A Roundup of Recent Federal Court Decisions

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

Can the Fourth Amendment allow the search and seizure of compliant children handcuffed and held at gunpoint without probable cause? This question will be considered by the Supreme Court in the case of Pollreis v. Marzolf. Click here to read IJ’s cert petition. And click here to read a very fine amicus brief on the common law of arrest from the DKT Liberty Project.

Podcast: Short Circuit News: An unpleasant traffic stop, and Oregon Supreme Court’s rejection of the automobile exemption to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement.

  • A young El Salvadoran citizen is taken into custody in East Boston for being suspected of belonging to MS-13. He has never been arrested before or been seen participating in any kind of gang activity. The immigration judge denies him asylum based upon information from the Gang Assessment Database of the government, which describes the man as “verified” MS-13 member. Which evidence are you able to provide? The evidence is mostly that he was a young El Salvadoran who lived in East Boston. First Circuit (en banc). A new hearing is granted to him. Dissent: We think that he is a big lying liar.
  • Is Rhode Island violating the Constitution rights of all schoolchildren in the state? Does Rhode Island fail to give enough civic education for them to become responsible citizens? The First Circuit says no. The First Circuit did not violate the constitutional rights of your editor by referring back to the Privileges. Oder The Privileges Clause and the Immunities Clause are both part of the Fourteenth Amendment. Immunities Clause? That question remains unresolved.
  • New Jersey’s salon owner is being sued by the NLRB for unjust labor practices. The salon owner settles and is obliged to send a notice of remedial action to all her employees as part the settlement. Salon owner: I have emailed you the notice. NLRB: EMAIL?! This settlement is null Third Circuit: Settle down, guys. Notice was given to employees, which is all that matters.
  • Millersville College student, Pa. gets a blackeye from her boyfriend in her dorm. Campus police are called by the RA, and they escort the student off campus but do not do anything further. The RA then files a complaint with administrators (who do absolutely nothing). Her roommate, the student, tells her mom about the situation. She calls school police and counseling, as well as admins (who don’t do anything). He kills her at her dorm after she has had a frat party a few months later. Third Circuit: A jury should also consider the parents of the girl who claim the school violated Title IX.
  • Fifth Circuit, when ordinary litigants assign arguments to footnotes. Fifth Circuit: Government defendants are relegate Younger abstention to a footnote and raise the issue on appeal only when invited to do so at oral argument by the court sitting en banc: WILDCARD—”We conclude that the Younger“The issue was not waived.” A limited remand by the district court is necessary to be able consider this matter. Younger In the first place. Our precedent on abstention would also appear to be dispositive against the government. This is “not binding” upon remand. We give the district judge authority on return to achieve the outcome it considers appropriate, even if this contradicts any court precedent. Dissent: We might, we know. NotMake the government’s argument for it. IJ has said the exact same thing and had much of the same success so far.
  • Newport, Tenn. Officer body-slams him to the floor (and county officials refuse to reveal officer’s identity), man sues “John Does.” He amends his complaint more than one year later to identify the responsible officer. Do the Tennessee one-year statutes of limitations bar his claims? Sixth Circuit: Sure does. We can’t appeal the decision of the district court not to toll SOL because it was not raised in an appeal.
  • A group of Illinois prisoners sued the prison authorities for not providing constitutionally sufficient mental health care. They were awarded a comprehensive settlement. However, the state doesn’t live up the terms of the agreement in every way. The district court is now able to enforce the agreement. Seventh Circuit: Actually, they cannot enforce the settlement under the Prison Litigation Reform Act if it is violated. Itself A violation of the Eighth Amendment. Although things look pretty bad now, the state has done some things to comply. Dissent: This stuff was done at the very last moment. Let the district court have its say.
  • Jurors find the then-17-year old guilty of robbery of a pharmacy. However, they acquit him of shooting dead a confederate following the robbery. Don’t be discouraged! Wait! Seventh Circuit: The Supreme Court meant it. Maybe there is an opportunity to reconsider?
  • Allegation: Chinese Ph.D. student at UCLA, months away from graduation, breaks off his engagement when he discovers his fiancée has been cheating on him. Later, she shows up in his office and pounds on the door demanding the return of property. He asks her for the return of their engagement ring which she tells him that she dumped into the ocean. He presses on her when she resists his attempts to leave the office. He files Title IX complaints alleging she’s a student. She is not. His suspension for two-years is rescinded by the board, however, not before he has lost his student visa. He files a lawsuit, claiming that the university discriminated against his sexuality. Ninth Circuit: This case can proceed because it is plausible.
  • Allergy: In order to fund a campaign to have Denver sheriff elected, rather than appointed, the Denver sheriff’s deputy police union wants to deduct an “special assessment”, from each member’s paychecks. However, the sheriff refused to take the money! This is a violation the First Amendment. Tenth Circuit: Denver’s municipal charter does not give the sheriff authority over payroll deductions. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if the money were not deducted.

Law school students: IJ is hiring this summer! Before you enter law school, the Arthur D. Hellman Fellowship is a unique opportunity to get insider knowledge of the workings and culture at a national public interest firm. For the 10 week program that runs between June and August, the fellowship provides a $6,000 stipend. Named after Arthur D. Hellman (Professor Emeritus, University of Pittsburgh School of Law), the program was named in his honor. He is a leading scholar on federal courts and an author and expert on the First Amendment. Register here.