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Federal Judiciary

Decision of the Day Decision of the Day

A daily summary of the best (and worst) of federal appellate decisions.

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Last Entry: June 27, 2008 at 18:06:28

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Restarting this Blog

Posted on June 27, 2008
Due to overwhelming demand, we’d like to start this blog back up again. If you think you are the right person to be the Decision of the Day blogger, please email: alex (@) enotes.com. Thanks!


Loblaw Has Left the Building

Posted on April 30, 2008
Decision of the Day began in October 2005, when I started stockpiling posts to see whether I could keep up the frenetic pace of blogging. I decided that I could and, for the most part, I did. The website went live in November 2005, and I never looked back...


Another Reason To Say No To Drugs

Posted on April 29, 2008
Students for a Sensible Drug Policy v. Spellings, 07-1159 (8th Cir., April 29, 2008) Under a 1998 law, students who are convicted of possessing or selling drugs are ineligible for federal financial assistance. One strike buys a year or two of ineligibility and, depending on the offense, multiple strikes can result in a permanent ban...


Posner Gets A Big One Right

Posted on April 28, 2008
Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 07-21 (Supreme Court, April 28, 2008) In January 2007, I reported on this Seventh Circuit decision, in which a divided panel upheld a controversial Indiana law that requires voters to show specific forms of identification at the polls...


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Finally, Some Questions about the Wisdom of RLUIPA

Posted on April 24, 2008
Koger v. Bryan, 05-1904 (7th Cir., April 24, 2008) Remember the Religious Freedom Restoration Act? That law, designed to protect religious practices from government interference, went on life support in 1997 when the Supreme Court declared that the statute was unconstitutional as applied to state and local governments...


Seventh Upholds Student?s Right to Wear ?Be Happy, Not Gay? T-Shirt

Posted on April 23, 2008
Nuxoll v. Indian Prairie School District, 08-1050 (7th Cir., April 23, 2008) In a late-breaking school speech case, the Seventh Circuit has concluded that a high school sophomore is entitled to a preliminary injunction that allows him to wear a banned t-shirt opposing homosexuality...


Seventh Chastises Ninth for Encouraging Mickey Mouse Law Suits

Posted on April 22, 2008
Springman v. AIG Marketing, Inc., 08-1019 (7th Cir., April 15, 2008) In a decision issued last week and amended today, the Seventh has deepened a circuit split under the Class Action Fairness Act. CAFA gave defendants a much-fought-for right to remove certain large class actions from state to federal court, but CAFA only applies to lawsuits [...


Second Lets Whitman Off the Hook for Post-9/11 Liability

Posted on April 22, 2008
Benzman v. Whitman, 06-1166 (2nd Cir., April 22, 2008) In big Bivens news, a panel of the Second Circuit has rejected efforts to hold a government official personally liable for false reassurances about lower Manhattan?s air quality in the days after the September 11 attacks...


Crossing the Border? Leave Your Laptop at Home

Posted on April 21, 2008
U.S. v. Arnold, 06-50581 (9th Cir., April 21, 2008) On the way back from a three-week vacation in the Philippines, defendant Michael Arnold was selected for secondary screening by Customs officials at Los Angeles airport. One officer asked Arnold to turn on his laptop to determine whether it was functioning...


Fifth Circuit Divides Over How To Handle Sentencing Error

Posted on April 17, 2008
U.S. v. Bonilla, 06-40894 (5th Cir., April 16, 2008) With most eyes focused on a trio of major sentencing decisions issued yesterday by the Supreme Court, it was easy to miss this divided Fifth Circuit sentencing decision. But it is definitely worth a read...


Another Critique of AEDPA ? From an Unlikely Source

Posted on April 16, 2008
Evans v. Thompson, 07-1014 (1st Cir., April 16, 2008) With the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Congress stripped the federal courts of their traditional habeas powers over state court convictions. Traditionally, when a habeas petitioner raised a constitutional complaint about his conviction, federal courts applied circuit law to determine whether a constitutional violation [...


Watch Out for the ?Bow Police?

Posted on April 15, 2008
Borden v. School District of the Town of East Brunswick, 06-3890 (3rd Cir., April 15, 2008) This Third Circuit decision addresses a high school football coach?s challenge to the school district?s restrictions on his ability to pray with his players. Plaintiff Marcus Borden has been the head football coach at East Brunswick High School since 1983...


To Protect and Serve . . . and Set Fires?

