JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents the question whether a district court has authority to grant a postverdict motion for judgment of
Petitioner Charles Carlisle, along with several co-defendants, was tried by jury in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, in violation of 21 U. S. C. §§ 841, 846, 84 Stat. 1260, 1265. He did not move during the trial for a judgment of acquittal under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29(a). On July 13, 1993, the jury returned a guilty verdict and was discharged. On July 23, 1993, Carlisle filed a "Motion for a Judgment of Acquittal Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29(c)," arguing that there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction. App. 6-9. Rule 29(c) provides that "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." Excluding the intermediate Saturday and Sunday (as Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 45(a) requires), the 7-day period in this case ended on July 22, 1993. The United States' response to Carlisle's motion argued that it should be denied as untimely and, alternatively, that there was sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction. The District Court denied Carlisle's motion on August 19, 1993. Its written opinion did not address the timeliness issue, but concluded that the evidence was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Carlisle knew about, and knowingly and voluntarily joined, the charged conspiracy.
When Carlisle appeared for sentencing on October 14, 1993, the District Court announced that it was reversing its ruling. When it made its decision in August, the court said, it had prepared two opinions, one granting and one denying the motion, and it had now decided to substitute the former for the latter. The court subsequently entered an order that
The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the judgment of acquittal and remanded to the District Court for reinstatement of the jury's verdict and for sentencing. It held that under Rule 29 a district court has no jurisdiction to grant an untimely motion for judgment of acquittal, and that a district court has no jurisdiction to enter a judgment of acquittal sua sponte after the case has been submitted to the jury. 48 F.3d 190, 192 (1995). We granted certiorari. 515 U.S. 1191 (1995).
Petitioner argues that district courts "should be given the power to go outside the strict time limits of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29(c)" when (1) there is a claim that the defendant was legally innocent, (2) the motion is filed prior to sentencing, and (3) the motion was not timely filed because of attorney error. Brief for Petitioner 8. Petitioner seeks to root this argument in, among other places, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Unable to offer any reading of Rule 29(c) that would permit an untimely motion for judgment of acquittal to be granted, Carlisle contends that Rule 29(a) gives a district court authority to enter a judgment of acquittal sua sponte at any time before sentencing. Rule 29(a), entitled "Motion Before Submission to Jury," provides in relevant part:
It would be quite a surprise to find a district court's sua sponte power to grant judgment of acquittal after submission of the case to the jury hidden away in a provision entitled "Motion Before Submission to Jury." We are not inclined to adopt an interpretation that creates such a surprise unless the intent that the text exceed its caption is clear.
Petitioner's proposed reading would create an odd system in which defense counsel could move for judgment of acquittal for only seven days after the jury's discharge, but the court's power to enter such a judgment would linger. In United States v. Smith, 331 U.S. 469 (1947), we declined to read former Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33, which placed a 5-day limit on the making of a motion for new trial, as "permit[ting] the judge to order retrial without request and at any time," 331 U. S., at 473. "[I]t would be a strange rule," we said, "which deprived a judge of power to do what was asked when request was made by the person most concerned, and yet allowed him to act without petition," and such an arrangement "would almost certainly subject trial judges to private appeals or application by counsel or friends of one convicted," id., at 474, 475. The same is true here.
The Government offers an alternative theory of a court's power to act sua sponte under Rule 29: Because Rule 29(a) refers to both a "motion of a defendant" and a court's "own motion," whereas Rule 29(c) refers only to "a motion" simpliciter, the latter must refer to motions both of defendants and of courts, permitting both such "motions" to be made within seven days after the jury's discharge. We do not find this reading plausible. Rule 29(c) not only provides that "a motion for judgment of acquittal" may be made or renewed within seven days after the jury is discharged. It goes on to provide, in its second and third sentences: "If a verdict of guilty is returned the court may on such motion set aside the verdict and enter judgment of acquittal. If no verdict is returned the court may enter judgment of acquittal." The phrase "on such motion" is notably absent from the third sentence—conveying the idea that, where a jury has not returned a verdict, a court can act without motion, but where a jury has returned a guilty verdict, it cannot. But if "on such motion" includes action taken by a court on its own initiative, the limiting phrase "on such motion" in the second sentence has no effect, and a court may act on its own whether or not a verdict has been returned. That is to say, the inclusion of the phrase "on such motion" in one sentence but not in the other would be inexplicable.
This Rule is of no aid to petitioner. It sets forth a principle of interpretation to be used in construing ambiguous rules, not a principle of law superseding clear rules that do not achieve the stated objectives. It does not, that is to say, provide that rules shall be construed to mean something other than what they plainly say—which is what petitioner's proposed construction of Rule 29(c) would require.
