A Roundup of Recent Federal Court Decisions

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

Short Circuit Live – Last call! RSVP Now for the Short Circuit podcast live at the National Press Club Wednesday, April 6, at 6:30pm. The event features Paul Clement and Lisa Blatt.

A lemon lawyer and YouTube star Steve Lehto joined the Short Circuit Podcast to discuss an Ohio County Fair arrest for f-bombs, as well as an Minneapolis takings case.

  • The First Circuit lost the RLUIPA case of the Shrine Of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, patron of Sailors, and Brewers and Repentant Thieves. However, the Shrine of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, patron of Sailors, and Brewers and Repentant Thieves was allowed to proceed with the renovations to its brewery, chapel, and fellowship room in Marblehead, Mass. God be glorified.
  • Disgruntled fantasy baseball players sue Major League Baseball, the Red Sox, and the Astros, alleging that they would have done better in their fantasy leagues—and won more money—if the Sox and the Astros hadn’t broken the rules on electronic sign-stealing and if MLB hadn’t covered it up. Second Circuit: MLB never claimed that its league was free of cheating—a regrettable reality in sports—which means there was no fraudulent misrepresentation.
  • According to the Second Circuit, police officers do not have absolute prosecutorial immunity if they omit exculpatory information from an arrest warrant application. These East Hartford officers are not entitled to qualified immunity.
  • Virgin Islands inspector requests sexual favors from an unlicensed manicurist in exchange for reporting her. The illegally present Virgin Islands inspector downloaded a call recording app which enabled his solicitations to the jury. Third Circuit: Although he is likely guilty of some crime, he was not charged with bribery. Conviction overturned.
  • While we do not deny that the importance of this is important, Hamilton There are many references throughout the Fifth Circuit opinion. We’re not saying that we don’t regret the decision of the dissent to challenge the majority in a rap fight.
  • Louisiana’s state court awarded property owners $10.5 mil after they claimed that New Orleans flood control projects took their properties. However, the city refused to pay. The state constitution clearly states that these judgments cannot be enforced IOUs and the courts do not have the authority to require cities to make payments. Fifth Circuit: This is frustrating Maybe the city will one day do the right things. The federal government does not have the right to pay judgments in a timely manner. Click here to view an IJ amicus brief in which the court is urged to come up with the contrary conclusion.
  • A federal law allows you to claim a credit for tax if you mix an taxable fuel such as butane and a petroleum gas liquefied (such as butane), but you cannot do this if you add a fuel taxable (like butane), with another fuel taxable (like butane). As the Fifth Circuit weighs in on lighter fluid, sparks fly.
  • For failing to pass polygraph tests, man is expelled from the sex offender program and sent into prison. He remains there for close to 13 years. Yikes! He is ordered to leave Texas by a court of state because polygraphs can be considered junk science and inadmissible evidence. He can sue Dallas County for its purported polygraph policy. Fifth Circuit: That depends on whether the Dallas County District Attorney—who may be elected by county voters, may exercise his authority exclusively in the county, and may have “complete dominion” over county policies—was acting on behalf of the county or the state. Because the DA was representing the state, the man is not allowed to sue.
  • A one-time use of a racial epithet doesn’t always make for a viable hostile work environment claim, says the Fifth Circuit, but in this instance—where a Hispanic supervisor allegedly called a Black employee the N-word in front of other employees—the claim is indeed viable. Claim undismissed.
  • Detroit High School freshman suffers a fractured jaw and other injuries after being allegedly knocked to the ground by (230-lb.). Assistant principal before being struck by (230-lb. police officer. Do you use excessive force? Sixth Circuit: This must be referred to a jury. No qualified immunity.
  • Ohio University police officer sexually assaults high school student for several months—not the first time he’d been accused of such conduct—after meeting her at “career day” on the university’s campus. Is it possible to sue Ohio University? No, the Sixth Circuit says so, since her complaint did not sufficiently allege (as required under Title IX for non-students at the university), that the career program was an “educational activity or program.”
  • Salinas, Calif. Church purchases new Main Street building. But the local zoning prohibits the church from hosting worship services at the top floor. The church files a lawsuit under RLUIPA after unsuccessfully seeking both a conditional-use permits and an amendment to the zoning code. Ninth Circuit. The church sold the property, but they still sought $1 in damages. They may have thought of holding services on the 2nd floor.
  • Portland police officer pepper sprays woman in front of City Hall. Could the officer think she was trying to drag another officer in a mob of protesters? Did she just grab the officer to help her balance herself as he moved off some steps? Ninth Circuit, over a dissent: It must be referred to a jury. No qualified immunity. See 23:25. You should be ready for expletives.
  • Ninth Circuit. Police shouldn’t shoot someone who is not a threat immediately, no matter how armed they may be or how volatile the situation. Riverside County officers killed six people while they were trying to protect their rights. The jury will decide whether the victim was dangerous.
  • Allegation. A transgender inmate informs investigators that she had been raped in Colorado federal jail. However, she’s re-inducted into the general population where she is once again raped. Is she allowed to sue investigators? District court: She claims they were intentionally indifferent to the risk presented by other inmates. We only have precedent regarding deliberate indifference towards risk due to a medical condition. Tenth Circuit: We say that she filed her complaint without seeking legal counsel and that she did so by herself. She claimed she didn’t “comprehend or realize the severity of the situation” which implies they could not have been intentionally indifferent. Qualified immunity. (Click Here to download an IJ amicus, urging the court reject the reasoning of district court.
  • Nusret Gökçe, better known as the internet-famous Salt Bae, has made a mint bouncing kosher salt off his forearm and selling $1k gold-covered ribeyes to Suckers gourmets. However, he did not apply a mandatory 18% service charge to restaurants for employee wages. Instead of treating it as tipping, did he violate federal labor law? Eleventh Circuit – Although some customers don’t like tipping over mandatory service charges for meals that are too expensive, the service charge is still considered a fee and not a tip.
  • IJ asks a federal court for strict scrutiny of a New York law prohibiting non-lawyers giving personalized advice about how to handle debt collection lawsuits. A Bronx pastor who founded a non-profit to help low-income congregations would face criminal sanctions.
  • IJ also requested the Fourth Circuit to reverse the grant of qualified immunity by the district court to Winterville officer to prevent a passenger from streaming the encounter at a traffic stop. The incident was initiated over minor infractions. Although there might be an established right for police to record, it does not necessarily mean that there is an established right to livestream the encounter. LivestreamThe police.
  • IJ has requested the Fifth Circuit reconsider the grant of qualified immunity for Fort Worth, Tex. Officer who pulled a restrained and unrestrained 18-year old’s arm behind her back while asking questions, admitting to causing pain when she did not answer the questions with enough speed.

Since just over a century ago, thanks to an old timey case involving a bootlegger, the U.S. Supreme Court’s misinterpretation of Blackstone, the “open field” doctrine has been a law of federal courts that the government does not need a warrant for private property searches (other than the confines of a residence). This week, however, the three-judge circuit court panel decided that Tennessee’s Constitution provides a greater guarantee of security for individuals’ real property and won’t allow for government officials to freely roam about at their will. Hear! For more information, click here