A Roundup of Recent Federal Court Decisions

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

While on the campaign trail for President Biden, he told voters that his administration would let states “continue making their own decisions” about marijuana legalization. Why is the FBI trying so hard to seize nearly $1.1 million from California’s legal cannabis companies? Learn all about the latest IJ forfeiture case here Los Angeles Times.

  • Plaintiffs: We were treated badly by various tech companies because of what we said about vaccines. Because Congressman Adam Schiff wrote them, they did so! D.C. Circuit: We have established that only one of the above statements is correct. Case dismissed.
  • The most difficult part about having your Venezuelan manufacturing company nationalized by the government is trying to work out the Hague Convention definition of effective service after your lawsuit against the Venezuelan government. This Circuit opinion is an example. (Ed. (Ed.
  • The DEA has administratively subpoenaed the New Hampshire Prescription Drug Monitoring Program program manager, requesting an individual’s PDMP -kept prescription drugs records. Pound of sand. You can subpoena people according to your statute. But, here you are subpoenaing New Hampshire which is not a person. First Circuit: Your theories are incorrect. It was you who were subject to the subpoena. The rare First Circuit vocab nugget, which was not from Judge Selya is “semble”. (Separately, First Circuit—Courier font? Still? Why? Are the Massachusetts state court courts responsible? They don’t need to be your partner in this. You wouldn’t have to break with them on this matter. Do you remember when they split on cell-phone data protections under the Fourth Amendment? The Supreme Court ruled that you were right. This could be done with fonts.
  • El Chapo was the Sinaloa Cartel’s leader. They supplied illegal drugs to America at an unprecedented rate. The Sinaloa Cartel used techniques including murder, kidnapping, torture and bribery. Mexico sent the Mexican kingpin in 2017 to be tried and convicted. He was sentenced to five years of imprisonment. El Chapo says that there are ten reasons why my convictions should not stand. These include the fact that the indictment against the U.S. violated Mexico’s extradition treaty and the fact his attorney was involved with a client who caused a conflict (which became public because of the lawyer’s relationship with the other client). Second Circuit: Not ten times.
  • JLM Couture’s Hayley Paige wedding gowns are worth $220 million. The designer appeared on the “Say Yes to the Dress”, and also runs popular social media accounts. Yikes! Things turn sour for JLM in 2019. Hayley Paige Gutman, the designer locks JLM out from social media accounts and begins outside work. JLM: We have the rights to the name as well as its derivatives under the contract. Second Circuit, over two partial dissents: Both the name-ownership and noncompete portions of this contract are enforceable. The ownership rights to the social media accounts are not clear and JLM cannot assign them.
  • Two school mask-mandate cases, from the Fourth Circuit and the Eighth Circuits. There are dissents in each case. South Carolina’s law against the state using funds to enforce mask mandates is still applicable (plaintiffs do not have standing), but Iowa’s prohibition of similar use of state money for mask mandates is overturned (for violating the Rehabilitation Act).
  • The Fourth Circuit is known for its cordiality—they shake hands with the lawyers after each argument—and that tradition is on full display in this False Claims Act decision. Majority: Our friend has given us a thoughtful dissent. It is based on a viewpoint that is not “sustainable under law or any notion of notice, due process and fair treatment with which it is familiar.” Dissent: This is another example of my “respect for my fellow members in the majority” opinion.[t]Believers who feel that some judicial cases usurp the power elected legislatures, by making the laws rather than just interpreting them” and “legal hand-waving can’t cover the stench here.”
  • A doctor prescribed opioids to a teenager who fell into the shower while pregnant and broke her tailbone. She was later allowed to create her own prescriptions by a doctor who worked with her. Soon she became addicted and began to steal prescriptions. She also took up to 80 pills daily, as well as selling them. Her conviction is for 210 months. Fourth Circuit (en banc). And her sentence needs to be resentenced because she was ineffectively assisted by counsel. She’s lawyer, inexplicably, waived many meritorious objections. Dissent: It would be great to hear his perspective. This is why collateral review and not appeal are used for this type of case.
  • Wayback Machine, a free and amazing resource that archive more than 651 million web pages, is an incredible tool. But for all that, it is not—per the Fifth Circuit—so obviously reliable that its contents are subject to judicial notice.
