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 right to criticize the government is surely one of the most important rights protected by the Constitution. So we’re pleased to report that Mount Pleasant, Wisc. City Attorney Chris Smith’s vexatious defamation suit against our client, Kelly Gallaher—a local activist and critic of the Foxconn land grab, as well as a critic of Chris Smith—was dismissed this week. Smith demanded that Kelly never publicly speak or write his name again, but . . . that’s not going to happen, Chris Smith. Click here to learn more.
- Rhode Island sued Shell, Chevron, and the other big oil companies on the theory that their role in global warming gives rise to claims under state law. The oil companies removed the suit to federal court, arguing for federal jurisdiction for a zillion different reasons. First Circuit: And all those zillion reasons are wrong. The federal judge was right to send you back to state court. [Ed. Note: Judge Thompson invokes “the mind-numbing complexities of federal removal jurisdiction,” but we found her lively opinion quite engaging.]
- Allegation: After working for a member of one of the ruling families in the United Arab Emirates, U.S. citizen runs afoul of a different family member, leading to citizen’s being prosecuted on various spurious charges in the UAE. At the UAE’s request, Interpol then issues a “red notice” for the man and declines to remove that designation when the man points out that he’d be wrongfully convicted for political reasons. Back stateside, the man sues Interpol in federal court. Second Circuit: “Similar concerns about nations abusing Interpol’s notice system appear in the news with some regularity.” But the man is out of luck: Interpol enjoys immunity under the International Organizations Immunities Act.
- What’s the difference between a bus advertisement that reads “Eat Mor Chikin” and one that reads “Eat More Chickpeas”? Fourth Circuit: Whatever it is, the test for figuring it out isn’t subject to reasoned application. So Richmond, Va.’s prohibition on “political” content in bus ads is facially unconstitutional.
- Ever wonder whether the 1872 Amnesty Act applies prospectively? Sorry if this changes your plans, but the Fourth Circuit says that congressional exercise under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment only applied to past insurrections or rebellions.
- Trying to serve notice is like walking through a minefield. But good news for the plaintiffs here, who have been trying to sue staffers at Baltimore County, Md. jail since 2016 over the death of their daughter: The Fourth Circuit says the district court could maybe let them walk through the field another time.
- When the SEC accused a hedge fund manager of violating securities law he got a trial . . . in the agency’s own in-house courts, before the agency’s own in-house “judge.” Consistent with statistics showing the SEC enjoys a far higher win rate before its own judges—as opposed to in real court—the agency judge found the defendant guilty and imposed a $300k fine (among other penalties). Fifth Circuit: The SEC’s system of in-house judges violates the Seventh Amendment and the non-delegation doctrine, as well as the Article II removal power. (For more analysis of the opinion, read here.)
- When the feds accused a Louisiana wastewater treatment facility of being responsible for an oil spill in the Mississippi River, the owners got a trial . . . in front of a judge (who found for the gov’t). Fifth Circuit: Reversed. The Seventh Amendment guarantees a trial by jury here.
- Fifth Circuit: Now for the third time in this age-discrimination case, we’re going to tell the district court to allow the discovery our preceden
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