Sixth Circuit Discusses Law of the Case Doctrine; Indicates Inapplicability to Issues Raised but not Clearly Decided
Per Westside Mothers v. Olszewski, 454 F.3d 532 (6th Cir. Jul 17, 2006):
This suit filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleges that the State of Michigan has failed to provide services required by the Medicaid program. [W]e must consider whether our determination in Westside Mothers I that "[p]laintiffs have a cause of action under § 1983 for alleged noncompliance with the screening and treatment provisions of the Medicaid Act," Westside Mothers I, 289 F.3d at 863, was binding on the district court under the law of the case doctrine. The doctrine precludes a court from reconsideration of issues "decided at an early stage of the litigation, either explicitly or by necessary inference from the disposition." Hanover Ins. Co. v. Am. Eng'g Co., 105 F.3d 306, 312 (6th Cir.1997) (quoting Coal Res., Inc. v. Gulf & Western Indus., Inc., 865 F.2d 761, 766 (6th Cir.1989)).
The law of the case doctrine precludes reconsideration of a previously decided issue unless one of three "exceptional circumstances" exists: (1) where substantially different evidence is raised on subsequent trial; (2) where a subsequent contrary view of the law is decided by the controlling authority; or (3) where a decision is clearly erroneous and would work a manifest injustice. Hanover Ins. Co., 105 F.3d at 312. None of these "exceptional circumstances" are present[.] However, . . . the law of the case doctrine is limited to those issues decided in the earlier appeal, and the district court may therefore consider those issues not decided expressly or impliedly by the appellate court. See Hanover Ins. Co., 105 F.3d at 312. In Westside Mothers I, we identified a specific issue[.] Where there is substantial doubt as to whether a prior panel actually decided an issue, the district court should not be foreclosed from considering the issue on remand. See United Artists Theatre Circuit, Inc. v. Township of Warrington, 316 F.3d 392, 398 (3d Cir.2003). Accordingly, we conclude that the law of the case doctrine does not apply.