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: A whole lot of election law cases.
- Prospective immigrants to the U.S. get a leg up if they plan to invest $500k to build a business in certain targeted areas. If their investment takes the form of indebtedness, however, it only counts if the debt is secured by their personal assets. So what happens if they invest the proceeds of a loan? Is that cash or indebtedness? D.C. Circuit: If you buy a car with money the bank loaned you, you give cash to the car dealer, who doesn’t care where you got it. Same thing here.
- SCOTUS (June 2020): A state cannot exclude schools from a student-aid program because they are religious. First Circuit (October 2020): Well, sure, but a state can exclude schools because they do religious things. (This is an IJ case.)
- Connecticut class clown is asked to write a blog post answering open-ended questions about how characters in a video interacted with each other as part of a communications class. Instead, he writes a post ridiculing the assignment, which the instructor took down. So, like any normal person, the student files a pro se lawsuit alleging a violation of his First Amendment rights. Second Circuit: There’s no First Amendment right to not do your homework. Concurrence: I disagree with all of the legal reasoning the majority employs, but it doesn’t matter because Qualified Immunity.
- Apparently swapping porno mags and putting up naughty screensavers and loudly moaning while describing sexual fantasies about your co-workers at work is a no-no. So says the Second Circuit in this decision reinstating a jury verdict in a Title VII case brought by a retired Ulster County, N.Y. prison employee against her former employer.
- Houston law requires that all who circulate petitions to get measures on the ballot must be Houston voters. Oops, the Supreme Court held that unconstitutional 20 years ago. Is this “zombie” law sufficiently alive to pose a threat to First Amendment rights? Fifth Circuit: Indeed it is. The petition form still lists the requirement, and the city seems to have enforced it in the intervening years. The plaintiffs have standing.
- Customs officials have authority to search vehicles at the border without any probable cause. But what about reaching into a vehicle, grabbing the occupant, and then putting him in cuffs by the side of the road? Do officials need probable cause for that? Fifth Circuit: Nah.
- Allegation: Louisiana corrections employee deliberately keeps inmate imprisoned 60 days past his release date. (Allegedly, the employee announced that “if someone keeps bothering me about their computations they can do more time.”) Fifth Circuit: No qualified immunity for that fellow. But the fellow’s supervisor is off the hook; he might’ve known that his employees were “incompetent” at calculating sentences, but
Article from Latest – Reason.com