We must acknowledge that there is precedent in this Court for using Rule 2 as a basis for deviating from time limits imposed by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. In Fallen v. United States, 378 U.S. 139 (1964), we cited Rule 2 in the course of excusing the failure of an incarcerated paraplegic pro se petitioner to comply with the time limit for filing a notice of appeal under former Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(a). Concluding that the petitioner "had done all that could reasonably be expected" to file a timely appeal, including mailing a notice of appeal to the clerk's office two days before the notice was due, we "decline[d] to read the Rules so rigidly as to bar a determination of his appeal on the merits." 378 U. S., at 144. Fallen has been made obsolete by an amendment to Rule 37(a).
Finally, petitioner cannot rely on Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 57 as the source of the District Court's authority in this case. The version of Rule 57 in effect when criminal proceedings against petitioner commenced (and which he relied upon at oral argument) states, in relevant part, that, "[i]n all cases not provided for by rule, the district judges... may regulate their practice in any manner not inconsistent with these rules." The relevant portion of the current version of Rule 57 is captioned "Procedure When There Is No Controlling Law," and states: "A judge may regulate practice in any manner consistent with federal law, these rules, and local rules of the district." Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 57(b). We need not decide which version of this Rule controls the present case, because neither authorizes the District Court's action here. A rule permitting a party to submit and prevail on an untimely motion for judgment of acquittal is "inconsistent" (or not "consistent") with Rule 29's 7-day filing limit; and the question of when a motion for judgment of acquittal may be granted does not present a case "not provided for" by Rule 29; and Rule 29 is the "controlling law" governing this question.
As alternative authority for the District Court's action, petitioner invokes courts' "inherent supervisory power." Brief for Petitioner 9. We have recognized that federal
In Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 47 (1991), we said that we would not "`lightly assume that Congress has intended to depart from established principles' such as the scope of a court's inherent power," id., at 47 (quoting Weinberger v. Romero-Barcelo, 456 U.S. 305, 313 (1982)). Similarly, in Link v. Wabash R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 629-632 (1962), we said that since a district court's authority to dismiss sua sponte for lack of prosecution was a "sanction of wide usage," we would not assume, in the absence of a clear expression, that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b), which allowed a party to move for dismissal for lack of prosecution, abrogated this "long ... unquestioned" power. That cautionary principle does not apply in the present case, not only because of the clarity of the text, but also because we are unaware of any "long unquestioned" power of federal district courts to acquit for insufficient evidence sua sponte, after return of a guilty verdict. Indeed, we are aware of only two cases prior to the enactment of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that could be read as asserting in dictum the existence of
Petitioner's three remaining arguments need not detain us long. First, he argues that the District Court had power to enter a judgment of acquittal in this case under the All Writs Act, 28 U. S. C. § 1651, through the writ of coram nobis. Apart from the fact that the District Court was not asked to
Second, petitioner asserts that the failure to allow the District Court to enter a judgment of acquittal would violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. His argument on this point consists of nothing more than bald assertions that Rule 29(c) as applied to the facts of this case transgresses principles of fundamental fairness, "shocks the conscience," and interferes with rights "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty." Brief for Petitioner 28-29 (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390 (1993); Rochin v. California, 342 U.S. 165, 172 (1952); Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319, 325-326 (1937)). Petitioner has failed to proffer any historical, textual, or controlling precedential support for his argument that the inability of a district court to grant an untimely postverdict motion for judgment of acquittal violates the Fifth Amendment, and we decline to fashion a new due process right out of thin air.
Finally, we may respond to some of the many arguments put forward by the dissent. The dissent makes the sweeping assertion that "a district court clearly has the inherent authority to ensure that a legally innocent defendant is not wrongfully convicted," post, at 442. Perhaps so. As the dissent itself recognizes, however, that power has come to an end once an appeal has been taken. Post, at 452-453. We are in accord, then, that there is some point at which the district court is rendered powerless to enter a judgment of acquittal, and the disagreement between us and the dissent
In an effort to explain why, if a Rule 29(c) motion is in any event unnecessary, it makes any sense to impose a 7-day deadline upon the making of it, the dissent maintains that the untimeliness of a motion gives a district court discretion to ignore it. Post, at 445. This presents the disedifying prospect of a court vested with "the inherent authority to ensure that a legally innocent defendant is not wrongfully convicted," post, at 442, exercising its discretion to let an innocent defendant be wrongfully convicted. Quite obviously, this explanation of the deadline is incompatible with the premise that underlies the dissent's entire argument. As for the dissent's concern, post, at 448, that our decision runs afoul of Rule 2's mandate that the rules "be construed to secure simplicity in procedure, fairness in administration and the elimination of unjustifiable expense and delay": We see neither simplicity, nor fairness, nor elimination of delay in a regime that makes it discretionary whether an untimely motion for judgment of acquittal will be entertained.
