A Roundup of Recent Federal Court Decisions

Please enjoy the latest edition of Short Circuit, a weekly feature from the Institute for Justice.

Does the government have to pay compensation if an SWAT team damages innocent people’s homes? Yesterday’s federal district court declared it a possibility, and rejected Vicki Baker, Texas,’s motion to dismiss the case. For more information, click here

  • What is a trucky trailer? The Hart-Fuller Debate is over. This issue concerns the interpretation of two federal statutes used by the government to set fuel efficiency standards on those trailers. D.C. Circuit decided, and did not apply the Chevron doctrine states that a trailer can be considered an automobile but not a vehicle. Applying the dissent ChevronIt is, according to you. (This opinion will be discussed in the podcast this week.
  • There are approximately 368 right whales in the wild. The main cause of their deaths is being caught in lobster trap lines. The feds issued an order seasonally banning the most common method of lobstering within a roughly 1,000-mile area in the Atlantic after a dramatic decline in whale numbers. Lobsterers: The area is not suitable for right whales. First Circuit: However, some whales may be present and could die due to the lobster-trap lines. This is sufficient to make the rule effective this winter.
  • Allegation: Iranian citizen was informed by the Department of Labor after 15 years of teaching in New York at an Islamic School. They have revoked their work approval. Teacher claims that this pretext is false. She was told by the FBI that she would lose her status as an immigrant if the FBI obtained information regarding Iran’s relationship to the U.S. The FBI retaliated against her when they didn’t know anything. Second Circuit: This is irrelevant because it’s not within our jurisdiction.
  • Man was assaulted by three NYPD officers, who broke his nose and beat him unconscious. The officers fabricate the story of how the man repeatedly punched one cop while refusing to be arrested. A jury awarded almost half a billion in punitive, compensatory, and compensatory damages to the victim after video evidence was provided. Cops: For “only a few moments of violence”, it is way too high in damages. Second Circuit: He was unprovoked beat and you lied repeatedly about it. These damages are valid.
  • Arrrr ye bilge rat! Is it true that the district court cannot grant a sailorman a coin if officers from his Majesty’s Coast Guard take him to port and then all of his exotic fruits and nuts go to rot. This is against sea custom, but it works! Third Circuit: Scurvy dogs! If there was ever an admiralty case, this is it! It is hereby reversed and remanded.
  • South Carolina man is sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer, but seeks habeas relief on the ground—among others—that one of the jurors was so hearing-impaired that she was not competent to sit on the jury. Fourth Circuit, May 2012: The interactions between jurors and courts “include some troubling interchanges,” as she repeatedly admitted that she had missed certain testimony. This is not much different than when jurors go to sleep, but that’s less important. Dissenting: The woman missed both the guilt- and penalty phase and it is impossible to know what and how much. He deserves another sentencing hearing. Fourth Circuit (en banc),: Confirmed by an equally divided court.
  • Do you want to jump ahead of the impending? multicircuitIn fact, it was an omnicircuit lottery. The Fifth Circuit stayed the OSHA vaccination mandate’s enforcement. Although it mainly relied upon statutory arguments to support its decision, the Fifth Circuit also considered that Congress might have other powers than those enumerated in its statutes. (Ed.(Ed. Gonzales v. Raich.) The Sixth Circuit wins the lottery two business days later. This means that the Fifth Circuit is out of control. We’ll still have the memory (of last week’s case breaking)
  • A widely debated set of facts shows that a Louisiana prisoner sued officers after he was beaten, sprayed his anus and genitals with chemical agents, and then cut him with a knife. District court: The prisoner in question was punished for this incident. His claims against the district court are therefore barred. Heck v. Humphrey. Fifth Circuit: Not necessarily All These are his claims. Judge Willett agrees: No need to do further analysis. There’s no place in the world that isn’t. HeckThese claims are prohibited
  • According to widely-disputed facts, Louisiana prisoners sue officers for beating them, spraying chemical agents on their heads, as well as retraining and beating them again. (Sound familiar? Similar officers but different prisoners. District court: All pre-restraint cases are prohibited by Heck v. HumphreyThe post-restraint claims can be filed but are not exhausted. The Fifth Circuit: Not All All claims must be verified Heck Barred, more analysis is required, but post-restraint claim are unexhausted. Judge Willett agrees: While my colleagues are right, their conclusions are incorrect.
  • Allegiance: The two off-duty New Orleans officers believe that a Honduran immigrant may be trying to present himself as a veteran of the military and beat him unconscious. (He is a vet. District court: They weren’t acting in violation of the law. Fifth Circuit. They asked him about his whereabouts and he obliged. Case undismissed. (The officers were fired and reached plea agreements for $5k each.
  • CIRCUIT SPLIT ALERTA! A FDA order that denied premarket approval for a maker of flavored electronic cigarettes was rescinded by the Sixth Circuit. The court rejects the Fifth Circuit’s recent ruling that the FDA’s denials—which conflicted with the Agency’s express guidance on the types of evidence that would support premarket approval—justified a stay because they violated the “surprise switcheroo” doctrine.
