Jackpot!! Justia Weekly Writers’ Picks – April 4, 2014

McCutcheon v. Fed. Election Comm’n, United States Supreme Court (4/2/14) Civil Rights, Communications Law, Constitutional Law, Election Law

JackpotThe Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, impose base limits, restricting how much money a donor may contribute to a particular candidate or committee, and aggregate limits, restricting how much money a donor may contribute in total to all candidates or committees, 2 U.S.C. 441a. In the 2011–2012 election cycle, McCutcheon contributed to 16 federal candidates, complying with all base limits. He alleges that the aggregate limits prevented him from contributing to additional candidates and political committees and that he wishes to make similar contributions in the future. McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee challenged the aggregate limits under the First Amendment. The district court dismissed. The Supreme Court reversed, with five justices concluding that those limits are invalid. Regardless whether strict scrutiny or the “closely drawn” test applies, the analysis depends on the fit between stated governmental objectives and the means selected to achieve the objectives. The aggregate limits fail even under the “closely drawn” test. Contributing to a candidate is an exercise of the right to participate in the electoral process through political expression and political association. A restriction on how many candidates and committees an individual may support is not a “modest restraint.” To require a person to contribute at lower levels because he wants to support more candidates or causes penalizes that individual for “robustly exercis[ing]” his First Amendment rights. The proper focus is on an individual’s right to engage in political speech, not a collective conception of the public good. The aggregate limits do not further the permissible governmental interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption or its appearance. The justices noted the line between quid pro quo corruption and general influence and that the Court must “err on the side of protecting political speech.” Given regulations already in effect, fear that an individual might make massive unearmarked contributions to entities likely to support particular candidate is speculative. Experience suggests that most contributions are retained and spent by their recipients; the government provided no reason to believe that candidates or committees would dramatically shift their priorities if aggregate limits were lifted. Multiple alternatives could serve the interest in preventing circumvention without “unnecessary abridgment” of First Amendment rights, such as targeted restrictions on transfers among candidates and committees, tighter earmarking rules, and disclosure.

Read More: Supreme Court Strikes Down Limits on Campaign Contributions

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Tommy Flanagan for the Defense, Your Honor – Justia’s Weekly Writers’ Picks 3/28/14

United States v. Bergman, US 10th Cir. (3/28/14)
Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

DishonestyDefendant-appellant Gwen Bergman was arrested when the hit-man she thought she hired to kill her husband was in fact an undercover police officer. After trial, it emerged that defendant’s lawyer was not a lawyer-in-fact, but a con man. Defendant applied for habeas relief on the ground that she received ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court agreed with her: the court vacated her conviction, and discharged her from supervised release (she had finished her prison term). Assuming the court’s decision to vacate the conviction it won at defendant’s first trial was without prejudice to a new trial with a (real) defense lawyer, the government asked the court to set a date. The district court refused, stating that its discharge order “implicitly” forbade any effort to secure a valid conviction at a second trial. The government appealed the district court’s decision to the Tenth Circuit. The government’s appeal raised the question of whether defendant could be exposed to a new trial and lawful conviction despite having successfully petitioned for habeas relief and served her jail sentence. Rather than contend categorically that only double jeopardy problems may preclude retrial, the government suggested that the remedy the district court selected was too attenuated from the right it found violated: defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. “[T]he presumptively appropriate remedy for a trial with an ineffective lawyer is a new trial with an effective one. . . . the district court failed to identify any reason why that presumption is inapplicable here; and in these circumstances refusing a new trial amounts to an abuse of discretion.”

Read More: Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead: Court Considers Appeal Of Woman Represented By Fake Attorney

Jackson v. City & Ctny. of San Francisco, US 9th Cir. (3/25/14)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law

Plaintiff appealed the district court’s order denying her motion for preliminary injunction of San Francisco Police Code sections 4512 and 613.10(g) on the ground that both infringed upon her Second Amendment rights. The court concluded that section 4512, which requires handguns to be stored in a locked container when not carried on the person, burdens the rights protected by the Second Amendment because storage regulations such as section 4512 are not part of a long historical “tradition of proscription;” section 4512 is not a substantial burden on the Second Amendment; and, applying intermediate scrutiny, the court concluded that section 4512 is substantially related to the important government interest of reducing firearm-related deaths and injuries. The court also concluded that section 613.10(g), which prohibits the sale of hollow-point ammunition within San Francisco, regulates conduct within the scope of the Second Amendment because restrictions on ammunition may burden the core Second Amendment right to self-defense and the record contained no persuasive historical evidence suggesting otherwise. Determining that plaintiff had standing to challenge section 613.10(g), the court concluded that section 613.10(g) is a reasonable fit to achieve its goal of reducing the legality of ammunition, and section 613.10(g) thus satisfies intermediate scrutiny. Accordingly, the court concluded that plaintiff would not succeed on the merits of her claims and affirmed the district court’s denial of plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction.

