Short Circuit: A Roundup of Recent Federal Court Decisions
Please enjoy the latest edition of Short Circuit, a weekly feature from the Institute for Justice.
In 2020, the Institute for Justice won a landmark Supreme Court victory in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, in which the High Court held that states cannot bar families participating in generally available student-aid programs from selecting religiously affiliated schools for their children. Despite that ruling, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in October 2020, upheld a religious exclusion in Maine’s tuition assistance program for high school students. Now IJ is asking the Supreme Court to take the case.
- Connecticut enacts a law limiting public access to court records in cases transferred from juvenile court to regular criminal court. Newspaper sues, alleging a First Amendment violation. Second Circuit: They’re right! “A more narrowly tailored approach – with a presumption of openness but the availability of confidentiality upon a showing of necessity – would better balance the public’s right of access against the dangers of stigmatizing juveniles by providing fuller protection when necessary.”
- After a Connecticut prison guard is found liable for $300k in damages to an inmate whose beating he facilitated, the state graciously picks up the tab. Minus $142k for the cost of the inmate’s incarceration. Also, minus $65k for the cost of the inmate’s legal representation. Also . . . Second Circuit: Let’s stop you right there. Except for some money the inmate has already spent and some child support that was validly withheld, the guard is still on the hook for $270k.
- “Am I being detained?” “You’re not detained.” “Am I free to go?” “No.” Fourth Circuit: Not how that works.
- Although appellate courts hardly ever reassign cases to a different judge on remand, the Fifth Circuit brings us the rare doozy. Among other things, the district court judge told plaintiff’s counsel, “I will get credit for closing two cases when I crush you”; participated in the deposition of the plaintiff; and prohibited the plaintiff from conducting discovery beyond one two-hour deposition after summary judgment briefing.
- Pretrial detainee seeks release from custody given the pandemic. Fifth Circuit (splitting from the Sixth): Habeas law is available to review the legal basis for the imprisonment, not to let someone out sooner because of the possibility of disease.
- Tarrant County, Tex. family court judge is fired in response to her husband’s vicious campaigning against elected fami
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