A Roundup of Recent Federal Court Decisions

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

Sonia Ekemon, who recently lost her husband, wants to make a living for herself and her children. She braids hair because it is a skill that she learned at a Benin refugee camp. It’s against Idaho law to do so, as she has lived in Idaho since 2000. She must not spend more than $20,000 on beauty school tuition, which is antithetical and irrelevant to natural hair care. IJ Attorney Dan Alban shares more details about IJ’s latest lawsuit in the Idaho Statesman.

Last week’s oral argument before the Supreme Court was held by the SolicitorGeneral. He argued that federal government assumes that there is no such thing as a “federal government.” Bivens Victims of Fourth Amendment violations by federal officials (like illegal searches, seizures or excessive force), have recourse. This was quite surprising! It’s because the government has, for many years, taken the opposing position in two IJ cases currently before the Court. You can click here and here for our support for certiorari supplementary briefs.

  • American and George Washington both moved their education online, just like other universities. Do the schools have unjustifiable financial gain by refusing to reimburse tuition or fees for students? D.C. Circuit said that certain plaintiffs’ claims were not valid.
  • At least 40 pieces of art plundered by the Nazis from the collection of Baron Mór Lipót Herzog, “one of Europe’s great private collections of art,” are now in the possession of three museums and a university in Hungary. D.C. Circuit (2017). Herzog’s heirs can sue the U.S. courts for compensation and recovery. D.C. Circuit (2022). And they can request the same from a second defendant, a Hungarian government-run asset manager company.
  • The feds say it’s not enough that the president has the power to prohibit the entry of certain aliens during the COVID-19 pandemic and to deport those who enter illegally—the executive simply must have the power to deport them to countries where they are likely to be tortured. D.C. Circuit: We aren’t at all sure what it has to do COVID-19 so we will enjoin your from doing this.
  • Suffolk County, N.Y. prosecutors prosecute 10 Filipino nurses—and also their lawyer—for crimes related to “patient abandonment” after they left nursing homes jobs in protest of poor working conditions (on advice of the lawyer). Yikes! The prosecution is barred by a state appeals court. The prosecutors did a favor to the employer of the nurse, who had previously complained to police and state nursing regulators without success. They investigated the matter and concluded that there was no wrongdoing. Second Circuit (over an dissent). The prosecutors were immune from suit.
  • Yale student expelled for sexual assault sued his accuser. He was also acquitted in a criminal case. Second Circuit. Ordinarily, witnesses to judicial and quasi-judicial proceedings enjoy absolute immunity from defamation suits. But, after reviewing Connecticut caselaw going back to 1894, it’s not clear if non-governmental proceedings, such as Yale, are included. Question certified to state supreme court.
  • In response to police conduct during public protests in 2020, the state of New York and private plaintiffs bring six lawsuits—eventually consolidated—against the City of New York and various city officials. Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, Inc., attempts to intervene. Second Circuit. They should be allowed in. Second Circuit.
  • Younger Abstention can be described as a baroque doctrine in which whole podcasts are recorded. This allows the state and local authorities to attempt to get out federal-court lawsuits if they interfere with specific types of state court cases. Supreme Court (2013). These are the state-court cases which can enable such wriggling.[] . . . No further than: (a. criminal prosecutions;(b. civil-enforcement procedures;and (c. civil proceedings in order to support the ability of state courts to exercise their judicial function. New Jersey AG: Subpoenas? Subpoenas? If we have issued state subpoenas to the government, then federal lawsuits can be avoided. Right? Third Circuit: Let’s paraphrase the favorite son of our Circuit, the Supreme Court didn’t stutter. So no, Mr. Attorney General: No abstention.
  • The South Carolina governor signed an executive order in 2018 that prohibited abortion providers from receiving Medicaid funds administered by the state. Fourth Circuit (2019). It seems like this violates federal law. While the case is proceeding below, there’s no way to enforce that order. Fourth Circuit (2022: Never enforce that order.