The dissent asserts that "permissive rules do not withdraw pre-existing inherent powers." Post, at 452. That assertion is really not relevant to the present case since, as we have discussed, the power to enter postverdict judgments of acquittal sua sponte was not a "pre-existing inherent power." See supra, at 426-428, and n. 5. But besides the lack of factual predicate for its application here, the principle the dissent proposes would produce some extraordinary consequences. For example, as the cases cited by the dissent illustrate, see post, at 439-440, courts previously have ordered new trials sua sponte. Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33, however, provides that "[t]he court on motion of a defendant may grant a new trial...." Following the dissent's logic, Rule 33, being permissive, does not preclude a court from granting a new trial without motion, thereby leaving open to the court a course of action that may well
The decisions of Justice Harlan relied upon by the dissent to support the proposition that permissive rules do not eliminate inherent powers are not germane. We have discussed Link above, see supra, at 426. In United States v. Ohio Power Co., 353 U.S. 98, 104 (1957), Justice Harlan noted that this Court has proceeded on the assumption that we have inherent authority to "affect judgments by action which would otherwise be out of time under [our own] Rules." That statement would be relevant if the present case involved a district court's departure from one of its own rules—which of course it does not. In Fernandez v. United
Finally, the dissent contends that United States v. Sisson, 399 U.S. 267 (1970), supports existence of the "inherent power" petitioner invokes. See post, at 448-449. We think not. Sisson did not "implicitly conclude" that it was proper to enter a postverdict judgment of acquittal without motion, because the propriety of the judgment of acquittal was irrelevant to the decision. The only issue was whether the judgment appealed from was a judgment of acquittal (proper or improper), because that would mean that the Government's appeal under the former 18 U. S. C. § 3731 (which did not apply to judgments of acquittal) must be dismissed. See United States v. Wilson, 420 U.S. 332, 351 (1975) (appeal in Sisson "was barred solely by the statute").
* * *
We conclude that the District Court had no authority to grant petitioner's motion for judgment of acquittal filed one day outside the time limit prescribed by Rule 29(c). We therefore affirm the judgment of the Sixth Circuit.
It is so ordered.
In Part I of his dissenting opinion, JUSTICE STEVENS makes a persuasive argument that, absent a rule to the contrary, district judges have an "inherent authority" to enter a judgment of acquittal, although, for the reasons offered by the majority, ante, at 426, I am not persuaded that this inherent authority extends to the power to act sua sponte to grant a judgment of acquittal after the jury has returned a verdict. In any event, I accept the received view that inherent power generally is subject to legislative abrogation, see Bank of Nova Scotia v. United States, 487 U.S. 250, 254-255 (1988); ante, at 426, and although Congress's power is not necessarily plenary, its limits are not implicated here. While there may be some point at which legislative interference with a court's inherent authority would run afoul of Article III, see Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 58 (1991) (SCALIA, J., dissenting) ("Some elements of that inherent authority are so essential to `[t]he judicial Power,' U. S. Const., Art. III, § 1, that they are indefeasible"), it is not seriously contended that Rule 29(c) is an unconstitutional interference with the court's inherent authority. I therefore join the Court's opinion.
JUSTICE GINSBURG, with whom JUSTICE SOUTER and JUSTICE BREYER join, concurring.
I join the opinion of the Court and highlight features of the case key to my judgment.
It is anomalous to classify time prescriptions, even rigid ones,
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29(c) concerns a matter less basic. It is simply a time prescription. Rule 29(c)'s prescription is a tight one, to be sure. Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 45(b) makes that clear by precluding extensions, even for "excusable neglect," after expiration of the seven days specified in Rule 29(c). But like limitation periods generally, see, e. g., Irwin v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 498 U.S. 89, 95 (1990) ("[t]ime requirements in lawsuits... are customarily subject to `equitable tolling'"), the 29(c)/45(b) constraint is not utterly exceptionless.
This Court has recognized one sharply honed exception to rules of the 29(c)/45(b) genre. That exception covers cases in which the trial judge has misled a party who could have— and probably would have—taken timely action had the trial judge conveyed correct, rather than incorrect, information. See Thompson v. INS, 375 U.S. 384, 386-387 (1964) (per curiam) (had trial judge not misinformed party that his new trial motion was made "in ample time," party "could have, and presumably would have, filed the appeal within 60 days of the entry of the original judgment, rather than waiting, as he did, until after the trial court had disposed of the [new trial motion]"); Harris Truck Lines, Inc. v. Cherry Meat Packers, Inc., 371 U.S. 215, 216-217 (1962) (per curiam) (instructing that petitioner's appeal be heard on the merits
Carlisle's counsel was not misled by any trial court statement or action; rather, he neglected to follow plain instructions. Rule 29(c) clearly instructs that a motion for a judgment of acquittal be filed "within 7 days after the jury is discharged or within such further time as the court may fix during the 7-day period." Just as clearly, Rule 45(b) excludes motions for enlargement once seven days have run. I agree that a rule like 29(c) is framed to resist ad hoc relaxation. A time line must be drawn at some point, and it is not unreasonable to draw the line as the rulemakers did, rather than extend it out to the day set for sentencing.