  • A few months back we shared with our readers the inspirational story of Texas A&M’s original “12th Man,” E. King Gill, and also the less-than-inspirational story of how Texas A&M straight-up stole a biography of Gill from its copyright owner. Fifth Circuit allowed the Aggies to get away, holding that sovereign immunity was the school’s right. There is a silver lining! In this substituted opinion, the Fifth Circuit holds that they have no jurisdiction over an appeal by the Texas A&M employee most directly responsible for the theft, and the claims against him will thus go to trial.
  • Attorneys can spend thousands of dollars litigating False Claims Act cases. The settlement amounts to over $97 mil, which expressly allows for attorney fees. Relators were awarded a share of the settlement money and it was distributed to them under a joint agreement. District Court. There are no fees to the relators, who receive their money via the agreement and not directly from government. Sixth Circuit – Nothing in the statute says that the relative should get the money directly from the government. Everybody gets paid.
  • The squares of Congress did not include strip clubs when they passed the Paycheck Protection Program’s second round. This violates the First Amendment rights of strip clubs. District court: Sounds probably right—preliminary injunction! Seventh Circuit motions panel (Sept. 2021): Sounds probably wrong—preliminary injunction stayed. Seventh Circuit merits panel (Jan. 2022): Those motions-panel judges were sharp cookies—preliminary injunction vacated.
  • Allegation: St. Louis, Mo. Man was Not Protest against the arrest of a police officer Not Participated in disorderly behavior and did Not Officers will issue a dispersal notice. He was then taken to the officers’ kettling station, pepper sprayed and put in zip ties. Eighth Circuit: There was no QI issued to the officers involved in the kettling. Even if they followed orders, there were no exceptions. There is no QI available for supervisors who fail to act.
  • Title IX lawsuit brought by University of Arizona student. She claims that the university failed to take sufficient steps to protect her from physical abuse at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, who was a football player at Arizona. He is currently serving five years in prison. Ninth Circuit: No liability. The university is not responsible for the abuse that took place in the apartment where the player lived off campus. Dissent (“strong[]Respectfully[]””): Only university permission is required for players to be allowed off-campus. This condition requires good behaviour. The players had a lot of control.
  • Arizona inmate orders six rap/R&B CDs and two Nation of Islam texts. Prison declares CDs illegal because of references to violence, drugs, and sex. Nation of Islam texts also are declared unauthorized by prison because they have been previously exempted from racism promotion. The inmate sued. District Court: Fine. Ninth Circuit: Not fine! Ninth Circuit: Not fine!
  • What is the exclusion of Roth IRAs from Georgia’s bankruptcy estates for debtors in Georgia? Do not hold your breath, World. Yes, the Eleventh Circuit.
  • And in en banc news, the Eleventh Circuit will reconsider its decision striking down a 2014 Alabama law changing the judicial process by which a minor can obtain an abortion without parental consent so as to allow or require the participation of parents, the district attorney, and a guardian ad litem for the fetus, “transforming it from a proceeding that was designed to be more of an avuncular visit in chambers with the judge than an open court, call-your-first-witness affair.”
  • IJ has requested the Supreme Court to uphold a Ninth Circuit decision allowing CBP agents to bring constitutional claims. This was after the agent had asked the victim to give his property. In recent cases, the Court has suggested that such claims (which the Ninth Circuit found are the only remedy available to this plaintiff) are improper and ahistorical—a remnant of the “heady days” in the 1960s and ’70s when the Court felt comfortable creating causes of action without the express approval of Congress. However, the Court argues that individual rights claims have been an integral part of our legal system. We also argue that Court’s latest doctrine is inconsistent with this tradition. Furthermore, the Court should consider the IJ cases which are currently pending cert. You can read the brief by clicking this link.

In 2015, then-Judge Gorsuch of the Tenth Circuit suggested that victims of government misconduct should look to state tort law rather than the Constitution to seek redress for their injuries: “Often, after all, there’s no need to turn federal courts into common law courts and imagine a whole new tort jurisprudence under the rubric of § 1983 and the Constitution in order to vindicate fundamental rights when we have state courts ready and willing to vindicate those same rights using a deep and rich common law that’s been battle tested through the centuries.” IJ has released this week’s study. 50 Shades of government immunity, that takes up that suggestion, examining each state’s regime for civil rights enforcement—and finds them wanting. It can be accessed by clicking this link.