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.
This week on the Short Circuit podcast: Live at Georgetown Law, an all-star panel, including UCLA Law Professor Joanna Schwartz, discusses police accountability and Schwartz’s new book, Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable.
Last week on the Short Circuit podcast: Live at SMU Law, an all-star panel talks gun rights after Bruen, baby powder bankruptcy, and vaping regulations
- D.C. Circuit: Airplane seats might be small, but there’s no reason to think they’re dangerously small. So no compelling the FAA to regulate seat size. (Low-key implication for emergencies: a few extra seconds getting out of a small seat won’t matter because you’re going to die stuck in the aisle.)
- Compare Notice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (Jan. 26, 2010) (explaining that “the court strongly urges parties to limit the use of acronyms”), with Int’l Org. of Masters, Mates & Pilots, ILA, AFL-CIO v. Nat’l Labor Relations Bd., No. 21-1249 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 3, 2023) (considering ulp charges brought by IOM on behalf of LDOs and vacating NLRB decision turning on argument about CBA not presented to ALJ).
- Weekly vocab quiz from Judge Selya of the First Circuit: armamentarium, crucible, decretory. (Bonus Judge Selya Shakespeare precision: “to paint the lily.”)
- From footnote nine of this Second Circuit opinion, you get the sense that Judge Cabranes doesn’t think it should take 26 pages and a chart to explain why a racketeer who shot and killed someone committed a “crime of violence.”
- If Americans cared about soccer the way they care about baseball, the Second Circuit wouldn’t be allowing antitrust claims against FIFA to proceed to discovery.
- Is the Federal Election Campaign Act regular-levels of complicated or is it tax-levels of complicated? Defendant—an associate of associates of Rudolph Giuliani—convicted of conspiring to funnel illegal contributions from a Russian national to American politicians: It’s tax-levels of complicated, of course, so the district court erred in instructing the jury that it could find my violation “knowing and willful” without finding that I had the intent to violate FECA specifically. Second Circuit: Incorrect. Conviction affirmed. (And unlike Robert Bork, the court resisted the impulse to include any scatological puns about “FECA[L] matter.”)
- A six-thousand-year-old Anatolian statuette has been circulating on the antiquities market since at least 1961 and sold at Christie’s in 2017 for $12.7 million. Republic of Turkey sues Christie’s, the statuette’s owner, and the statuette itself (in rem). Turkey: It’s ours! Second Circuit: No. Under a 1906 Turkish decree, Turkey can claim ownership only if the statuette was found within and exported from Turkey’s borders after 1906. And that question raises a boatload of tricky issues about the parties’ respective burdens of proof, which the district court got wrong. But no matter: Turkey slept on its rights for decades before trying to claim the statuette, so the doctrine of laches applies. Concurrence: which—just to be clear—is why all that other stuff we just said about burden-shifting is 100% dicta.
- Texas man sues the Lewisville Independent School District and seven school board members, alleging that the district’s at-large election system violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by diluting the votes of non-white minorities within the district. District Court: Well, this seems like a run-of-the-mill . . . NOW HOLD ON A DAMN MINUTE! The plaintiff is white?! What possible interest could he have in these issues?! Attorneys’ fees to the government for this utterly frivolous lawsuit! Fifth Circuit: Let’s just say the standing issues in this case are a bit more nuanced than that. No fees for simply bringing the claim.
- In which Samsung learns the hard way that if you wait for three years of litigation to elapse before deciding you’d like to enforce your clickwrap arbitration agreement, the Third Circuit will not be sympathetic.
- “When Allen invited Eric to invest [in breeding race horses], he cautioned Eric that though he might lose all his money, he would at least meet people he would never meet otherwise. Eric called the predictions ‘prophetic.'” Third Circuit: And since he didn’t really expect to profit, this was more of a hobby than a business, which has some tax implications.
- In 1983, North Carolina sheriffs—acting on a tip—interrogate Henry McCollum, a
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