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, qualified immunity is no picnic. But in a series of recent decisions federal courts have upped the ante, bestowing a de facto absolute immunity on federal officers who (1) put an innocent teenager in prison for about two years on completely made-up evidence, (2) tried to shoot a man in the face in a fit of pique, (3) beat up an unresisting Vietnam vet for no discernible reason, and (4) beat up unresisting people who were protesting police brutality. That’s all on the latest episode of the Bound By Oath podcast. New to the podcast? Start with Episode 1.
- A warrantless drug-doggie sniff outside your home might be a Fourth Amendment violation. So, too, might a sniff outside your apartment. But outside your commercial storage unit? Decidedly not, says the Second Circuit.
- In a rare “mini en banc” opinion, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit clarifies/overrules some old circuit precedent on entrapment after giving a heads-up to the other circuit judges. All of which means a new trial for this Dominican immigrant who was busted after selling fentanyl to his barber, who was secretly a confidential informant for the DEA in exchange for cash and deportation deferrals.
- Man is convicted of a drug crime, and the feds move to deport him under a statute that allows the removal of “aliens” convicted of such crimes. But wait! He was a naturalized citizen at the time of his conviction, making him not an “alien” under the statute. Feds: No matter, we also stripped him of his citizenship because he lied on his immigration papers. Third Circuit: Nope, removal of citizenship is not retroactive. He was a citizen at the time of the crime, so he cannot be deported under the chosen statute. Concurrence: Maybe under another one, though.
- Cameroonian man—a speaker of “Pidgin English”—enters the Escherian world of immigrant-removal proceedings. Despite many clues that the man is not fluent in Standard English, the immigration judge proceeds with several removal hearings and denies the man’s asylum application. Third Circuit: The Due Process Clause (yes, yes, of the Fifth Amendment, not the Fourteenth) entitles the man to an opportunity to make arguments and present evidence on his own behalf. And the immigration judge’s failure to inquire into his need for an interpreter violated that right. He gets a new hearing.
- Highly paid, salaried employees with executive, administrative, or professional duties are generally excepted from federal law requiring employers to pay time and a half for overtime hours. So an oil-and-gas company need not pay overtime to a supervisor earning over $200k/yr, right? Fifth Circuit (sitting en banc, over a pair of dissents): Nope, pay the man. He’s paid a daily rate that doesn’t meet the relevant definition of a salary.
- In 2016, the en banc Fifth Circuit struck down Texas’s voter ID law. Are the plaintiffs in that case “prevailing parties” entitled to attorneys’ fees? Fifth Circuit (opinion by Judge Ho): I mean, obviously. Concurrence (also by Judge Ho): But let me reiterate why they should have lost.
- The 12th Man tradition at Texas A&M stems from an incident in 1922 when, fac
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