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Law of the Case

The principle that if the highest appellate court has determined a legal question and returned the case to the court below for additional proceedings, the question will not be determined differently on a subsequent appeal in the same case where the facts remain the same.

The law of the case expresses the rule that the final judgment of the highest court is the final determination of the rights of the parties. The doctrine of "law of the case" is one of policy only, however, and will be disregarded when compelling circumstances require a redetermination of the point of law decided on the prior appeal. Such circumstances exist when an intervening or contemporaneous change in the law has transpired by the establishment of new precedent by a controlling authority or the overruling of former decisions.

Courts have ruled that instructions—directions given by the judge to the jury concerning the law applicable to the case—are the "law of the case" where the appealing defendant, the petitioner, accepted the instructions as correct at the time they were given.

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