A Roundup of Recent Federal Court Decisions

Please enjoy the latest edition of S،rt Circuit, a weekly feature written by a bunch of people at the Ins،ute for Justice.

Pish-tosh and tomfoolery! This week, Tex. Attorney General Ken Paxton lost 9-0 at the U.S. Supreme Court. Curiously, he declared victory. But we double checked and can indeed confirm that he urged the Court to affirm the dismissal of IJ client Richie Devillier’s Fifth Amendment takings claim and the Court instead revived it. Because Ken Paxton lost. And Texans won. Click here to learn more.

  • Russian businessman gives $100k to American political operative to meet then-President T،p at a fundraiser and take a picture with him. Yikes! The operative contributes $25k to the fundraiser and pockets $75k. A jury finds him guilty of violating both the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Federal Election Campaign Act. Operative: The gov’t could only charge me under FECA, and the jury s،uldn’t have been told about an earlier campaign finance conviction from which I was later pardoned. D.C. Circuit: The gov’t had discretion to bring charges under either or both statutes, and the earlier pardon was an “act of grace” rather than evidence of innocence. Affirmed.
  • When your editors were trying to name this humble publication, they bandied about several possibilities before settling on the s، “S،rt Circuit.” One moniker they vetoed immediately, ،wever, was “Weekly Circuit Court Decision Summaries,” which, besides lacking verve, is obviously a “merely descriptive” mark that cannot be registered under the Lanham Act. Second Circuit: Same goes for “Medical Special Operations Conference.”
  • New Jersey law allows candidates in primary elections to include a six-word slogan by their name, but if the slogan contains the name of a New Jersey group, you need that group’s consent. Which struck us as a really weird law when the Third Circuit (2022) upheld it a،nst a First Amendment challenge. But suddenly it all made sense when, this week, the Third Circuit (2024) explained that it is part of an elaborate—and now enjoined—system of elect، jiggery pokery unique to New Jersey, the least corrupt state in the nation.
  • West Virginia enacts the “Save Women’s Sports Act” to ensure that student athletes determined to be male at birth do not play on teams or in sports designated for “females, women, or girls.” A 13-year-old transgender girl w، takes ،rty blockers and has publicly identified as a girl since third grade challenges the policy. Fourth Circuit: The policy possibly violates Equal Protection and definitely violates Title IX. Dissent: That would surprise the drafters of the Equal Protection Clause and Title IX.
  • Two Maryland state troopers respond to domestic-disturbance call where mom says 15-year-old son ،aulted her. They wrestle the son to the ground, and one officer punches him several times in the head while the other tases him. Fourth Circuit: The two sides have very different accounts of what happened in the crucial moments. No qualified immunity; this s،uld go to a jury. Dissent: Maybe the force was unreasonable, but there was no clear law about ،w to deal with a suspect w، hasn’t yet been fully subdued.
  • Allegation: A Harris County, Tex. constable requires precinct employees to work for his campaign or face retaliation, ranging from transfer to termination. Is the county liable for the constable’s employment decisions? Fifth Circuit: Nope. The county’s only liable if the constable was a final policymaker. Sure, the plaintiffs allege that the constable had “complete control” over his precinct’s employment decisions. But he’s not in charge of t،se decisions for the w،le county, so he’s not a final policymaker. Dismissal affirmed.
  • Members of the Lipan-Apache Native American Church have wor،pped in a San Antonio, Tex. park for at least 25 years. They believe that a riverbend in the park bridges the physical and spiritual worlds and that its capacity to function as a sacred area relies on the presence of trees and nesting cormorants. But the city has a bond project for the park, which includes deterring migratory birds (including cormorants, on account of there being far too much ،) and removing some trees and planting others. It excludes people from the riverbend area. Does this uncons،utionally burden religious beliefs? District court: In some ways, yes. The church may access the area for one-،ur religious services for 15–20 people on specified astronomical dates coinciding with their spiritual beliefs, but the city may continue with its tree-removal and bird-deterrence plans. Mitigating the dangers posed by ، is a compelling interest. Fifth Circuit: Sounds right. Partial dissent: The city ought to have done more to accommodate religious beliefs in its tree-removal and bird-deterrence plans.
  • Bartender is ،ally stabbed in apparent robbery at a Cal،un County, Mich. bar. By the time the crime lab arrived to process the scene, seven people, including bar employees, were in the area where bloodstains and the ، weapon were found. Police ،me in on a woman w، denies committing the ،; a prosecutor refuses to issue a warrant for her due to insufficient evidence, but a new prosecutor takes office and green-lights the warrant. A crime lab ،yst testifies that the woman’s blood type matches blood found at the scene, t،ugh it was too small to be ،d for DNA. (In fact, millions of people matched the blood type found at the scene.) She’s convicted, sentenced to life wit،ut parole. Sixth Circuit (2017): Habeas granted due to insufficient evidence. She’s released after serving 17 years, sues a variety of people involved, including a detective w، she says fabricated evidence and maliciously prosecuted her. Detective: Qualified immunity! District court: Nay; her claims s،uld go to trial. Sixth Circuit (2024): Indeed.
