Carlisle v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: North Carolina General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 94-9247
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 517 US 416 (1996)
ARGUED: Jan 16, 1996
DECIDED: Apr 29, 1996

James A. Christopherson - Argued the cause for the petitioner
Paul A. Engelmayer - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

At his trial on a federal marijuana charge, Charles Carlisle filed a motion for a judgment of acquittal under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29(c) after the jury returned a guilty verdict. The District Court granted the motion even though it was filed one day outside the time limit prescribed by Rule 29(c), which provides 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 Court of Appeals held that under Rule 29(c) a district court has no jurisdiction to grant an untimely motion for judgment of acquittal, or to enter such a judgment after submission of the case to the jury.


Does a district court have the authority to grant a post-verdict motion for judgment of acquittal if the motion is filed beyond the seven-day deadline prescribed by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29(c)?

Media for Carlisle v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 16, 1996 in Carlisle v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in Number 94-9247, Charles Carlisle v. The United States.

Mr. Christopherson, you may proceed.

James A. Christopherson:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court:

This case is about the authority of a district court.

The issue in this case is whether the district court, up to sentencing, has the authority to make a decision on whether or not the evidence against the detendant was sufficient to convict him.

The Government's position in this case is that the limitation on the ability of a defendant to file a motion, the 7-day limitation in Rule 29(c), also limits the court's authority.

It's our position that the rule is clear, it's concise, and that it gives the court the authority to--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, the rule is clear.

It imposes the 7-day limit, and Rule 45 says that the court may not extend the time for taking any action under Rule 29, except to the extent and under the conditions stated therein, and I don't know why that isn't sufficiently clear that there's an absolute 7-day limit.

James A. Christopherson:

--It is not sufficiently clear, Your Honor, because I think the second sentence in subparagraph (a) of 29 gives the court the authority on its own motion to rule on a judgment of acquittal based upon the insufficiency of the evidence.

William H. Rehnquist:

Now, you... where do we find the second sentence set out in haec verba in your brief or somewhere else in the papers?

James A. Christopherson:

It's actually, I think, set out on page 2 of the Government's brief.

William H. Rehnquist:

Page 2 of the Government's brief?

James A. Christopherson:


It's on page 2 of yours, I think.

James A. Christopherson:

I think I put subparagraph (c) there but not (a), if I'm... it's in my reply brief, also, but it's in the Government's brief.

That sentence, which is in mandatory language, indicated that the court shall, gives the court the authority to order a judgment of acquittal based upon the insufficiency of the evidence after the evidence on either side is closed.

That sentence--

William H. Rehnquist:

Now, whereabouts on page 2 are you reading from, page 2 of the Government's brief?

James A. Christopherson:

--Subparagraph (a), the second sentence, which starts, the court on motion of a defendant.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Thank you.

In order to make that argument, you have to ignore the title of the paragraph, of the subparagraph, I take it.

James A. Christopherson:

Well, the title to the subpara... that's correct, Your Honor.

The title to the subparagraph is not the text, and this Court should only obviously look to the title if there's some ambiguity.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, it may not be the text, but it gives you some indication of what category of cases the rule is addressed to, and that suggests that Rule (a) is addressed to motions made before submission to the jury.

James A. Christopherson:

If you read... I disagree for this reason.

If you read the first sentence of subparagraph (a), that has nothing to do with motions before submission to a jury.

The third sentence of subparagraph (a)--

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, I think... you're saying that the statement motions for a directed verdict are abolished, and motions for a judgment of acquittal shall be used in... have nothing to do with motions before submission to the jury?

James A. Christopherson:

--No, I'm not saying they have nothing to do, but I think that's a... that's a general statement which is not simply limited to motions before submission to a jury.