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.
California taught Dario Gurrola how to fight fires while he was in custody, paying him $2–$6 per day. Now that he’s paid his debt to society, however, state licensing restrictions bar him from becoming a full-time firefighter. This month, Dario and IJ filed suit to challenge those restrictions. Vice News has the story.
New on the Short Circuit podcast: Clark Neily of the Cato Institute (who is also a founding member of the podcast) rejoins the panel to talk gym closures in Michigan and a high-profile prosecution in D.C.
- High-ranking former Trump Administration official pleads guilty to making false statements. But wait! The feds seek to dismiss the prosecution, a move that requires “leave of court.” D.C. Circuit (over a dissent): Which means the court must dismiss the case (unless the defendant objects).
- Federal law gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the “sole and unreviewable discretion” to subject certain aliens to expedited removal. Last year, the secretary expanded the reach of the removal process to cover all undocumented immigrants who had been in the U.S. for less than two years. Three organizations whose members are covered by this expansion file suit. D.C. Circuit: Sorry, but “sole and unreviewable discretion” means that you lose on the merits. Dissent: Ridiculous! “Sole and unreviewable discretion” means that they lose on jurisdiction!
- In 2015, the DOJ indicted several officials of the global soccer organization FIFA, who were ultimately convicted of, among other things, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. FIFA officials: That’s impermissible extraterritorial application of the law; our conspiracy occurred entirely on foreign soil. Second Circuit: Ah, but you were charged with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, and some of the bribes you received came from accounts at U.S. banks, which is enough of a domestic hook to support the convictions.
- The Third Circuit ably distills the differences between standing and mootness in an opinion that does little good for the plaintiffs, whose case is moot.
- Must statutory challenges to federal redistricting be heard by a three-judge district court? Or is the ordinary one judge fine? Fifth Circuit (en banc): All of us agree the case is moot because the election is over, but we are, nevertheless, in stark disagreement about the answer to that question of statutory interpretation.
- Only twice has the Supreme Court ever struck down a law for violating the nondelegation doctrine, which holds that Congress may not delegate its legislative authority to another branch of government or a private party. “Ever. And none in more than eighty years.” And, says the Fifth Circuit, a vaping industry challenge to Congress’ delegation of authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (to determine if vaping products should be regulated like tobacco products) is not likely going to snap the nondelegation losing streak. [Ed.: Though we humbly suggest that at IJ we have a case that totally will.]
- In 2009, the state of Ohio tried and failed to execute a prisoner, giving up after attempting
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