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.
Last year, the Supreme Court held that if states provide funding for students attending private schools, then they can’t withhold that funding from students attending religious private schools. But four months later, the First Circuit upheld just such a religious exclusion in Maine on the basis that funding was being restricted not because of the status of a particular school as religious, but because the money could be put to a religious use. Over at The Wall Street Journal, IJ Senior Attorney Michael Bindas explains why SCOTUS should grant cert in Carson v. Makin and put to rest the idea that the blurry distinction between religious “status” and “use” is constitutionally significant.
- Two former Liberian government officials sue a human-rights organization for defaming them, saying that the group suggested they took bribes when they are, in fact, totally righteous dudes. D.C. Circuit: This lawsuit is barred by the First Amendment. Dissent: Shouldn’t it matter that there’s no evidence anyone was bribed? Also, by the by, New York Times v. Sullivan is “a threat to American Democracy.” Also, the media is biased against Republicans, and Candy Crowley was a bad debate moderator in 2012.
- What do you get when you mix the super-complicated area of Indian law with the super-complicated area of water rights? Dismissal by the D.C. Circuit because the rancher-plaintiffs lack standing. Ranchers claim Klamath, Ore. tribes’ enforcement of their water rights causes the ranchers an injury and sue the feds who oversee those rights. But even if the feds acted unlawfully, says the court, the tribes would still have the power to enforce those rights, and weren’t made parties to the lawsuit.
- Pennsylvania wants to sell a juvenile detention center, and an Islamic education group wants to buy it. But several Pennsylvania legislators allegedly scuttle the deal—there are overtones of Islamophobia throughout—and the property goes to another bidder. Third Circuit: Doesn’t matter. You can’t get damages from lawmakers for doing law. The legislators are protected by absolute immunity for their legislative acts and qualified immunity for everything else.
- The Defense Department is supposed to post certain military discharge records online with personal information redacted. But—whoops—lots of information wasn’t redacted. So in 2019 DoD temporarily yanked all 245,000 r
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