It bears emphasis, finally, that the Government recognizes legal avenues still open to Carlisle to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to warrant his conviction: on appeal (subject to "plain error" standard); and through a postconviction motion, under 28 U. S. C. § 2255, asserting ineffective assistance of counsel. Brief for United States 38-39. In the rare situations Justice Stevens envisions—delay of a meritorious motion due to an Act of God, see post, at 454, or cases comparable to those in which we would read and grant an out-of-time rehearing petition, see post, at 450-451— these modes of relief should provide an adequate corrective.
JUSTICE STEVENS, with whom JUSTICE KENNEDY joins, dissenting.
As long as a federal court retains jurisdiction over a criminal case, it has the authority to ensure that no conviction is entered unless the prosecutor has proved the defendant's guilt. The exercise of the court's inherent power to set
Viewed in this light, the majority places more reliance on the negative implication in Rule 29 than its permissive language can bear. Assuming it exists at all, this negative implication is far too weak to justify the conclusion that Rule 29 manifests that Congress desired to withdraw a federal court's inherent authority to acquit an innocent defendant.
Trial judges are kept busy responding to motions, objections, and requests by the litigants. It is quite wrong, however, to assume that a judge is nothing more than a referee whose authority is limited to granting or denying motions advanced by the parties. As Learned Hand tersely noted, a "judge, at least in a federal court, is more than a moderator; he is affirmatively charged with securing a fair trial, and he must intervene sua sponte to that end, when necessary." Brown v. Walter, 62 F.2d 798, 799 (CA2 1933). That duty encompasses not only the avoidance of error before it occurs, but the correction of error that may have occurred earlier in a proceeding.
The basic principle has been stated many times. There is a "power `inherent in every court of justice so long as it retains control of the subject matter and of the parties, to correct that which has been wrongfully done by virtue of its process.' Arkadelphia Co. v. St. Louis Southwestern Ry. Co., 249 U.S. 134, 146. See Northwestern Fuel Co. v. Brock, 139 U.S. 216, 219." United States v. Morgan, 307 U.S. 183,
Examples of the exercise of the federal courts' inherent powers are abundant in both our civil and our criminal jurisprudence.
When a federal court declines to enter a judgment of conviction against a defendant whom it should have directed the jury to acquit, it clearly corrects the legal process and averts its misfunctioning. Given the various sua sponte powers that district courts unquestionably may exercise in order to ensure that legally innocent defendants are not convicted, it is clear that they also possess the inherent authority sua sponte to enter postverdict acquittals when the Government has failed to prove that a defendant is guilty.
District courts have long exercised their inherent power to direct an acquittal sua sponte when the prosecution fails to prove its case at the close of evidence. See Wiborg v. United States, 163 U.S. 632, 659 (1896); Cady v. United States, 293 F. 829 (CADC 1923); Nosowitz v. United States, 282 F. 575, 578 (CA2 1922).
The District Courts' longstanding exercise of these inherent powers is entirely consistent with the conclusion that a district court acts within its power when it enters a judgment of acquittal upon setting aside an unsupported jury verdict. To be sure, the early cases reveal that District Courts typically ordered new trials, rather than acquittals, upon concluding that the jury's verdict was not supported by legally sufficient evidence. However, subsequent cases demonstrate that as courts became concerned that the new
The earliest cases involve appellate courts entering judgments of acquittal in order to remedy a district court's failure to direct the jury to acquit. See Nosowitz v. United States, 282 F. 575 (CA2 1922); Cherry v. United States, 78 F.2d 334 (CA7 1935); Reiner v. United States, 92 F.2d 823 (CA9 1937); see also France v. United States, 164 U.S. 676 (1897) (remanding to the District Court with directions to enter such judgment); Romano v. United States, 9 F.2d 522 (CA2 1925) (same). Later cases reveal that District Courts soon followed suit, either by ruling on reserved, preverdict acquittal motions or by granting postverdict motions to acquit. See Ex parte United States, 101 F.2d 870 (CA7 1939); United States v. Standard Oil Co., 23 F.Supp. 937 (WD Wis. 1938), aff'd in United States v. Socony-Vacuum Oil Co., 310 U.S. 150, 165, n. 1 (1940); State v. Meen, 171 Wis. 36 (1920) (same); see also Advisory Committee's Notes to Rule 29 (endorsing these practices). Moreover, prior to the adoption of Rule 29 in 1944, the Fifth Circuit explained that, even after a jury returns a verdict, a court "may and should" sua sponte review the sufficiency of the evidence. Ansley v. United States, 135 F.2d 207, 208 (1943).
