Rethinking Extraordinary Circumstances

10 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2011 Last revised: 12 Nov 2012

See all articles by Scott Dodson

Scott Dodson

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Date Written: November 8, 2011


This short Essay seeks to rationalize the “extraordinary circumstances” requirement of Rule 60(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under the Supreme Court’s Ackermann decision, any extraordinary circumstances justifying relief must not have been caused by the movant’s own litigation conduct. I argue that the Ackermann rule, at its broadest, would be unjust to those litigants most in need of Rule 60(b)(6) relief and would overserve finality interests. A case study of the recent Fourth Circuit case Aikens v. Ingram illustrates these points. I propose, contrary to Aikens, that the Ackermann rule should apply more narrowly: only to a movant who intentionally abandons the litigation.

Keywords: Ackermann, 60(b)(6), Rule 60, extraordinary circumstances, exceptional circumstances, aikens, relief from judgment

Suggested Citation

Dodson, Scott, Rethinking Extraordinary Circumstances (November 8, 2011). 106 Northwestern University Law Review 377 (2012); William & Mary Law School Research Paper No. 09-170. Available at SSRN:

Scott Dodson (Contact Author)

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

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