Law of the case doctrine allows vacating of earlier findings

In Stoffels v. SBC Communications, the Court addressed issues about whether a “retiree concession” program involving long-distance discounts should be regulated as a retirement plan under ERISA.  No. 11-50148 (April 16, 2012).  In the court below, a district judge held a trial and made fact findings, after which he recused himself.  The second judge vacated those findings in light of a new and related Fifth Circuit opinion, Boos v. AT&T, 643 F.2d 127 (5th Cir. 2011).   The Court found that Fed. R. Civ. P. 54 gave the judge authority to do so, that the “law of the case” doctrine did not constrain his authority, and that this case was not materiall different on the merits from Boos.  Op. at 8-9.

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