Read More: Appeals Court Upholds Mandatory Trigger-Lock, Ban on Hollow Points

Marshall v. Safeway, Inc., Maryland Court of Appeals (3/26/14)
Class Action, Labor & Employment Law

Plaintiff was an hourly employee of Safeway, Inc. In 2010, in response to two writs of garnishment issued by the district court, Safeway deducted an excess of $29.64 from Plaintiff’s wages. Plaintiff subsequently filed a lawsuit against Safeway on behalf of herself and all other persons similarly situated, arguing that Safeway’s garnishment practice resulted in wrongfully excessive deductions. Ten days after the class action suit was filed, Safeway changed its payroll garnishment system to conform with the correct garnishment exemptions standards and tendered to Plaintiff the amounts that would have been paid to her had those standards been applied at the time. The circuit declined to certify the class and entered judgment in favor of Safeway. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) employees have a right of direct private action against their employer under Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Empl. 3-507.2 for deducting from the employee’s wage more than is lawfully allowed; and (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion under the circumstances of this case in denying class certification and in entering judgment for Safeway.

Justia Weekly Writers’ Picks – March 21, 2014

Bray v. Planned Parenthood Columbia-Willamette, Inc., US 6th Cir. (3/21/14)
Civil Procedure, Communications Law, Constitutional Law

Bray is an antiabortion activist and wrote a book, A Time to Kill. In 1985, Bray was convicted for a felony relating to physical damage to abortion centers. He spent four years in prison. Planned Parenthood (PPCW) was a plaintiff in a 1995 suit against antiabortion activists (including Bray) for intimidation by threat of force under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, 18 U.S.C. 248. In 2005, PPCW sought to collect its $850,000 judgment and obtained a writ of execution authorizing seizure of specified property. The Bray family filed a “Bivens” suit, claiming that U.S. Marshals conspired with PPCW to seize their property in an unconstitutional manner. The complaint alleged that during a “surprise raid” Bray was required to sit on his couch while flak-jacketed Marshals, advocates for political positions that Bray despised, plus unknown persons, seized the books, papers, computers and cameras, of Bray and his family, excepting only children’s books and Bibles. Bray was not allowed to leave the couch or to call his lawyer. Eventually a Marshal called Bray’s lawyer. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that Bray had settled with all defendants, except the Marshals, who were entitled to qualified immunity in carrying out a presumptively valid federal court order, even by “highly questionable ways.” The unconstitutionality of certain actions was not then clearly established with sufficient specificity. If the alleged facts are true, the incident was “more like home raids by Red Guards during China’s Cultural Revolution than like what we should expect” in the U.S., even if Bray’s ideas are “repugnant.”

R.R.D. v. Holder, US 7th Cir. (3/19/14)
Immigration Law

While R. was an investigator for Mexico’s Federal Agency of Investigation, he arrested hundreds of suspects and repeatedly testified against drug traffickers. Drug organizations tried to kill him.  The Agency repeatedly transferred him, but threats soon resumed. He was wounded twice while on duty and eluded capture several times. Assassins shot at him, missed, and wounded his father. He quit the Agency, opened an office-supply business, and tried to conceal his former job. Strangers continued looking for him. He sought asylum in the U.S., contending that he had been persecuted as a member of the social group of honest police officers. The IJ denied the application. The Board of Immigration Appeals agreed, distinguishing between honest police and effective honest police, reasoning that only if criminal organizations target all honest officers would R. be entitled to asylum, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42)(A). The Seventh Circuit vacated. The law calls for assessments of causation and risk. That R. is at more risk than that most “honest police” is a poor reason to disqualify him. The Board did not consider whether Mexico’s more-than-400,000 officers are willing and able to protect former colleagues. Nothing R. can do will erase his employment history. The court questioned why DHS wants to remove R.  He appears to have led an exemplary life in the U.S. since entering (lawfully) and applying for asylum.

