Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Due Process Not Violated by Application of Statute in First Impression Circumstances If Prior Decisions Gave Reasonable Warning of How Law Would be Applied

From Gollehon v. Mahoney, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 23944 (9th Cir. Nov. 22, 2010):

As an initial matter, we address Gollehon's contention that he lacked fair notice because "no decision of the Montana Supreme Court (up until [his] case) even considered whether an offender convicted of deliberate homicide by accountability could be sentenced to death." *** "Due process is not, however, violated simply because the issue is a matter of first impression." Ponnapula v. Spitzer, 297 F.3d 172, 183 (2d Cir. 2002). So long as "prior decisions gave reasonable warning" that the law would be applied in a certain way, they need not present a "fundamentally similar" factual scenario. Lanier, 520 U.S. at 269 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Rose v. Locke, 423 U.S. 48, 51, 96 S. Ct. 243, 46 L. Ed. 2d 185 (1975) (per curiam) (noting that "the existence of previous applications of a particular statute to one set of facts" is not required to survive a "lack-of-fair-warning challenge").

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