A Roundup of Recent Federal Court Decisions

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

If local officials have to take a home, does that mean any American can actually live in it? Or is there another use to the land that could generate additional tax revenue? Bob Belden from IJ is asked these questions on his Eminent Domain Podcast episode. This podcast focuses on Onondaga County’s plan to seize family homes and expand an “commerce park” which has been empty for years.

  • Where the D.C. Circuit is the eighth-grade English teacher. He knows you have the potential to be more and is disappointed that you don’t want to work hard enough. Except that FERC is the “you”.
  • Allergy: Because there aren’t many players in this niche market for advice on bankruptcy, involving estates worth more than $1bil, one firm in New York was quite upset to learn that its major competitor had secured consulting jobs through questionable pay-to play deals. Plaintiffs sue, saying that they wouldn’t have been able to get some of the gigs if the competitor had not filed a RICO. Second Circuit: Yes. Continue to discover.
  • One detective from Nassau County, N.Y. rolls his eyes as he ignores evidence that suggests the victim he is questioning about domestic violence has been wrongfully accused. He is sitting behind bars and misses the funeral of his father. Jury verdict: 35k for the detective. Second Circuit: Not a problem, qualified immunity. While the detective might not have probable cause to arrest, he did argue probable cause. The jury still awarded $150k to the county. Concurrence. New York courts should have asked us if municipalities are still liable even if an employee caused the injury.
  • A federal law provides that a minor noncitizen who has been legally divorced from his or her parents is eligible for derivative citizenship. The custodial parent can become a naturalized citizen after the minor turns 18 and the child becomes an adult. USCIS: We won’t recognize the separation of your parents under Sharia law, Jordan. This is because neither side agreed to it. Third Circuit: The Jordanian law defines a separation as legal. This guy is entitled to citizenship from April 1982.
  • Fifth Circuit: The Constitution is not violated if the government doesn’t default on a contract. This is a violation of the contract.
  • Allugation: Shelby County in Texas Sheriff hires a jail officer fired from abusing prisoners. He then abused several prisoners, including the plaintiff. Sheriff: There’s nothing to suggest that the officer was dismissed. Sexually Abusing anyone. Fifth Circuit: It’s not necessary to file a motion dismissing the case. The sheriff is not entitled to qualified immunity for negligent rehiring.
  • Future federal court casebooks on Texas SB 8 litigation will include entire chapters. Is this the chapter you are looking for? Fifth Circuit: “Certified questions to State Supreme Courts.” Dissent is more like “Delay & Subterfuge on Remand.”
  • The Norwalk man from Ohio was on his job when Norwalk’s wife, Norwalk, was found dead in her bed. He was convicted on the basis of a blood-splatter test that tied his socket wrench to the crime. Yikes! This was because the evidence tech that ran the experiment had been previously suspended due to a mental imbalance. She stated in her file that she was going to “stretch evidence to satisfy a department”, and that some of her conclusions about evidence might be suspect. None of these details were disclosed. He is released after spending 22 years in jail. Before he could be tried again, he dies. His daughters file suit. District court: Qualified immunity Sixth Circuit: The claims against evidence tech cannot be brought forward, but not against their supervisors and the city.
  • Sixth Circuit points out that FedEx can be bamboozled into believing that you’re large enough to receive a discount on shipping if this happens.
  • Allegations: After sustaining a leg injury, a deaf man visits hospital. However, the hospital repeatedly refuses to give a sign language interpreter. This leads to communication problems that lead to one leg being amputated. (To the one reader who just said to themselves, “hey, that sentence has a fused participle”—yes, yes it does. Justice Scalia’s ghost has given you a paranormal pat on the back for passing the secret test. Maybe he is saying, “Ungrammatical rather than pedantic” in this case. Perhaps the sentence could have been changed. Short story: According to the Sixth Circuit, the plaintiff sued the hospital in good time and the case can continue.
  • In 1957, Lambert v. California, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a Los Angeles woman who failed to register with the authorities as a convicted felon—as was required by local ordinance. Due process demands that defendants are given some notice of their violations. Seventh Circuit. This doctrine hasn’t been very helpful to anyone, including this appellant who was penalized $50 for parking on an “unmarked” snow route following three inches or more of snowfall.
  • Upset that the job of hooking refrigerated cargo containers to electrical supply was going to members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers instead of members of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, ILWU members shut down Terminal 6 of the Port of Portland for more than a year. In a lawsuit, the terminal operator claims that the Port controlled the jobs assignments and the illegal secondary boycott. At trial, they win and receive $93.5 mil. Ninth Circuit. We will not appeal that decision because the issues ILWU is claiming are legal but factual.
  • Ventura County officials in California ordered guns stores and firing ranges closed for 48 days on March 20, 2020 to combat COVID-19. The order did not apply to other areas, including bicycle shops. What is the Second Amendment? Ninth Circuit: The 1905 case is the first. Jacobson v. Massachusetts doesn’t apply. The County failed to comply with strict scrutiny. Concurrence. This could have been decided under intermediate scrutiny. Additional concurrence by the judge authoring the majority opinion: I find my colleagues to be terrible. Their decision will probably be reversed by the banc. To “get a jump start”, I wrote this draft. It’s a win-win situation for all. (Ed.(Ed. Jacobson.)
  • Butts County Sheriff orders that signs be placed in front yards of all registered sexual offenders in the County. The signs will read: “STOP” and “NO TRICK-OR TREAT AT THIS ADDRESS.” Eleventh Circuit (with photographs): That’s called compelled speech and is unconstitutional.
  • En banc news: The Ninth Circuit won’t reconsider its belief that a San Diego vaccination mandate for students aged 16 and over that provides a range of exemptions without religious exemptions is religiously non-religious. Dissental. SCOTUS rejected our five-times rejection of COVID restrictions on religious exercises. “In this case, the court wants a sixth.”
  • IJ asks the Eighth Circuit for a reversal of the 1983 dismissal against Morton County officers. The officer had purposely shot the peaceful protester with a beanbag filled with lead as he protected elderly and women in the crowd. The protester was faced with unclear criminal charges and had to travel all across the United States for the hearings. He accepted a pre-trial-diversion arrangement. The district court stated that he cannot sue the officers because the charges were resolved in this manner. Click here to learn more. Click here for more information.

Since mid-November, San Bernardino County, Calif. sheriff’s deputies have pulled over armored vehicles owned by Empyreal Logistics three times on flimsy pretexts—and seized cash twice. The stops did not result in any tickets being issued or arrested, so the sheriff doesn’t suspect there is anything illegal. Instead, Empyreal is being pursued by the sheriff because its clients are California-licensed cannabis businesses. This week, Empyreal and IJ filed suit against the sheriff—and also against federal law enforcement officials and agencies, who are prohibited by a congressional appropriations rider from interfering with state-legal marijuana businesses but who are doing exactly that in this case by, among other things, helping the sheriff try to forfeit the unlawfully seized cash via DOJ’s equitable sharing program. Click here to learn more.