Potato, Potahto – Justia Weekly Writers’ Picks

Dawson Farms v. Risk Management Agency, US 8th Cir. (11/7/12)
Agriculture Law, Government & Administrative Law

Dawson Farms challenged the RMA’s denial of its crop-insurance claim alleging loss due to “tuber rot” in stored potatoes. A final agency review affirmed the RMA’s denial of Dawson Farms’ claim, finding that the insurance adjuster’s sampling of the stored potatoes followed adequate sample procedures. Dawson Farms appealed the final agency decision to the district court, which affirmed. The court believed that, in light of the nature of the hearing officer’s finding under review, the deputy director’s statements made it reasonably discernable that the deputy director applied the correct legal standard and considered the record for the proper purpose of reviewing the hearing officer’s decision for substantial evidence. The hearing officer based his conclusion largely on the testimony of an expert in potato pathology. The court also believed that, to the extent the deputy director’s determination was a rejection of the hearing officer’s finding that the adjuster had a duty to re-sample, the issue under review was a question of law. Consequently, the court found no abuse of discretion or arbitrary and capricious action by the deputy director. Further, the agency determination was supported by substantial evidence.

Vance v. Rumsfeld, US 7th Cir. (11/7/12)
Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law, Injury Law, International Trade, Military Law

American citizen-civilians, employees of a private Iraqi security services company, alleged that they were detained and tortured by U.S. military personnel while in Iraq in 2006, then released without being charged with a crime.  Plaintiffs sought damages and to recover seized personal property. The district court denied motions to dismiss. In 2011, the Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, holding that plaintiffs sufficiently alleged Secretary Rumsfeld’s personal responsibility and that he is not entitled to qualified immunity. On rehearing en banc, the Seventh Circuit reversed, stating that a common-law claim for damages should not be created. The Supreme Court has never created or even favorably mentioned a nonstatutory right of action for damages on account of conduct that occurred outside of the U.S. The Military Claims Act and the Foreign Claims Act indicate that Congress has decided that compensation should come from the Treasury rather than from federal employees and that plaintiffs do not need a common-law damages remedy in order to achieve some recompense.  Even such a remedy existed, Rumsfeld could not be held liable. He did not arrest plaintiffs, hold them incommunicado, refuse to speak with the FBI, subject them to loud noises, or threaten them while they wore hoods.

Read More:
Alleged torture victims can’t sue Rumsfeld, The Boston Globe (11/8/12)

SC Rutland v. So. Carolina Dept. of Transportation, South Carolina Supreme Court (11/7/12)
Government & Administrative Law, Injury Law

Tiffanie Rutland was killed when the car in which she was riding rolled over and fell on top of her after she was partially ejected. This case presented the novel issue of whether “pre-impact fear” should have been recognized as a cognizable element of damages in a survival action. The Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to review the decision of the court of appeals that pre-impact fear was not compensable. Finding no evidence of conscious pain and suffering under the facts of this case, the Supreme Court reserved judgment on this question and affirmed as modified.

Read More:
South Carolina Judicial Department “Case of the Month” – Read additional summaries, briefs and more.

Pershing County Sheriff v. Andrews, Nevada Supreme Court (10/4/12)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Respondent was in custody in county jail when officers discovered a cell phone hidden in a box beneath his bed. The State charged Respondent under Nev. Rev. Stat. 212.093(1), which, in pertinent part, prohibits prisoners, including county jail inmates, from possessing “any key, pick lock, bolt cutters, wire cutters, saw, digging tool, rope, ladder, hook or any other tool or item adapted, designed or commonly used for the purpose of escaping” from custody. After being bound over to the district court, Respondent filed a pretrial petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking to dismiss the charge, arguing that section 212.093(1) was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, and that, by its terms, the statute does not prohibit the possession of cell phones. The district court agreed with Respondent and dismissed the charge. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that by its plain and unambiguous language, section 212.093(1) does not prohibit county jail inmates from possessing cell phones.