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.
Friends, the Supreme Court has long held that claims for damages against state and local judges are a hard no go under Section 1983 because absolute judicial immunity was well-settled and uniformly followed at common law in 1871 (when Section 1983 was passed). Buuuuuuut . . . that’s not really true. And more importantly, who cares what the common law said if Section 1983 was meant to create a new remedy after common law causes of action proved wholly inadequate in the face of KKK terror? That’s on the most recent episode of the Bound By Oath podcast. Click here for more.
- Raped as a child and threatened with death by her brother’s gang, woman flees to the U.S. and establishes a life before being apprehended by immigration officers. She’s imprisoned for 10 months after failing to show that she is not a threat or flight risk. But wait! On appeal, a federal court says that that it is the gov’t’s burden to show she’s dangerous or a flight risk. And on remand, she’s granted bond—on the exact same evidence. First Circuit: Crazy how important the burden of proof is huh? Anyways, the Fifth Amendment requires the burden of proof to be on the gov’t. Dissent: Ever heard of judicial restraint? This is a statutory case that the immigrant should win, but not on constitutional grounds.
- Judge Selya does not hold back with this week’s First Circuit Vocab Quiz: behoof, immurement, indicium, limned, pavane, hyperlipidemia, calumnizing, exigible, pellucid. Along the way, the court denies compassionate release to a 62-year-old man who has served about 30 years of a 660-year sentence for laundering $136 mil of Colombian drug cartel money.
- Syracuse, N.Y. police did not “search” a defendant when they forced him to put his hands on the back of a car and stand spreadeagle, says the Second Circuit (sitting en banc, over several dissents), because a search doesn’t occur until an officer “physically intrud[es]” on a defendant’s protected space. Also, the officers weren’t unreasonable in frisking the defendant because he looked at officers’ unmarked car for “a few seconds,” hitched up his pants as he got into a car, squirmed as if concealing something after being pulled over, and then stood with his pelvis close to the car after being ordered to spreadeagle. Plus, it was a high-crime area.
- After plaintiff leased the site of the former gun range and store with plans to get it up and running again, Robinson Township, Penn. officials changed the zoning to outlaw certain aspects of his business model (while permitting them elsewhere in town). Third Circuit: Which might violate the Second Amendment. Case un-dismissed, for the second time.
- After the Biden Administration rescinded the third-country asylum rule (sending third-country nationals to Mexico or Canada while they make their asylum claims), Texas sued, arguing the recission violated the APA; the administration did not consider the harms that would come to Texas, like having to process more driver’s license applications. (Sound familiar?) District Court: Indeed, the APA was likely violated so the program must be restarted nationwide. Feds: Stay pending appeal? Fifth Circuit: Nope. But we will expedite oral argument to consider the merits.
- Fifth Circuit (en banc, over dissents): The district court erred in characterizing Texas’ ban on a particular method of dilation and evacuation abortions as a total ban on dilation and evacuation abortions—and also by permanently en
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