United States v. Abair, US 7th Cir. (3/19/14)
Banking, Criminal Law, White Collar Crime

Abair emigrated from Russia in 2005 and married an American citizen. Abair owned an apartment in Moscow. After her divorce, Abair sold the apartment and deposited the proceeds with Citibank Moscow. She signed a contract to buy an Indiana home for cash. Citibank refused to transfer funds because her local account was in her married name and the Moscow account used her birth name. Over two weeks Abair withdrew the daily maximum ($6400) from Citibank ATMs and deposited $6400 to $9800 at her local bank. A deposit on Tuesday, May 31 followed the Memorial Day weekend and was posted with one made on Saturday, pushing her “daily” deposit over the $10,000 trigger for reporting, 31 U.S.C. 5313(a). Abair was charged with structuring financial transactions to evade reporting. IRS agents testified that during her unrecorded interview, Abair, who is not fluent in English, revealed knowledge of the reporting rules. Abair testified that she was aware of the limit when she spoke with the agents, but had learned about it after making the deposits, when she asked why identification was required.  She said her deposit amounts were based on how much cash would fit in her purse. Abair was convicted and agreed to forfeit the entire proceeds. The Seventh Circuit remanded, finding that the government lacked a good faith basis for believing that Abair lied on tax and financial aid forms and that the court erred (Rule 608(b)) by allowing the prosecutor to ask accusatory, prejudicial questions about them. On the record, Abair is at most a first offender, according to the court, which expressed “serious doubts” that forfeiture of $67,000 comports with the “principle of proportionality” under the Excessive Fines Clause.

Read More: ‘[T]he kind of rigid and severe exercise of law-enforcement discretion that would make Inspector Javert proud’

Narayanan v. British Airways, US 9th Cir. (3/19/14)
Injury Law, International Law

Panansam Narayanan suffered from an advanced-stage lung disease. While he was aboard a British Airways international flight, he was allegedly denied supplemental oxygen. When Narayanan died six months after the plane landed, his heirs and estate filed suit pursuant to Article 17(1) the Montreal Convention, S. Treaty Doc. No 106-45, alleging that the denial of supplemental oxygen on his flight to London hastened Narayanan’s death. The action was filed more than two years from the date of the flight’s arrival, but within two years of Narayanan’s death. The court held that Article 35(1) of the Convention was clear: a claim for damages based on an injury incurred aboard an international flight must be filed within two years of the date upon which the aircraft arrived at its destination. In this case, plaintiffs’ wrongful death claim was not timely filed and the court held that the district court correctly dismissed the complaint without leave to amend. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Read More: 9th Circ. Won’t Revive British Airways Wrongful Death Suit

People v. Melongo, Illinois Supreme Court (3/20/14)
Civil Rights, Communication Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Defendant was charged with computer tampering in an unrelated case. The docket sheet, the judge’s half sheet, and the court call sheet for the arraignment date indicate that defendant was not in court and that the arraignment did not take place. Defendant’s efforts to have a court reporter change the transcript were unsuccessful. The court reporter referred defendant to her supervisor, Taylor. In a telephone conversation, Taylor explained that any dispute over the accuracy of a transcript should be presented to the judge. Defendant surreptitiously recorded three telephone conversations with Taylor and posted recordings and transcripts of the conversations on her website. Defendant eventually obtained a fraudulent court transcript. Defendant was charged with eavesdropping, (720 ILCS 5/14-2(a)(1), and using or divulging information obtained through the use of an eavesdropping device, 720 ILCS 5/14-2(a)(3). Defendant claimed am exception for “reasonable suspicion that another party to the conversation is committing, is about to commit, or has committed a criminal offense against the person … and there is reason to believe that evidence of the criminal offense may be obtained.” The state argued that the exception did not apply because the reporter accused of creating a forged transcript was not a party to the recorded conversations. After a mistrial, the court found the statute facially unconstitutional and unconstitutional as applied to defendant. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, applying intermediate scrutiny and finding the statutes overbroad as criminalizing a range of innocent conduct. The eavesdropping statute does not distinguish between open and surreptitious recording and burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to serve a legitimate state interest in protecting conversational privacy. The language of the recording statute criminalizes the publication of any recording made on a cellphone or other such device, regardless of consent.

