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Downs v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

April 24, 2015

MARK ALAN DOWNS, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee.

Appeal from the District Court, Third Judicial District, Palmer, John Wolfe, Judge. Trial Court No. 3PA-10-2351 CR

Catherine Boruff, Assistant Public Defender, and Q uinlan Steiner, Public D efender, Anchorage, for the Appellant.

Lindsey M. Burton, Assistant District Attorney, Palmer, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, and Allard and Kossler, Judges.

OPINION

KOSSLER. JUDGE

The State charged Mark Alan Downs with driving with a revoked license. Downs filed a motion to suppress the evidence against him, arguing that the police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop him. The district court denied Downs's motion, and Downs filed a petition for review in the superior court. The superior court granted Downs's petition and then affirmed the district court's ruling on its merits. Downs did not seek further appellate review at that time. Instead, he went to trial and was convicted of driving with a revoked license.

Downs now appeals his conviction, arguing for a second time that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress. Because Downs previously litigated this issue and obtained an appellate decision on the merits, he is precluded from raising the same issue now.

The "law of the case" doctrine restricts the relitigation of issues that were decided in an earlier appeal in the same case. The doctrine is grounded in the principle of stare decisis.[1] As the Alaska Supreme Court has explained, "Previous decisions on such issues - even questionable decisions - become the law of the case and should not be reconsidered on remand or in a subsequent appeal except where there exist exceptional circumstances presenting a clear error constituting a manifest injustice."[2]The policies underlying this doctrine include avoiding open-ended litigation of the same issue, fostering consistent results in the same litigation, ensuring procedural fairness, and promoting judicial efficiency.[3]

In this case, Downs chose to pursue interlocutory review of the district court's suppression ruling. In seeking interlocutory review, Downs had the choice to file his petition for review in the superior court or in this Court.[4] He chose to file his petition in the superior court, which granted his petition and affirmed the district court's ruling on its merits. Downs could have sought review of the superior court's decision by filing a petition for hearing in this Court, but he chose not to.[5]

The superior court's appellate ruling was thus a final decision that became the law of the case. As we have explained, the law of the case doctrine restricts Downs's ability to obtain a second appellate review of the district court's ruling unless "there exist exceptional circumstances presenting a clear error constituting a manifest injustice."[6] W e conclude that Downs has not met this burden.

Downs alternatively asks us to accept his current appeal as an untimely petition for hearing from the superior court's appellate decision. At the time of the superior court's appellate decision, Alaska Rule of Appellate Procedure 303(a)(1) provided that a petition for hearing could be filed within fifteen days of the date of notice of the decision of the intermediate appellate court.[7] Downs's petition for hearing was accordingly due by September 14, 2011.[8] Appellate Rule 502(b) prohibits us from relaxing that deadline by more than sixty days. That sixty days expired on November 14, 2011. We do not have jurisdiction to accept Downs's appeal as a petition for hearing.[9]

Conclusion

We AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.


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