  • Wayne County in Michigan is suing female prisoners for past and current jail time. They claim that the jail strip-search policy permits searches with opposite-gendered officials, in unsanitary groups and with derogatory, gender-biased comments. Sixth Circuit: No. It is necessary to have class certification. Each woman’s constitutional search must also be considered. Revocation of certification
  • It is Younger When a case involving zoning enforcement in a state court is pending alongside one relating to civil rights, abstention may be appropriate. Sixth Circuit: It depends if the case is “similar to a criminal investigation,” which the district judge didn’t inquire about in the case involving a church that built unpermitted structures modeled after the Stations of the Cross. For that inquiry, the case was remanded. Concurrence We recently celebrated the 50th anniversary Younger v. Harris With a special episode.
  • Boyle County, Ky. prison officer impregnates pretrial detainee. She can sue. District court: The sex between guards and inmates was not consensual. This can be done in state court, even though all sex between prisoners and guards are prohibited by state law. Sixth Circuit: This might not have been consensual. The worst part was that he implied that he could harm it when he said he would help her.
  • After a chase at high speed, an Edmonson County officer in Kentucky tases a minor passenger who was unresponsive after the car crashed. Unreasonable use of force Sixth Circuit: These claims do not enjoy qualified immunity. Dissent: What risk would you take if you were a cop and had to use your Taser to incapacite a suspect, who might (or not) have been armed following your command to show your hands?
  • Minneapolis officers respond to a tripped alarm and enter the family’s yard. They are confronted with two service animals who, according to reports, approached them calmly, their tails waving. Both dogs were severely injured when the officer shot them both. Eighth Circuit: Non-threatening animals cannot be shot. Qualified immunity refused
  • St. Francis County was arrested in 2011. The officers used evidence to arrest suspects. 2016 was a year of great change for the State nolle prossed The charges against the suspects. 2018 was the year that the officers were charged. Eighth Circuit: Despite the fact that no charges were brought against them, nolle prossedThis (very confusing!) complaint was correctly dismissed because the statute of limitations had not been in effect until 2016.
  • Habeas petitioner Ninth Circuit corpusIt is not habas The ankle, buddy. You corpus You’re not in luck, it seems.
  • In 2007, the Ninth Circuit declared that no one had a right to medical marijuana. However, since 2007, there have been many changes to state marijuana laws. The weight of these changes taken into account, in the light of current attitudes, has meant that the Ninth Circuit panel still considers binding precedent. We are sorry to disappoint.
  • Feds expel man from country for burglarizing several companies. Courts declared unconstitutional his deportation order several years later. Ninth Circuit. Unfortunately, he did not wait long enough to request that the courts reconsider his deportation. Concurrence. We shouldn’t be pursuing a “new, unsupported” path of legal reasoning to avoid the lawful expelling of a convicted criminal. Dissent: The Constitution is infringed by the burglar’s removal.
  • After determining that it wouldn’t significantly affect the environment, FAA has approved a new San Bernardino airport air cargo facility. Ninth Circuit: It’s okay. Dissenting: “This case smells of environmental racism.” Concurrence: That accusation is a serious matter—but unraised by any party and thus inappropriate for a jurist to reach sua sponte.
  • Allegation: California woman pulled over by police for driving under expired registration. She is then arrested after it was discovered that she had an outstanding warrant for drug possession. During the car ride, she starts to vomit, moan, and scream for help. She is told by the police to quit faking it. But she is not faking—she lapses into a coma and dies nine days later. Ninth Circuit: Qualified immunity. Dissent: We will review the shocking bodycam footage to show why it’s not right.
  • District court Remanded.
  • The Eleventh Circuit reminded us of two things this week: 1) Never put any information in an email you don’t wish to be made public in litigation; and 2) Don’t use “cleaned-up” parentheticals to alter the meaning or text. (See footnote). In a related matter, employees from the United Network for Organ Sharing will soon be able see the thoughts of residents living in various areas of the United States who are being affected by UNOS’s revised liver-distribution strategy.

Indiana is a long-standing center for civil forfeiture. The government could be compared to Captain Ahab anywhere else. And now, IJ is tackling one of the most unique—and corrosive—features of Indiana’s forfeiture regime: private, for-profit prosecutors. Indiana, unlike every other nation state, outsources its forfeiture cases to private attorneys on a contingency fee basis. Forfeit more, profit more. It’s not cool. Not constitutional. IJ filed a class action lawsuit last week asking for the courts to enforce a fundamental rule of law. Every forfeiture defendant is entitled to a financially uninterested prosecutor whose motivation is justice and not profit. For more information, click here