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.
After a fatal police shooting in Maine in 2017, Joshua Gray criticized the officers’ conduct on social media. Which officials did not like, and so when Joshua applied for a license to expand his private investigator business into the state, they turned him down, citing his lack of “good moral character.” A First Amendment violation? Maine’s highest court didn’t think so. So now Joshua and IJ are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case and decide whether the gov’t can silence its critics by denying them the right to work in the occupation of their choice. Click here to read the cert petition.
- If you’re in a national park in Maine and you drive a car into a tree at high speed with three passengers (who all die as a result) in the middle of the night, and the police have limited personnel, have to deal with the bodies and your own injuries, have no equipment on hand to draft an affidavit, and their attorney doesn’t at first call them back, are these exigent circumstances that justify a warrantless blood draw to see if you had too much hooch? District Court: No. First Circuit: Yes. Dubitante opinion: I would have remanded for fact-finding on BAC dissipation.
- Nonprofit groups challenge Rhode Island disclosure laws for political advertising, including a requirement that ads list the names of the group’s five largest donors, alleging a variety of First Amendment theories. First Circuit: Whatever rules might apply to other areas of speech, the Supreme Court has been pretty clear that campaign finance disclosure is constitutional. And now for this week’s Judge Selya Vocab Quiz: velivolant, ipse dixit, pellucid, remonstrance, pretermit.
- Allegation: Rikers Island inmate develops large, painful gum abscess that interferes with talking, eating, and sleeping. Officials ignore numerous increasingly urgent requests for appropriate treatment. Indeed, he needs surgery, but he’s offered only a teeth cleaning and a tooth pulling. Second Circuit (over a dissent): Which would not violate the Eighth Amendment. Case dismissed.
- Ashley Borough, Penn. police officer gives women a choice between getting arrested or giving him oral sex. He gets 15-year sentence after pleading guilty to violating their civil rights under color of law. Third Circuit: Which isn’t a sex offense, so the district court can’t order him to register as a sex offender.
- Is the National Security Agency unconstitutionally spying on Wikimedia’s internet communications? Fourth Circuit: It’s a secret. Case dismissed.
- Man takes Shreveport, La. officers on low-speed chase. He briefly exits his pickup, rifles around in the back, and tries to re-enter (allegedly visibly empty-handed). An officer (allegedly without warning) shoots him four times. He survives. Fifth Circuit (laudably including a link to the video): We can only review the law, not the facts, and there are too many factual disputes. No qualified immunity for now. (Also, no Heck bar.)
- Can the feds prioritize which illegal immigrants to investigate and deport—say, those who commit certain kinds of crimes over those who are more law abiding? Louisiana officials, Texas officials, and a district court judge: Absolutely not! Congress must authorize any prioritizing. Fifth Circuit: Well, actually, the “who to charge” decision is generally shielded from judicial review and committed to the gov’t’s discretion, so we will stay at least that p
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