not serve a strong public interest sufficient to warrant treating a judgment bar based on the Federal Tort Claims Act against subsequent suits against public employees as warranting the protection of a collateral order appeal. The district court’s order rejecting an asserted defense of a judgment bar did not warrant an immediate appeal as of right as a collateral order.


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