Short Circuit: A Roundup of Recent Federal Court Decisions
Please enjoy the latest edition of Short Circuit, a weekly feature written by a bunch of people at the Institute for Justice.
New on the Short Circuit podcast: A landmark, watershed, and very salubrious ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court on implied rights of action under the state constitution. And also, a starkly different holding from the Tenth Circuit in the wake of Egbert v. Boule.
- Guantanamo prisoner is tortured for information, which the government then includes in legal filings in the prisoner’s criminal case. No problem, say the feds, we’re not using it at trial, just for discovery matters. That’s cool, right? On further reflection, the feds remove the info from the filing and promise not to use the torture-obtained info in future filings. D.C. Circuit: So the prisoner’s challenge to the use of the info is variously moot, unripe, without standing, and inappropriate for mandamus.
- Forget about the judicial reasoning in this run-of-the-mill wrongful arrest case from the D.C. Circuit, what on earth is hiding under the redactions?
- Ever fail to click a couple of boxes on an overly confusing computer program and as a result pay an extra $894 mil in principal when you only meant to pay the interest? Well, a guy at Citibank did, and when he and his colleagues realized their mistake the next day—and immediately sent detailed notices asking for the money back—a number of the lenders said “that’s funny, but screw you the money’s ours now.” Were they wrong to keep it? District court: No, life moves fast sometimes. Second Circuit: Yes, they had the money an incredibly short time before the notices went out and should have known something funny was up. Concurrence: This is obvious and why did we take a year to decide? “Possession is not ten-tenths of the law.”
- Former biopharmaceutical-company employee: As a condition of my employment, I had to give the company a ton of sensitive personal and financial information, which was later accessed by a hacking group and distributed on the dark web. Class-wide damages and equitable relief please. District court: No standing. Third Circuit: She’s seeking damages for the release of her personal information on the dark web and she claims, among other things, that her former employer breached its employment agreement with her by failing to secure her info. Sure seems like a controversy to us. Concurrence in the judgment: Agreed, and we could have said so in far fewer words. (Also, Third Circuit, we’re capitalizing “Sister Circuits”?)
- Texas City, Tex. fire dept. official who does not have the authority to detain anyone nevertheless detains two emergency medical technicians over a permit violation. (“You are detained. You are not allowed to leave. … [G]et the F back into the vehicle.”) District court: Could be an unconstitutional seizure, but there’s no prior case on point. Qualified immunity. Fifth Circuit: Reversed. Before an official can raise QI as a defense, they must show they were acting within the scope of their authority—an “oft-overlooked threshold requirement.” [Ed.: At this very moment, IJ is asking the Supreme Court and asking the Tenth Circuit to remind courts of this requirement.]
- Twelve days of Christmas are enough to get you more partridges than you probably wanted, but, says the Fifth Circuit, twelve days of a preliminary injunction before your case is mooted by legislative reform are not enough to make you a “prevailing party” for purposes of recovering fees.
- Allegation: Middle-aged man grabs seven-year-old by the neck after the boy accidentally dropped raisins in front of the man’s home. When a Fort Worth, Tex. officer arrives, he ask
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