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.
Bianca King of Lakeway, Texas, is a single mother with two young children. Until recently, she was able to raise her 2- and 4-year-old kids while making a living running a small daycare out of her home. But on February 9, city officials—citing concerns of a group of nearby golfers (including former mayor Joe Bain) that they could hear and see children playing in her backyard—shut her down. This week, she joined forces with the Institute for Justice to file a lawsuit in state court challenging Lakeway’s near total ban on running a home business. Learn more here.
- Man in the Judiciary Square, D.C. Metro station falls into gap between waist-high parapet and station wall and ultimately dies of his injuries; his body is found four days later by a Metro rider. His family sues, claiming that had they done their job, Metro employees would have discovered him in time to save him. Metro: But he was drunk, meaning he was contributorily negligent, meaning we can’t be held liable. District court: Correct. D.C. Circuit: Decidedly not. Under D.C. law (which controls here), the Metro’s status as a common carrier means it can’t avail itself of the contributory-negligence doctrine. To trial the case must go.
- In this First Circuit opinion about the First Step Act, an unusually subdued Judge Selya lobs only a few modest vocabulary grenados: “immurement,” for example, “paint the lily” (no, not “gild” it), and “monolithic.” (By the by, “monolithic” (as you probably know) derives from the Greek for “single stone”—hence the Village of Monolithos on the Island of Rhodes, named for the rock on which perches the Knights of St. John’s castle.)
- Firearm-offense sentences can be enhanced if you’re an “unlawful user” of drugs at the time of your crime. And, says the First Circuit, “evidence of long-time regular use interrupted by periods of abstention” doesn’t fit the bill. So weed/gun enthusiast is entitled to a resentencing without the unlawful-user enhancement.
- Twenty-six-year-old Honduran woman seeking asylum credibly alleges that when she lived in her native country, a gang member connected to a political opposition party physically and sexually abused her and her mother, stalked and raped her sister, and murdered her uncle. But, says the Fourth Circuit (over a dissent), she didn’t produce copies of her fingerprints in advance of her hearing before an immigration judge, so back to Honduras she goes.
- The Fifth Circuit denies qualified immunity and explains its reasoning with a page of charts. Judge Oldham, dissenting, argues that case law requiring charts cannot be clearly established.
- An auto-antonym is a word with two opposite meanings, such as “cleave” or “sanction.” Also, goat and G.O.A.T. are not the same thing in athletics. The point is: don’t confuse prudential standing with Article III standing. If you don’t have Article III standing, you’re done in federal court. But if you merely lack prudential standing, you might be ok. (So, per the Fifth Circuit, a mother’s federal suit for wrongful death can go forward if she amends to add the survivor with the right to sue under Louisiana law.)
- In an unsigned order, the
Article from Reason.com