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.
At a Virginia gubernatorial debate last month, both candidates demonstrated an appalling lack of understanding of what qualified immunity is and what it does. Over at The Washington Post, IJers Patrick Jaicomo and Chad Reese set the record straight.
- On July 21, 1780, Alexander Hamilton wrote a letter to the Marquis de Lafayette warning of threatening British troop movements. Hundreds of years later, the letter was named as a defendant in a civil forfeiture action filed by the feds. First Circuit: The letter’s former owner (who inherited it from his grandfather) could not contest the merits of the civil forfeiture action because—under Massachusetts law—the letter is a public record that can only be owned by the state gov’t. The district court therefore properly awarded ownership of the letter to the Commonwealth.
- In the middle of the night, Orono, Maine police knock on the doors and windows of a college student who is suspected of burglarizing the apartment of his ex-girlfriend, whom he’d been arrested for harassing months earlier. (And indeed the knock-and-talk does yield damning evidence of his guilt, though charges are dropped when the ex declines to participate.) First Circuit (over a dissent): The officers violated clearly established law by entering the curtilage of the student’s residence without a warrant or exigent circumstances. No qualified immunity.
- Can a quartet of high-tax states sue to challenge the constitutionality of Congress’s 2017 decision to cap the state and local tax (“SALT”) deduction? Well the Second Circuit says the courthouse doors are wide open to New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Maryland, which have standing to sue. And so do they win? No, says the Second Circuit, the Constitution does not mandate the SALT deduction and capping it was not coercive.
- Allegation: New York City fire marshal investigates the cause of a fire that destroyed a five-story brownstone where a movie was being filmed. After he concludes that the movie crew caused the fire, his supervisors demand he file a false report blaming a faulty boiler system. He demurs and files a complaint, after which he is reassigned, reducing his responsibilities and overtime opportunities. He sues, alleging First Amendment retaliation. Second Circuit: And his case should not have been dismissed.
- Allegation: Man rapes his cousin-in-law, uses his connections in law enforcement—he’s an assistant warden at a Louisiana prison—to avoid investigation, prosecution. Can the
Article from Latest – Reason.com