Thou shalt not sandbag
The basic rule for preserving error

Thou shalt conserve judicial resources

Yesterday we saw that one purpose of requiring parties to preserve errors in the trial court is to avoid sandbagging: allowing the trial court to make an error by failing to object, then attempting to raise the error on appeal. A second purpose served by the error-preservation requirement is similar: conservation of judicial resources. The parties must give the trial court a fair opportunity to avoid an error or to correct an error immediately. This helps avoid unnecessary appeals and multiple trials.

In Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985), the Supreme Court cited conservation of judicial resources in approving an error-preservation rule of the Sixth Circuit, one requiring parties who disagree with a magistrate judge’s report to file timely objections in the district court. The Court noted that absence of such a rule would increase the courts’ workloads and waste judicial resources:

Absent such a rule, any issue before the magistrate would be a proper subject for appellate review. This would either force the court of appeals to consider claims that were never reviewed by the district court, or force the district court to review every issue in every case, no matter how thorough the magistrate’s analysis and even if both parties were satisfied with the magistrate's report. Either result would be an inefficient use of judicial resources. [Id. at 148.]

In the next post of this series, we will look at the basic rule for preserving errors: a simple rule applicable at every stage of the litigation.

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