In light of this history, it makes no sense to conclude that a federal district court lacks the inherent power to enter sua sponte a postverdict judgment of acquittal. A trial court's postverdict entry of a judgment of acquittal is in substance no different from an appellate court's order directing entry of that same judgment. Moreover, the double jeopardy concerns that may bar a district court from ordering a new trial to remedy its failure to have directed an acquittal cannot sensibly be understood to prohibit the district court from providing a defendant some measure of relief from a legally
In all events, a district court clearly has the inherent authority to ensure that a legally innocent defendant is not wrongfully convicted. It would be most strange to conclude that this authority, which enables a district court to keep a case from the jury altogether when the Government fails to prove its case, does not permit that same court to revise a guilty verdict that the jury returns despite the Government's insufficient proof. That conclusion is particularly difficult to fathom when one considers that the latter action may be appealed by the Government, while the former may not. United States v. Wilson, 420 U.S. 332, 345 (1975). Not surprisingly, therefore, numerous courts have recognized that, prior to the passage of Rule 29, district courts possessed the inherent power to acquit defendants sua sponte. See United States v. Hughes, 759 F.Supp. 530, 532-536 (WD Ark.), aff'd sub nom. United States v. Haren, 952 F.2d 190 (CA8 1991); United States v. DiBernardo, 880 F.2d 1216, 1225, n. 4 (CA11 1989); United States v. Coleman, 811 F.2d 804 (CA3 1987); United States v. Giampa, 758 F.2d 928, 936, n. 1 (CA3 1985); Arizona v. Manypenny, 672 F. 2d, at 765; Ansley v. United States, 135 F. 2d, at 208; see also United States v. Weinstein, 452 F.2d 704, 713, 714 (CA2 1971); United States v. Broadus, 664 F.Supp. 592, 595-598 (DC 1987).
The majority states that no pre-Rule case establishes the precise power at issue here. Ante, at 427-428, n. 5. That
In sum, the error-correcting power that is "`inherent in every court of justice so long as it retains control of the subject matter and of the parties,'" Morgan, 307 U. S., at 197, encompasses the kind of error at issue in this case. Therefore, absent some express indication that Congress intended to withdraw the power that implicitly attends its initial grant of jurisdiction, a district court acts well within its discretion when it sets aside a jury verdict and acquits a defendant because the prosecution failed to prove its case.
Because the Acts of Congress investing federal judges with jurisdiction to try criminal cases are the source of a district court's power to set aside unsupported jury verdicts, I have no occasion to disagree with the Court's view that petitioner errs in relying on Rule 29 as the source of the District Court's authority in this case. I do, however, strongly disagree with the Court's own reliance on that Rule for the quite different conclusion that it clearly prohibits the power exercised by the District Court here.
In Part III of its opinion, the majority asserts that the District Court's action "contradicted the plain language of Rule 29(c), and effectively annulled the 7-day filing limit,"
In my view, the Rule serves three salutary purposes that are in no tension with a district court's inherent power to enter a judgment of acquittal sua sponte. None of these purposes would be frustrated if the Rule were understood to coexist with, though not to authorize, a district court's power to avoid imposing sentence on an innocent defendant in the truly exceptional case in which evidence of guilt is wholly lacking.
First, subdivision (a) confirms the view that a judge has a duty to direct an acquittal if the prosecution has failed to prove its case at the close of evidence. The Rule's affirmation of that duty is in no way inconsistent with a court's exercise of its postverdict power to enter sua sponte a judgment of acquittal. As then-Judge Kennedy explained for the Ninth Circuit in Arizona v. Manypenny, 672 F. 2d, at 764: "We do not read the mention in Rule 29(a) of a court granting such a judgment `on its own motion' before submission to a jury as an elimination of a court's inherent power to grant such a judgment after submission to the jury."
Second, subdivision (b) accommodates the defendant's right to move for a directed acquittal with the Government's right to seek appellate review. Indeed, the subdivision was amended in 1994 for the very purpose of striking a more proper balance between those two interests. See Advisory Committee's Notes to Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 29(b), 18 U. S. C. App., pp. 784-785. As a result, a district court's sua sponte decision to acquit after the jury returns a guilty verdict can hardly be said to undermine the purpose of subdivision (b). The defendant's interests are obviously fully protected by an acquittal, while the Government's right to appeal is protected
Third, subdivision (c) requires defense counsel to file the postverdict motion for judgment of acquittal promptly, while the trial judge presumably retains a firm recollection of the evidence and therefore is able to rule expeditiously and efficiently. The untimeliness of a later motion provides the judge with a sufficient reason for denying it without even reading it or reviewing the transcript. Thus, a judge's entirely discretionary decision to enter sua sponte an acquittal after the 7-day period in no way annuls the 7-day deadline. Defendants are still bound by that time limitation, and the Rule thus serves the useful function of limiting a defendant's right to require a judge to reconsider the sufficiency of the evidence. As then-Judge Kennedy explained: "Rule 29(c) creates a deadline by which defendants must present motions for judgment of acquittal to the court; it does not address the court's inherent power to grant such a judgment." Arizona v. Manypenny, 672 F. 2d, at 764.