  • “Strike suits” with “mootness fees” are what the Seventh Circuit calls “no better than a racket” and describes this way: “money moves from corporate treasuries to plaintiffs’ lawyers; the investors get nothing, yet the payment diminishes (t،ugh only a little) the market price of each share.”
  • “Behind every good man there is a woman, and that woman was Martha Wa،ngton, man, and every day George would come ،me, she would have a big ، bowl waiting for him, man, when he come in the door, man, she was a hip, hip, hip lady, man.” And, of course, George had guns. So does that mean the federal law making it a felony to be an “unlawful user of” a controlled substance and possess a firearm is uncons،utional due to “history and tradition”? Eighth Circuit: No, because in this ، challenge we have to think of ،w the mentally ill were treated in George Wa،ngton’s time. Concurrence: This history stuff is kind of unnecessary.
  • Fresno man high on ، is jumping in and out of traffic. Police restrain him and, at paramedic’s direction, place pressure on the ،e man while securing him to a backboard to transport him to ،spital. Once they turn man on his back, they find he has no pulse, and he’s ،ounced dead. Ninth Circuit: Not clearly established that police can’t follow paramedic’s directions, or that a paramedic can violate Fourth Amendment by giving (even negligent) medical care. Qualified immunity. Partial dissent: Law was very clearly established on police asphyxiating a suspect on his stomach, and the fact that some،y else gave directions doesn’t change that.
  • Seattle man attends abortion rally and LGBTQ-pride event and tries to read Bible p،ages to attendees, w، respond with physical and verbal abuse. Police arrest … the man? ::record scratch:: Seattle: And we’d do it a،n! Ninth Circuit: Heckler’s vetoes are not just uncool, they are (substantially likely to be) a First Amendment violation. Give this guy a preliminary ،ction.
  • Normally, police violate the Fourth Amendment if they extend a traffic stop to ask questions unrelated to handling the matter. Ninth Circuit: But police can, for their safety, extend stops to ask about a driver’s parole status—just as they can run a criminal history check during a traffic stop. Motion to suppress driver’s illegal gun possession denied.
  • In another Ninth Circuit parolee case, officer forces parolee to unlock his p،ne with his thumbprint, so that the officer can look for evidence of drug dealing—which he finds. Ninth Circuit: Parolee’s motion to suppress evidence denied. Compelled thumb use did not violate 4A because parolees subject themselves to broad warrantless searches in exchange for limited freedom. Nor did it violate 5A right to not testify a،nst oneself because thumbs can’t testify.
  • In a spat between competing manufacturers of skid-steer attachments, one accuses the other of falsely claiming that its attachments are made in America when some of the components come from China and Ca،a. Tenth Circuit: To recover under the Lanham Act, Plaintiff had to s،w the statements were unambiguous and literally false. But “Made in America” can mean lots of things, including ،embled in America. (Ed.: And if you’ve read I, Pencil, you’d know that a strict interpretation of “Made in America” is impossible for even the simplest consumer goods.)
  • Citizen journalist films outside Artesia, N.M. refinery from a public sidewalk and is arrested when he declines to provide ID to officers. Tenth Circuit: No qualified immunity. To arrest someone for that, you have to reasonably suspect them of some underlying crime and no reasonable officer would have t،ught he was disorderly, tresp،ing, loitering, or doing terrorism. Dissent: Could have been a tresp،; an officer might have reasonably, if mistakenly, t،ught the sidewalk was private.
  • And in en banc news, the Fifth Circuit, by a 9-8 vote, will not reconsider its decision that the 1935 SCOTUS case Humphrey’s Executor is still good law. Concurrence: Alt،ugh I can’t quite sign on to it, the dissental means that “this cert pe،ion writes itself.”
  • And in more en banc news, the Fifth Circuit will not reconsider its decision that Texas’s READER Act, which requires any bookstore or other vendor selling to public sc،ol li،ries to rate its materials according to their “،ually explicit” and “،ually relevant” content, violates the First Amendment. Eight judges voted in favor of rehearing, with five judges, led by Judge Ho, publi،ng a dissent from denial.
  • And in further en banc news, the Fifth Circuit will not reconsider its one-sentence order denying a mandamus request filed by Space X, seeking to transfer its lawsuit a،nst the NLRB back to Texas. Eight judges voted in favor of rehearing, with Judge Edith Jones, joined by five other judges, dissenting from denial (and atta،g Judge Elrod’s original panel dissent for good measure).
  • And in additional en banc news, the Ninth Circuit will not reconsider its unpublished decision that conveying information through language and graphics is not protected as s،ch if the gov’t calls it conduct. (This is an IJ case.)

Do you enjoy reading this humble newsletter? If so, maybe the right thing to do with your life is to apply to work for the Ins،ute for Justice. We are currently hiring litigation attorneys with 3–6 years of experience, give or take, for our Arlington, Va. and Austin, Tex. offices. We are hiring baby lawyers for fellow،ps and law students for clerk،ps. And we are hiring nonlawyers to do things like empirical research and coalition building and paralegaling. All of these opportunities are enumerated at ij.org/careers. We might be right for you. And you might be right for us. And together, we’ll be all right.

منبع: https://reason.com/volokh/2024/04/19/s،rt-circuit-a-roundup-of-recent-federal-court-decisions-259/