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.
It’s a tale of two cases. In 1905, the Supreme Court issued two landmark opinions reviewing state legislation under the Fourteenth Amendment. Today, Lochner v. New York is reviled by academics and judges alike—a supposed example of “judicial activism” gone awry. Meanwhile, Jacobson v. Massachusetts is held up as a model of “restraint”—and a key precedent supporting government’s power to address the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet, IJ’s Anthony Sanders explains, the two opinions have more in common than it might seem. Click here for the surprising and illuminating discussion.
New on the Short Circuit podcast: Special guest Steve Vladeck of UT Law joins the panel to talk the Declaratory Judgment Act.
- Scheming to build a housing development that Bloomingburg, NY residents oppose, developer arranges for fraudulent votes in a bid to seize control of the village government. It’s voter fraud in a purely local election. Second Circuit: Ah, but the false voter registrations could have been used in later federal elections. Federal conviction affirmed.
- Target of IRS summons—who allegedly controlled offshore accounts through trusts for which he was both trustee and beneficiary—claims that order to produce documents violates his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Second Circuit: A trust, like a corporation, is a collective entity that has no such Fifth Amendment right. Produce those docs.
- Despite four motions to let him out, mentally disabled Pennsylvania man is detained for nine years pending a homicide trial that never happens. Can he bring an Americans with Disabilities Act claim against the clerk’s office for not doing something to get his case resolved? Third Circuit (over a dissent): Nope. He was detained because of judging, and you can’t sue about that. But we recognize the human suffering. (Other claims not on appeal might do better.)
- Texas allows mail-in voting for anyone 65 or older. The district court entered a preliminary injunction requiring that all voters—regardless of age—be allowed to vote by mail. Fifth Circuit: Plaintiffs defend the injunction on the ground that the law violates the 26th Amendment, which prohibits laws that “deny” or “abridge” the right to vote “on account of age.” But a law that makes it easier for older people to vote does not “abridge” the rights of younger people (pandemic notwithstanding). Still, plaintiffs may pursue other theories on remand.
- Purportedly enforcing a general policy against dyed hair, school dean allegedly singles out an African American boy for discipline and ridicule—calling him a “thug” and a “fool,” asking if the student “was gay with ‘that mess’ in his head,” discouraging other students from speaking with him, and even encouraging another student to concoct a false allegation of sexual assault. Fifth Circuit: All of which should have been enough to get this case past a motion to dismiss.
- What are judges to do when they wish to be faithful to text but two provisions of the same law irreconcilably conflict? The Fifth Circuit brings us the answer with an annual Medicare health care provider compensation formula that overlaps for one day each year.
- Allegation: Cleveland social workers fail to prevent a woman from abusing and eventually killing her disabled daughter. But there is still no right to protection from private harm, reminds the Sixth Circuit, so no suing the social workers for what they didn’t do. But claims that they interviewed the girl in front of her abusers and thus actively put her at risk? Those claims can proceed.
- In which the Sixth Circuit confirms that, when the Supreme Court tells courts to apply strict scrutiny to content-based sign r
Article from Latest – Reason.com