In light of the pre-Rule precedent establishing a district court's inherent power to review sua sponte a jury verdict for sufficiency of the evidence, see Ansley v. United States, 135 F. 2d, at 208, the majority reads far too much into the omission. The caption to Rule 29(c) makes clear that the subdivision only contemplates judicial action taken in response to a motion. The first sentence explains that a motion may be made after a jury's discharge whether or not a guilty verdict has been returned. The next sentence sets forth the action that the district court may take when such a motion is filed after the jury returns a guilty verdict. In a similar vein, the third sentence sets forth the action that the district court may take when no verdict has been returned.
Common sense refutes what the text fails to compel. Under the majority's reading, Rule 29(c) establishes a most inefficient regime for setting aside unsupported jury verdicts by requiring defendants to file appeals and collateral challenges to judgments of conviction that district judges knew to be unsupported. Given that Federal Rule of Criminal
Indeed, our decision in United States v. Sisson, 399 U.S. 267 (1970), reveals that when we previously considered Rule 29 we did not understand it to prohibit a district court from sua sponte entering a postverdict judgment of acquittal. There, defendant's counsel moved postverdict to arrest judgment under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 34. 399 U. S., at 276. The District Court purported to grant the Rule 34 motion on evidentiary and constitutional grounds that the defendant's motion did not raise. Id., at 277, n. 6. The Government sought review from this Court pursuant to 18 U. S. C. § 3731, which at that time permitted governmental appeals from orders arresting judgment but not from orders entering judgments of acquittal. 399 U. S., at 279-280.
In holding that we lacked jurisdiction to hear the Government's appeal, we explained that although the District Court termed its order an "arres[t] [of] judgment," it was in fact an acquittal. Id., at 288. The portion of Justice Harlan's opinion that five Members of the Court joined equated the District Court's sua sponte acquittal with an acquittal by a jury. As support for the comparison, the opinion explained that, under Rule 29, "judges, like juries, can acquit defendants." Id., at 290. Moreover, it noted that Rules 29(b) and
Although the merits of the judgment of acquittal were not before the Court in Sisson, the trial court's jurisdiction to enter the judgment plainly was. Just as a trial court's post-judgment acquittal could not have mooted a pending appeal, neither could a jurisdictionally barred action have prevented an appeal from being taken. Nevertheless, the Sisson Court did not identify any jurisdictional bar to the judge's entry of a postverdict acquittal motion, even though no Rule 29 motion had been filed. I am therefore mystified as to why the Court now concludes that the Rule can only be read to deprive the district court of jurisdiction to acquit postverdict in the absence of a defendant's motion.
Our prior construction of procedural rules that employ permissive language similar to that used in Rule 29 reinforces the implicit conclusion that we reached in Sisson. As we recently explained, our prior cases reveal that although Congress may limit the exercise of the inherent power of lower federal courts, "`we do not lightly assume that Congress has intended'" to do so. Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 47 (1991) (quoting Weinberger v. Romero-Barcelo, 456 U.S. 305, 313 (1982)). That interpretive principle suggests that something far more than an ambiguous silence is required to withdraw a district court's inherent power.
Link v. Wabash R. Co., 370 U.S. 626 (1962), sets forth the proper analysis. In Link, we rejected the argument that the authority granted to a defendant by Rule 41 of the Rules of Civil Procedure to move for an involuntary dismissal of a complaint, by negative implication, precluded such a dismissal
Our practice with respect to petitions for rehearing is also instructive. Such petitions, like motions for a judgment of acquittal, are routinely filed and almost never granted. If not filed within the time specified in our Rules, it is appropriate to deny such a petition without even reading it. On rare occasions, however, we have held that the interest in the evenhanded administration of justice outweighs the interest in finality and granted such petitions even though untimely
Thus, in United States v. Ohio Power Co., 351 U.S. 980 (1956), the Court on its own initiative vacated an earlier order denying a petition for rehearing and, in the following Term, granted the previously denied petition. United States v. Ohio Power Co., 353 U.S. 98 (1957). While Justice Harlan dissented from that disposition, he did not disagree with the proposition that "the Court's inherent power over its judgments" included the authority to take action that "would otherwise be out of time under the Rules." Id., at 104.