People v. Clark, Illinois Supreme Court (3/20/14)
Civil  Procedure, Communications Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Clark was indicted under 720 ILCS 5/14-2(a)(1)(A) for having used an eavesdropping device to record a conversation between himself and attorney Thomas without her consent and having used a device to record a conversation between himself, Judge Janes, and Thomas while Janes was acting in the performance of official duties, without the consent of either. Defendant stated that he was in court and attorney Thomas was representing the opposing party; there was no court reporter nor was there any recording device, so he made recordings to preserve the record. He claimed he had a first amendment right to gather information by recording officials performing their public duties. The circuit court dismissed, holding that the statute is unconstitutional on substantive due process and first amendment grounds. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, reasoning that if another person overhears what we say, that person may write it down and publish it, but if that same person records our words with a recording device, even if it is not published in any way, a criminal act has been committed. The statute goes too far in its effort to protect individuals’ interest in the privacy of their communications and burdens substantially more speech than necessary to serve interests it may legitimately serve. It does not meet the requirements necessary to satisfy intermediate scrutiny.

Read More on Both these Illinois Opinions: Court Deals Illinois Eavesdropping Law Final Blow

Rails-to-No-Trails – Justia Weekly Writers’ Picks – March 14, 2014

Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States, United States Supreme Court (3/10/14)
Real Estate & Property Law, Transportation Law, Zoning, Planning & Land Use

locomotiveThe General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875 provides railroad companies “right[s] of way through the public lands of the United States,” 43 U.S.C. 934. One such right of way, created in 1908, crosses land that the government conveyed to the Brandt family in a 1976 land patent. That patent stated that the land was granted subject to the right of way, but it did not specify what would occur if the railroad relinquished those rights. A successor railroad abandoned the right of way with federal approval. The government sought a declaration of abandonment and an order quieting its title to the abandoned right of way, including the stretch across the Brandt patent. Brandt argued that the right of way was a mere easement that was extinguished upon abandonment. The district court quieted title in the government. The Tenth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed. The right of way was an easement that was terminated by abandonment, leaving Brandt’s land unburdened. The Court noted that that the government had argued the opposite position in an earlier case. In that case, the Court found the 1875 Act’s text “wholly inconsistent” with the grant of a fee interest. An easement disappears when abandoned by its beneficiary.

Read More: Supreme Court Sides With Landowner in Rails-to-Trails Case

Cent. States, SE & SW Areas Health & Welfare Fund v. Lewis, US 7th Cir. (3/12/14)
ERISA, Injury Law, Insurance Law, Legal Ethics

Lewis was injured in an automobile accident and her health plan paid $180,000 for her medical treatment   Lewis filed a tort suit against the driver (her son-in-law), represented by Georgia lawyer Lashgari, and obtained a $500,000 settlement. Lashgari knew the plan had a subrogation lien, but split the proceeds between himself and Lewis. He claimed that the plan was owed nothing. The plan filed suit under ERISA to enforce the lien, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(3). The defendants argued that because the settlement funds have been dissipated, the suit was actually for damages, not authorized by ERISA. The district judge ordered the defendants to place $180,000 in Lashgari’s trust account pending judgment. The defendants did not comply. A year later, the defendants having neither placed any money in a trust account nor produced any evidence of their inability to pay, the judge held them in civil contempt, ordered them to produce records that would establish their financial situations, and ordered Lashgari to documents relating to the contempt to the General Counsel of the State Bar for possible disciplinary proceedings against him.  The defendants appealed the contempt order. The Seventh Circuit dismissed, characterizing the appeal as frivolous and the defendants’ conduct as outrageous.

Read More: Posner: Appeal brief is ‘a gaunt, pathetic document’; lawyer ‘shenanigans’ should have been reported

United States v. Chhun, US 9th Cir. (3/11/14)
Criminal Law

Defendant, a native of Cambodia and a tax preparer in the United States, was the president of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF), an organization formed for the purpose of removing Prime Minister Hun Sen from power and becoming the controlling party in Cambodia. After CFF committed a series of small-scale attacks on Cambodian establishments, defendant participated in a CFF plan to attack government buildings protected by government forces in Phnom Phenh (Operation Volcano). In this appeal, defendant challenged his convictions for conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country in violation of 18 U.S.C. 956(a), conspiracy to damage or destroy property in a foreign country in violation of 18 U.S.C. 956(b), and expedition against a friendly nation in violation of 18 U.S.C. 960. The court concluded that section 956(a), enacted as part of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 110 Stat. 1214, 1294-95, was not ambiguous, and therefore, defendant was correctly convicted under the statute; there was sufficient evidence for a factfinder to conclude that defendant had the intent to commit murder; the district court did not plainly err in its jury instruction when it defined “at peace” as the absence of “war” or “military conflict,” and thereby required “military conflict” to end the state of “peace” for the purposes of sections 956(b) and 960; the district court’s failure to instruct the jury to find an overt act that occurred within the five-year limitations period did not affect defendant’s substantial rights; the district court did not commit error in sentencing defendant to life in prison; and defendant’s sentence was not substantively unreasonable. Accordingly, the court affirmed defendant’s convictions and sentence.

