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.
Mandatory, warrantless inspections of rental properties are wildly invasive and ripe for abuse, no matter officials’ purported intentions. So writes IJ attorney Rob Peccola in the Chicago Tribune, advising the city’s aldermen to vote down a proposed rental inspection law. Indeed, in December, a federal judge signed off on a consent decree in nearby Zion, Ill., that protects renters and landlords from the same kind of regime that is now proposed in Chicago.
- Can someone check on Judge Selya? He hardly used any obscure vocabulary at all in this opinion for the First Circuit, which holds that the so-called “stash-house enhancement” may be imposed in situations where the stash house is also the defendant’s residence.
- Under Virginia tort law, is a taser trainer vicariously liable to a trainee (a Virginia Beach police officer) whose eyeball was tased by another trainee? Fourth Circuit: No. Virginia has not recognized the sort of “special relationship” between trainer and trainee that might support vicarious liability. Then again, this particular trainer may have been negligent in his own right. So the eyeball-tased trainee’s general-negligence claim may proceed.
- Allegation: Austin, Tex. teen wears a MAGA hat, a Ted Cruz shirt, and brings an Antonin Scalia poster to school, after which he is relentlessly bullied by other students and faculty. He sues the school district under Title VI for being deliberately indifferent. Fifth Circuit: But he wasn’t bullied for his race, color, or national origin—he was bullied for being a Republican—so case dismissed.
- Exxon polypropylene production plant in Baton Rouge, La. requires operators to undergo extensive training. A Black trainee is fired after, he says, receiving only two days of training on certain skills which a white trainee (who passed) received over two weeks. District court: One can’t sue over inadequate training under Title VII. Fifth Circuit: One can, but (over a dissent) his training and opportunities actually paralleled the successful trainee, so no discrimination here.
- With warrant, Cleveland police search suspected drug dealer’s house. Out on the street, an officer peers into the tinted windows of a car suspected to be the suspected dealer’s—but not mentioned in the warrant—and sees what he suspects is a “bag of dope.” Officers tow the car but don’t get a warrant. Turns out it, indeed, was “dope.” Was the search constitutional? Sixth Circuit: Only evidence the officer had for probable cause was a hunch. That’s not enough.
- Is the President’s executive order regarding federal contractors and vaccinations for COVID-19 a proper use of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949? Sixth Circuit (Motions Panel, January 2022): Likely no. Sixth Circuit (Merits Panel, January 2023): Still likely no. But preliminary injunc
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