Just three years after the Ohio Power decision, Justice Harlan had occasion to endorse the exercise of a District Court's use of its inherent powers in apparent conflict with the language of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Explaining his denial of an application for bail, he correctly observed that those Rules should not be construed to withdraw the District Court's inherent power to revoke bail during the course of a criminal trial. See Fernandez v. United States, 81 S.Ct. 642, 644, n. 7, 5 L. Ed. 2d 683, 685, n. 7 (1961) (in chambers). In doing so, he exposed the basic flaw in an argument comparable to the one accepted by the Court today.
Justice Harlan explained that even though Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 46(a)(1) stated that a "`person arrested for an offense not punishable by death shall be admitted to bail,'" that Rule did not purport to withdraw the district courts' "authority, as an incident of their inherent powers to manage the conduct of proceedings before them, to revoke bail during the course of a criminal trial, when such action is appropriate to the orderly progress of the trial and the fair administration of justice." Fernandez v. United States, 81 S. Ct., at 644, 645, n. 7, 5 L. Ed. 2d, at 685, n. 7, 686 (in chambers). He properly read the seemingly mandatory language of Rule 46(a)(1) against a pre-Rule legal background
Our decision in United States v. Smith, 331 U.S. 469 (1947), is consistent with our prior cases holding that permissive rules do not withdraw pre-existing inherent powers.
The error committed by Judge Smith was his attempt to assert jurisdiction in a criminal case after the judgment of conviction had been affirmed on appeal and even after the defendant had started to serve his sentence. There was not even an arguable basis for suggesting that the judge then had jurisdiction to order a new trial. Id., at 474; see United States v. Mayer, 235 U.S. 55, 70 (1914).
In fact, if one takes note of the extraordinary character of Judge Smith's attempt to set aside a conviction after it had been affirmed on appeal and after the defendant had been incarcerated for several months, it is easy to understand why Justice Jackson's opinion for the Court expressed concern that such action might give rise to an appearance of impropriety, and therefore provided us with the dictum concerning possible ex parte approaches to the judge on which today's majority relies. The suggestion that that dictum has any relevance to the period between the return of the jury's verdict and the imposition of sentence is not only misplaced, but also represents a highly inappropriate comment on the integrity of the federal judiciary. Judge Smith's singularly bizarre action a half century ago provides no basis for either the inference or the rule that today's majority thinks the Smith opinion supports. See Arizona v. Manypenny, 672 F. 2d, at 765, n. 10 (explaining that "Smith cannot be applied indiscriminately outside of the particular factual context at issue there").
The decision in Smith was a correct application of the principle that should control the disposition of this case. There is a "power `inherent in every court of justice so long as it retains control of the subject matter and of the parties, to correct that which has been wrongfully done by virtue of its process.'" United States v. Morgan, 307 U. S., at 197. Of course, that power does not survive after the court's jurisdiction of the subject matter has expired. It is surely sufficient, however, to enable the judge to refuse to impose sentence on a defendant when the record does not contain evidence of guilt.
As a result, Rule 29(c) is best read to state the proper procedures for handling and filing defense motions for acquittals,
A brief final word about the practical significance of today's holding. There is no real danger that district judges will be burdened by a flood of untimely motions. On the other hand, the possibility that an Act of God may preclude the timely filing of a meritorious motion cannot be denied. Because evidence of guilt is "absolutely vital to defendants," Wiborg, 163 U. S., at 658, that possibility, no matter how remote, is sufficient to justify a district court's inherent authority to avert the conviction of a legally innocent defendant despite the absence of a timely motion. Because there is no
Accordingly, I respectfully dissent.
"(a) MOTION BEFORE SUBMISSION TO JURY. Motions for directed verdict are abolished and motions for judgment of acquittal shall be used in their place. The court on motion of a defendant or of its own motion shall order the entry of judgment of acquittal of one or more offenses charged in the indictment or information after the evidence on either side is closed if the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction of such offense or offenses. If a defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of the evidence offered by the government is not granted, the defendant may offer evidence without having reserved the right.
"(b) RESERVATION OF DECISION ON MOTION. The court may reserve decision on a motion for judgment of acquittal, proceed with the trial (where the motion is made before the close of all the evidence), submit the case to the jury and decide the motion either before the jury returns a verdict or after it returns a verdict of guilty or is discharged without having returned a verdict. If the court reserves decision, it must decide the motion on the basis of the evidence at the time the ruling was reserved.
"(c) MOTION AFTER DISCHARGE OF JURY. If the jury returns a verdict of guilty or is discharged without having returned a verdict, 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. If a verdict of guilty is returned the court may on such motion set aside the verdict and enter judgment of acquittal. If no verdict is returned the court may enter judgment of acquittal. It shall not be necessary to the making of such a motion that a similar motion has been made prior to the submission of the case to the jury.