Read More: Life Sentence Upheld for ‘Cambodian Moses’

Lippitt v. Bd. of Certification for Geologists & Soil Scientists, Maine Supreme Judicial Court (3/11/14)
Environmental Law, Professional Malpractice & Ethics

Clifford Lippitt was a certified geologist employed at S.W. Cole, Inc. Worcester Associates retained S.W. Cole to provide the necessary technical assistance in order to complete the closure of a landfill Worcester owned. After S.W. Cole drilled bedrock wells and collected data from them, Lippitt submitted a report presenting the results of the tests and concluding that there was no evidence the landfill was impacting neighboring residential wells. The Board of Certification for Geologists and Soil Scientists determined that Lippitt had violated the Code of Ethics applicable to geologists and soil scientists because he had provided a professional opinion “without being as thoroughly informed as might be reasonably expected.” The Supreme Court vacated the superior court’s judgment affirming the Board’s decision, holding (1) the Board’s disagreement with a geologist’s opinion, without a concurrent determination that the opinion is false, is based on false data, or reflects the geologist’s incompetence, cannot be the basis for a determination that the opinion constitutes a violation of the geologists’ Code of Ethics; and (2) the Board erred in determining that Lippitt violated the Code of Ethics on the grounds that Lippitt’s opinion was not “reasonable” in light of the underlying data.

Read More: Restoring A Soiled Reputation

Should Arbitration Dockets in Public Courts be Public?

Confidential FileDelaware Courts of Chancery appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court recently, seeking to validate a law that would allow them to hold confidential arbitration proceedings for parties with $1M litigation at stake. Professor Judith Resnik wrote about this in the NYT Op-Ed pages,  ”Renting Judges for Secret Rulings.”

On appeal is the question whether this arbitration process, established by the Delaware Legislature and codified at Del. Code Ann. Tit. 10 § 349 violates the First Amendment’s right to public access for court proceedings.

The Delaware Legislature passed the law in 2009. It allows litigants with an amount in controversy over $1M to pay a $12,000 fee (and $6,000 per day) to conduct private arbitration in state courts, with a sitting state judge presiding over the proceedings. The verdict from this arbitration is final, as an enforceable judicial decision. The filings are not docketed, and the decisions are not published.

The Delaware Coalition for Open Government (DCOG) sued to have the law overturned after it was passed. The district court found that the law violated the First Amendment, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed. The question presented in the petition writ for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court is whether under the “experience and logic” test, established by earlier SCOTUS cases, these cases may be held confidential, or closed to public access. Continue reading

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Governor Jerry Brown at the Computer History Museum

This morning, Governor Jerry Brown and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stopped at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA to sign a business agreement.

Computer History Museum

As expected, some people came to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech and peaceable assembly. But, the crowds were no where close to when President Obama visited in 2011.

Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanctions

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Justia Weekly Writers’ Picks – Jordan Rebounds for the Remand

basketballJordan v. Jewel Food, US 7th Cir. (2/19/14)
Communications Law, Constitutional Law, Entertainment & Sports Law

When basketball legend Michael Jordan was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009, Sports Illustrated produced a special commemorative issue devoted exclusively to Jordan’s remarkable career. Jewel Foods was offered free advertising space in the issue for agreeing to stock the magazine in its 175 stores. Jewel submitted a full-page ad congratulating Jordan, which ran on the inside back cover of the commemorative issue. To Jordan the ad constituted a misappropriation of his identity for the supermarket chain’s commercial benefit. He sought $5 million in damages, alleging violations of the federal Lanham Act, the Illinois Right of Publicity Act, the Illinois deceptive-practices statute, and the common law of unfair competition. The district court accepted Jewel’s First Amendment defense, that its ad was “noncommercial” speech with full First Amendment protection.  The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded. Jewel’s ad prominently featured the “Jewel-Osco” logo and marketing slogan, which were creatively and conspicuously linked to Jordan in the text of the ad’s congratulatory message. The ad was a form of image advertising aimed at promoting the Jewel-Osco brand; it was commercial speech and subject to the laws cited by Jordan.

