Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine Law and Legal Definition

The fugitive disentitlement doctrine generally provides that the fugitive from justice may not seek relief from the judicial system whose authority he or she evades. This equitable rule allows a trial or appellate court to limit a fugitive's access to civil and criminal courts in the U.S. This doctrine originated in the late 19th century as an equitable principle of criminal appellate procedure. Since its inception, the courts have developed and refined the doctrine. Today, it is invoked in both criminal and civil contexts. Under certain circumstances the disentitlement doctrine may be even more applicable to civil than criminal cases: because a defendant-appellant's liberty is not at stake, less harm can come from the refusal to entertain the appeal. [Conforte v. Commissioner, 692 F.2d 587, 589 (9th Cir. 1982).]

To apply the fugitive disentitlement doctrine the appellant must be a fugitive and his fugitive status must have a connection, or nexus, to the appellate process he seeks to utilize. [United States v. Barnette, 129 F.3d 1179 (11th Cir. Fla. 1997)]

The rationales for this doctrine include the difficulty of enforcement against one not willing to subject himself to the court's authority, the inequity of allowing that "fugitive" to use the resources of the courts only if the outcome is an aid to him, the need to avoid prejudice to the nonfugitive party, and the discouragement of flights from justice. [Molinaro v. New Jersey, 396 U.S. 365 (U.S. 1970)]