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: Drones over Baltimore and privileges or immunities in Washington state.
- Bail-bond companies sue the Department of Homeland Security, alleging that the agency’s procedures for collecting on immigration bonds violate the agency’s own regulations and due process to boot. Among other things, the procedures give the agency the benefit of mail delays in both directions—with the 33-day period to file an appeal beginning to run as soon as the decision is mailed, and appeals timely only if received back by the agency before the period is up. D.C. Circuit: No problem here.
- A college in Boston—well, not in Boston, nearby (no, not Tufts)—considers a number of factors in deciding whom to admit to its incoming freshman classes, one of which is a “personal rating” on which Asian American applicants consistently score lower than white applicants. Evidence of illegal racial discrimination? First Circuit: Being Asian American is merely correlated with Harvard’s assigning a lower personal rating. Who can say which way the causation runs?
- Religious groups challenge New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order on COVID-19, alleging that it discriminates against religion by restricting attendance at worship services. A Free Exercise violation? Second Circuit: No preliminary injunction pending appeal. The order actually treats churches better than other “non-essential businesses,” like casinos and gyms. Dissent: Yeah, but it treats them worse than “essential” business, like pet shops and liquor stores.
- In a 55-page opinion filed only four days after briefing finished, the Third Circuit finds that none of the plaintiffs before it has standing to challenge Pennsylvania’s procedures for late-received mail ballots.
- Another case in the annals of “bad things can flow from voluntarily talking to the police.” Alvarado, Tex. police approach a man at a gas station and ask if the trailer he’s pulling has a VIN. (It does not, as it’s homemade.) Because he continues to answer their questions and they do not prevent him from leaving, says the Fifth Circuit, the Fourth Amendment does not apply to the stop. And their subsequent seizure of the trailer is acceptable because trailers must have VINs.
- Pursuant to a warrant, Monroe, La. police get GPS coordinates of a suspected drug dealer’s cell phone while she is en route from Houston. They pull the car over, seize four pounds of meth and the cell pho
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