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.
Way back in 1983, in Bearden v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that judges must inquire into defendants’ ability to pay before jailing them for not paying court-ordered fines and fees. The practice is widespread today, however, spreading misery and hardship among the least fortunate. (One guy we know calls Bearden the “25-hour speed limit” of constitutional law because no one follows it.) Please do click here for a look at model legislation that would codify Bearden and curtail the abuse of fines and fees.
New on the Short Circuit podcast: Can a city hold on to your car for three years for no reason? Plus, the costs of campaign finance disclosure.
- Gitmo detainee, a tribal sheikh and Yemeni citizen, has been held without trial going on 16 years. A violation of the Due Process Clause? D.C. Circuit: Whether it’s “procedural” or “substantive” due process, the Clause does not apply to aliens detained outside the sovereign territory of the United States.
- Connellsville, Penn. police accuse a woman of murder on the basis of bite-mark evidence and accusations from an ex-boyfriend and two inmates. But bite-mark evidence is not supported by science, the men’s statements conflict, and the ex-boyfriend recants on the stand. A judge dismisses the charges. Undeterred, the DA recharges her a few months later. She’s convicted and then exonerated after 11 years in prison. Third Circuit: The then-DA (now judge) is entitled to absolute immunity for approving the criminal complaint and to qualified immunity for directing police to investigate bite-mark evidence and sitting by while police engaged in a reckless investigation. Neither of the latter two had been clearly established as unconstitutional at the time of the investigation.
- Following a sniper attack on a Pennsylvania State Troopers barracks, troopers learn of a man with a rifle walking down a highway 15 miles away. They identify him, arrest him on a Florida arrest warrant, and then charge him with another crime before dismissing the Florida charges. Man: A trooper fabricated evidence to support the Florida charge and my arrest, which violates the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. District court: It didn’t violate the Fourth Amendment. Third Circuit: And the Fourteenth Amendment doesn’t apply to an unlawful arrest claim before a court appearance. (Another man was later convicted of the sniper attack.)
- Transgender high-school student challenges schoo
Article from Latest – Reason.com