"(d) SAME: CONDITIONAL RULING ON GRANT OF MOTION. If a motion for judgment of acquittal after verdict of guilty under this Rule is granted, the court shall also determine whether any motion for a new trial should be granted if the judgment of acquittal is thereafter vacated or reversed, specifying the grounds for such determination. If the motion for a new trial is granted conditionally, the order thereon does not affect the finality of the judgment. If the motion for a new trial has been granted conditionally and the judgment is reversed on appeal, the new trial shall proceed unless the appellate court has otherwise ordered. If such motion has been denied conditionally, the appellee on appeal may assert error in that denial, and if the judgment is reversed on appeal, subsequent proceedings shall be in accordance with the order of the appellate court."
"[T]he question of the sufficiency of the evidence was not properly saved for review by this court. It is true that the question may and should be raised by the court of its own motion, if necessary to prevent a miscarriage of justice, but this is not such a case. We have examined the record, and have found it to contain ample evidence to support the judgment." 135 F. 2d, at 208.
It is obvious that the statement "the question may and should be raised by the court of its own motion" refers to the power of an appellate court to review sufficiency of the evidence where the issue has not been preserved for appeal. The cases cited by the dissent deal with the power of a district court to enter a judgment of acquittal before the return of a verdict (i. e., to direct a verdict of acquittal), see Cady v. United States, 293 F. 829 (CADC 1923); Nosowitz v. United States, 282 F. 575, 578 (CA2 1922); United States v. Fullerton, 25 F. Cas. 1225 (No. 15,176) (SDNY 1870); the power of a district court to set aside a verdict and order a new trial, see Wiborg v. United States, 163 U.S. 632, 658-659 (1896); United States v. Harding, 26 F. Cas. 131, 136 (No. 15,301) (ED Pa. 1846); cf. Charles v. State, 4 Port. 107, 109-110 (Ala. 1836); the power of a district court to enter judgment of acquittal where the defendant has made a preverdict or postverdict motion to acquit, see Ex parte United States, 101 F.2d 870, 878 (CA7 1939), aff'd by an equally divided Court, United States v. Stone, 308 U.S. 519 (1939); United States v. Standard Oil Co., 23 F.Supp. 937, 938-939 (WD Wis. 1938); cf. State v. Meen, 171 Wis. 36, 38-39 (1920); and even the power of an appellate court to reverse a district court's denial of a motion for directed verdict, see Nosowitz, supra, at 578; Cherry v. United States, 78 F.2d 334 (CA7 1935); Reiner v. United States, 92 F.2d 823, 824-825 (CA9 1937); France v. United States, 164 U.S. 676, 680 (1897); Romano v. United States, 9 F.2d 522, 524 (CA2 1925). Not a single pre-Rule case cited by the dissent purports to exercise the power at issue here: a district court's power to enter judgment of acquittal for insufficient evidence, without motion, and after the return of a guilty verdict. The dissent apparently thinks it an adequate explanation for this lack of support that, prior to our decision in United States v. Smith, 331 U.S. 469, 474 (1947) (suggesting that sua sponte grant of a new trial may raise double jeopardy concerns), district courts could order new trials where there was insufficient evidence to sustain the jury verdict. Post, at 442-443. But if these district courts truly had latent inherent power to enter a judgment of acquittal, surely at least some of them would have been willing to give a legally innocent defendant that to which he was entitled—viz., a judgment of acquittal—rather than just a new trial.
"(c) MOTION AFTER DISCHARGE OF JURY. If the jury returns a verdict of guilty or is discharged without having returned a verdict, 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. If a verdict of guilty is returned the court may on such motion set aside the verdict and enter judgment of acquittal. If no verdict is returned the court may enter judgment of acquittal. It shall not be necessary to the making of such a motion that a similar motion has been made prior to the submission of the case to the jury."
Contrary to the majority's construction of the relevant language, there is no reason to suppose that the phrase "on such motion" in the old Rule applied only to the circumstance in which the jury returned a verdict. Under such a construction, the original Rule would have been intended to "conve[y] the idea," ante, at 423, that the District Court possessed the authority to impose a new trial against the defendant's wishes whenever the jury had been discharged without having returned a verdict. It is clear that the drafters never intended to convey such a potentially unconstitutional idea. Indeed, it was the drafters' concern that the original Rule might be subject to the potentially unconstitutional "interpretation that a motion for judgment of acquittal gives the court power to order a new trial even though the defendant does not a wish a new trial and has not asked for one" that led them to eliminate all references to new trial orders in what is now Rule 29(c). Advisory Committee's Notes on Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 29, 18 U. S. C. App., pp. 784-785. There is no hint in the Advisory Committee's Notes, or the Rule's drafting history, that this limiting revision was simultaneously intended to link the district court's power to acquit for insufficiency of the evidence with the jury's return of a verdict.