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.
New on the Short Circuit podcast: PACER charges and publicly charged universal injunctions.
- “Once again, we are called upon to explain how a federal government in which Puerto Ricans have no vote may regulate them more extensively than it can most every other American citizen.” So begins this First Circuit opinion.
- If true crime is your thing, check out this story of a Philadelphia drug kingpin who arranged from jail for his underlings to firebomb the home of a confidant-turned-informant in 2004, killing all six in the house, four of whom were children and none of whom were the former confidant. The kingpin, appropriately named Savage, is convicted of a dozen murders—one shy of the state record—and receives the death penalty. The Third Circuit affirms in its first direct appeal in a capital case in nearly a century.
- As honorably discharged Marine waits to catch a bus to visit his recently hospitalized sister, Columbia, S.C. police arrest him, charge him with congregating on the sidewalk, a city code violation that is prosecuted by the cop who issued the citation. He awaits trial for more than 3.5 years until, on the eve of trial, the arresting cop drops the charges. Fourth Circuit (over a dissent): Might be malicious prosecution—an unreasonable seizure claim with some tort elements.
- The Texas Medical Board is apparently a big fan of searching medical clinics—including private patient records—with administrative subpoenas that do not allow for judicial review and demand immediate compliance. The Fifth Circuit denounced this approach in 2018 and 2019. Here, a doctor alleges that board investigators used this process to illegally obtain files from his clinic that they then used to fabricate evidence and get him indicted on trumped-up charges of running a pill mill (which were dismissed). Fifth Circuit (2020): Though there’s no constitutional right to be free from abuse of process or malicious prosecution (at least in the Fifth Circuit), the doctor might have valid due process and Fourth Amendment claims.
- In the Fifth Circuit, a Louisiana man convicted of murder by an 11–1 jury verdict will not get a new trial—even though the Supreme Court held last term that this sort of nonunanimous conviction is unconstitutional. You see, the prisoner already argued that his nonunanimous conviction was unconstitutional back in 2008, so he can’t make the same argument again. No exceptions.
- In 1981, the Supreme Court ruled the military’s male-only draft is not unlawful sex discrimination, in part because at the time women were prohibited from serving in combat. Plaintiffs: Well, that key fact has changed. Is the male-only draft unconstitutional now? District court: Yes. Fifth Circuit: No.
- Holdout juror in a murder case just can’t be persuaded and is fed up with being badgered by other jury members, so she contacts a lawyer, who appears in court to inform the judge about the conflict. After the judge and the lawyers debate the proper course, the judge removes the juror. An alternate juror is seated, and the jury returns a guilty verdict within 90 minutes. A Sixth Amendment violation? Sixth Circuit: No. She was removed for violating the judge’s order not
Article from Latest – Reason.com