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.
This week, in Torres v. Madrid, the Supreme Court considered whether a woman who was shot in the back by plain-clothed police officers may bring a Fourth Amendment challenge to the shooting, or if the Constitution does not apply merely because she was able to drive away immediately after being shot. If the Supreme Court declares that Roxanne Torres wasn’t “seized” by the officers’ barrage of gunfire, then she will be denied her day in court to determine whether the officers’ violence was reasonable—and so will any other individual who is not immediately incapacitated or killed by police violence. As IJ and other civil rights groups noted in a joint amicus brief, a ruling against Torres would make police effectively immune in a broad range of excessive force cases. Over at Forbes.com, IJ’s Nick Sibilla has more.
- Butterflies know no borders, but the feds plan to build a border wall through a butterfly sanctuary. Federal agents station themselves at the property, declare it off limits to employees and visitors alike, and begin widening roadways and cutting trees. D.C. Circuit: Butterflies may go where they want, but governments need to provide due process before they take over private property.
- American banknotes are unusual in that they are all the same size and texture and nearly identical in color—all of which presents a problem to people who are blind. Thankfully, in 2008, a federal judge entered an injunction requiring the Treasury Department to incorporate appropriate changes to paper currency no later than the next redesign of each denomination. Treasury: Sounds good, we’ll get back to you in the 2030s. D.C. Circuit: Which is fine.
- Pennsylvania prohibits those who have been committed to a mental institution from possessing firearms. Two such persons sue. Allegation: The ban strips us of our Second Amendment rights without due process. Third Circuit: No dice. Once a physician has determined that someone is a danger to himself or others—making him eligible for commitment—that someone “has joined the class of those historically without Second Amendment rights.” Judge Fisher (concurring in the judgment): I wouldn’t decide whether committees have no Second Amendment rights, because even if they retain Second Amendment rights, Pennsylvania has supplied enough process to deprive them of those rights.
- Inmate accuses South Carolina guard of sexual misconduct. The next day, the guard places the inmate in administrative segregation. Coincidence? Fourth Circuit: Unlike some other circuits, we place the burden on the guard to defeat liability by proving she would have made the same decision even absent a retaliatory motive. But we can’t say at summary judgment whether the guard made the necessary showing, so this case is remanded for trial.
- In July, the governor of Texas issued a proclamation providing voters an extra six days for early in-person voting and an extra 40 days to hand-deliver their absentee ballots (in addition to the option of mailing in ballots). Some counties sought to add multiple delivery locations for the ballots, but the governor stepped in the way. And that does not restrict voting options in violation of the right to vote, says the Fifth Circuit. Judge Ho, “grudgingly” concurring: The governor should’ve left rewriting election laws to the legislature rather than doing it himself.
- In July, the governor of Texas issued an executive order mandating masks in public areas but carving out an exemption for people who are voting or assisting with the voting process. Plaintiffs challenge this exemption (among other voting-related procedures). Fifth Circuit: For most of their claims, the plaintiff
Article from Latest – Reason.com