  • Fifth Circuit: Ann Sheperd (owner of a home health agency) defended herself after she was charged with Medicare fraud. But there was a tiny problem: Unbeknownst to Sheperd, her pretrial lawyer—who represented her until days before trial—You can also see it hereOne of the star witnesses to the Government. Oops.”
  • A Louisiana prison inmate (now deceased of unrelated causes), files a lawsuit alleging that guards beat and punched him as retaliation for he filing grievances. However, guards claim they didn’t do anything of the kind. Nine video clips were released by the defendants, with time gaps between. Is the estate of an inmate entitled to the remainder of the video? Magistrate judge: District judge: Do not need to decide on this. You lose. Fifth Circuit: In fact, it is the court of district that must rule.
  • Mississippi woman accused of laundering laundry theft is handcuffed by police for 8 minutes. Security footage proves her innocence. She sued for excessive force. Fifth Circuit: Video does not prove such. It was not an error on her part to be ordered by the district court $3.1k for waste of time.
  • At 11:11 p.m., a pretrial detainee at Detroit jail becomes unconscious and falls off the bench. He lies down on concrete for almost four hours. He dies. Jail supervisor. Even though the jail policy requires a guard to enter the room every 30 minutes, the staff just glance at the detainees through the glass. If they seem to be asleep, the supervisor will leave. Sixth Circuit – Violations of jail policy are not the same as violations of the Constitution.
  • Sixth Circuit: The law clearly states that police cannot force an unresisting or threatening individual’s head into soda machines, knock her down, then kneel on her stomach. Genesee Twp. in Michigan officers summoned for a welfare check of a woman who was distressed and then accused of doing all the other things, will need to prove to a jury that she wasn’t resisting or threatening. No qualified immunity.
  • Eighth Circuit: It’s clearly established that—after a foot chase during which a suspect visibly discarded a gun—police can’t shoot the suspect as he is turning around with arms raised in surrender. So no qualified immunity for a Burlington, Iowa officer who shot and killed a man who was (allegedly) laying down in surrender—after a foot chase during which the officer (allegedly) saw him discard a gun.
  • St. Paul police entered the hospital to take man’s bloody clothes while he is receiving treatment for his gunshot wounds on his face and feet. Is this a Fourth Amendment violation? No, the Eighth Circuit said no. There is no reasonable expectation that a patient will be kept private in a hospital. Therefore, evidence that led to him being found guilty of felon in firearm possession should not be suppressed.
  • Is Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse”, which features repeated ostinatos, an attempt to rip off Christian hip hop artists’ previous effort? Your judgment is final. Also, the Ninth Circuit will serve as judge. Perry was wrongly convicted by a jury of $2.8 million.
  • Las Vegas police arrested activists for using chalk to draw messages critical of police on protest surfaces. Ninth Circuit: The jury could conclude that the arrest was in retaliation for activists’ protected speech. This is because Las Vegas police never have arrested anybody else who chalked on public property. No qualified immunity.
  • Are there any federal laws that would allow the killing of a group of non-native, but still flourishing barred Owls in the Pacific Northwest? This is to assess if the actions will help endangered Northern Spotted Owl, which is a native to this region. Ninth Circuit (2018): Yes. Ninth Circuit (2022): Yes.
  • In en banc news, it will reconsider its March 2020 public order that Ventura County, Calif., gun shops and firing ranges must close for 48 days in an effort to combat COVID-19. (The original panelist also wrote a concurendum containing an en banc draft opinion, concluding that there was no violation of constitutional law.

Victory! This week, a federal judge ruled that the District of Columbia’s restrictions on online teletherapy—which prevent our client, a Virginia-licensed therapist, from seeing patients in D.C. online—are subject to strict scrutiny. For more information, click here Also, victory A Fulton County Superior Court Judge ruled last week that the Georgia law that requires women to teach others how to breastfeed earned an equivalent degree in Georgia. This ruling would have a negative impact on minority and rural communities. For more information, click here You also win! A Harris County judge gave a temporary order last week to allow a Pasadena resident, Tex. Auto mechanic can open his business without having to comply with a prohibitively costly mandatory parking restriction. You can find out more information by clicking this link