Read More: Michael Jordan wins appeal in lawsuit against Jewel Food Stores

Ay v. Holder, US 2nd Cir. (2/20/14)
Immigration Law

Petitioner, a Kurdish ethnic and citizen of Turkey, sought review of the BIA’s order affirming the IJ’s denial of asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The IJ concluded that on at least four or five occasions, petitioner gave food and, on at least one occasion, clothing, to individuals whom petitioner knew, or had reason to know, to be members of Kurdish terrorist groups. The BIA adopted the IJ’s findings and legal conclusions. The court found no error in the agency’s factual conclusion that petitioner provided material support to a terrorist organization. However, the court remanded in order to allow the BIA to address a precedential issue: whether the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3)(B)(iv)(VI), should be construed to include a duress exception to the admissibility bar that the Act otherwise established for those who have provided material support to a terrorist organization. Accordingly, the court granted in part, denied in part, and remanded for further proceedings.

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Oklahoma – It’s “Official”

OklahomaHT to Professor Peter Martin who posts in his blog, Citing Legally, the news that, as of January 1, 2014, “sixty years after the Oklahoma Supreme Court designated the West Publishing Company as the ‘official publisher’ of its decisions, it [has] revoked that designation.”  Going forward, the electronic versions of Oklahoma appellate court decisions rendered after January 1st and posted on the State’s Court Network are now deemed “official.”  Read more of Professor Martin’s post here.  Way to go Oklahoma — You’re O-K!

Justia Weekly Writers’ Picks – February 7, 2014

T.S. v. Doe, US 6th Cir. (2/5/14)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Juvenile Law

handcuffsResponding to a report of underage drinking in a home, officers found a group celebrating eighth grade graduation. Police asked the teens to step outside individually for breathalyzer testing. Seven tested positive for alcohol. Police arrested them and notified their parents. In the morning, a juvenile worker arrived at the police station, and, after speaking with a judge, indicated that the children were to be detained for a court appearance the next day. At the regional juvenile detention center, the minors underwent routine fingerprinting, mug shots, and metal-detection screening. During a hygiene inspection and health screening, they were required to disrobe completely for visual inspection to detect “injuries, physical abnormalities, scars and body markings, ectoparasites, and general physical condition.” A same-sex youth worker observed the juveniles for several minutes from a distance of one to two feet, recording findings for review by an R.N.  The minors were required to shower with delousing shampoo. They were released the following day. The charges were dropped. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the juveniles, based on a “clearly established right for both adults and juveniles to be free from strip searches absent individualized suspicion” that negated a qualified immunity defense. The Sixth Circuit reversed, stating that no clearly established principle of constitutional law forbids a juvenile detention center from implementing a generally applicable, suspicionless strip-search policy upon intake into the facility.

Read More: Sixth Circuit: Strip Search of Detained Juveniles Lawful

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More PACER Drama


I’m a little bit behind on complaining about it, so here’s the executive summary to catch everyone up: One month after they celebrated 25 years of PACER, the whole thing went down, twice in one week.

In case you missed it, the Administrative Office of Courts issued a statement in December celebrating the twenty five year anniversary of PACER. The electronic filing service was started in 1988. It ushered in the era of electronic filing for federal court documents. To me, the irony of this “celebration” is that PACER, and the local CM/ECF systems, have barely changed since then.

As usual, the Third Branch PR team leads with how PACER has made access “universal.”

“Twenty-five years ago, the vast majority of cases were practically obscure. Today, every Third Branch court is using CM/ECF and PACER,” said Michel Ishakian, chief of staff for the AO’s Department of Program Services, who oversaw PACER from 2008 to 2013. “That means that all dockets, opinions, and case file documents can be accessed world-wide in real time, unless they are sealed or otherwise restricted for legal purposes. This level of transparency and access to a legal system is unprecedented and unparalleled.”

This is technically correct – but Mr. Ishakian neglects two caveats to this statement:

1. Users have to pay to access these documents. You pay to search for them, and you pay to download them.

2. The “opinions” available on PACER are slip opinions, not officially published case law. That means they can’t be cited in court.

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