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Findings of fact.

In arguing for lenient review of punitive damages awards, Leatherman cited the Seventh Amendment's bar against federal appellate courts' reexamination of factual findings made by juries. The Court rejected this argument, noting that an award of punitive damages does not itself constitute a finding of fact.

Stevens acknowledged that district courts may be better situated than appellate courts to determine the reprehensibility of a defendant's conduct. But evaluating the civil penalties that have been imposed in comparable cases is a broad legal analysis that "seems more suited to the expertise of appellate courts." Therefore, Stevens concluded, "considerations of institutional competence fail to tip the balance in favor of deferential appellate review."

Ginsburg, in her dissent, wrote that the appellate court had acted correctly in evaluating the award for abuse of discretion. She cited case law stretching back to 1852 to support her view that, under the Seventh Amendment, disputes over the appropriate amount of punitive damages were questions of fact that must be resolved by the jury.
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Author:Scarlett, Thomas
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2001
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