Posted on April 14, 2008
U.S. v. Mock, 06-15861 (11th Cir., April 14, 2008) U.S. v. Eff, 07-40338 (5th Cir., April 14, 2008) In a bit of a coincidence, today?s federal appellate decisions include two appeals from convicted arsonists. Federal arson trials are rare enough, but the coincidence is even more striking: both of the defendants are ex-law enforcement...


Defendant Tries To Capitalize on Sentencing Error, Literally

Posted on April 14, 2008
U.S. v. Ibrahim, 07-50153 (9th Cir., April 14, 2008) Defendant Tamer Ibrahim was a suspect in an ecstasy distribution ring. And a lucrative one at that. When police raided his apartment, they found $221,000 in a safe, $240,000 in a bag outside the apartment, and almost $30,000 scattered around the apartment...


D.C. Circuit Revisits Tort Case Involving Kidnapped Foreign Employee

Posted on April 11, 2008
Khan v. Parsons Global Service, 07-7059 (April 11, 2008) A memorable tort case has made its way back to the D.C. Circuit. Defendant Parsons Global Services relocated plaintiff Azhar Ali Khan to its office in the Philippines. From my November 2005 coverage: While traveling to Manila to find a place to live, Khan was kidnapped and held [...


Free Speech in Schools: Much Ado About Nothing?

Posted on April 09, 2008
Morrison v. Board of Education of Boyd County, 06-5380 (6th Cir., April 9, 2008) Last October, I wrote about this school speech decision from the Sixth Circuit: Here?s a difficult First Amendment case that pits students? rights to express their religious beliefs about homosexuality against the right of homosexual students not to be harassed at school...


Kelo Strikes Again

Posted on April 07, 2008
Goldstein v. Pataki, 07-2537 (2nd Cir., April 7, 2008) Kelo v. City of New London is probably the most widely maligned Supreme Court decision of the past decade. In Kelo, a closely divided Court held that the Fifth Amendment?s takings clause does not bar local governments from using eminent domain powers to hand private property over to developers, so long as [...


Real-Life Grinch Gets Hard Time for Ruining Kids? Christmas

Posted on April 07, 2008
U.S. v. Ellisor, 05-14459 (11th Cir., April 7, 2008) This Eleventh Circuit appeal involves a criminal defendant who concocted a fake Christmas field trip for elementary school students. From the opinion: Excited about the opportunity for their students to attend what the invitation materials described as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to meet 28 foreign ambassadors, [...


No En Banc Rehearing for Muzzled ADA Watchdog

Posted on April 07, 2008
Molski v. Evergreen Dynasty Corp., 05-56452 (9th Cir., April 7, 2008) Jarek Molski is a recurring character on this blog. He?s a wheelchair-bound activist who travels across California finding businesses that are failing to accommodate the disabled as required by federal and state law...


Ninth Revives Indictment in Joint Civil-Criminal Investigation

Posted on April 07, 2008
U.S. v. Stringer, 06-30100 (9th Cir., April 4, 2008) This Ninth Circuit decision addresses some tricky issues that arise when one branch of the government is conducting a civil investigation into wrongdoing that is also the subject of a criminal investigation...


Second Circuit Tosses Out $800 Billion Class Action by Light Cigarette Smokers

Posted on April 03, 2008
McLaughlin v. American Tobacco Company, 06-4666 (2nd Cir., April 3, 2008) In a major decision, a panel of the Second Circuit has tossed out an $800 billion RICO class action against big tobacco. The plaintiffs are current or former smokers who allege that for almost fifty years the tobacco companies deceived them into paying more for [...


En Banc Ninth Revisits Online Immunity Case

Posted on April 03, 2008
Fair Housing Council v. Roommates.com, 04-56916 (9th Cir., April 3, 2008) A year ago, a panel of the Ninth Circuit made waves when it issued a fractured decision that limited online content providers? immunity under § 230 of the Communications Decency Act...


A Mushroom Is Not Such a Fun Guy After All

Posted on April 02, 2008
Rick?s Mushroom Service v. U.S., 2007-5137 (Fed. Cir., April 2, 2008) File this under the surprising things you learn when you read Federal Circuit decisions: Historically, the organic by-product waste of mushroom farming, known as “spent mushroom substrate” (”SMS”), was dumped in nearby woods or streams, resulting in severe nitrogen pollution...


Remarkable Ninth Circuit Decision on Inmate?s Right to New DNA Testing

Posted on April 02, 2008
Osborne v. District Attorney?s Office for the Third Judicial District, 06-35875 (9th Cir., April 2, 2008) In a big § 1983 decision, a panel of the Ninth Circuit has concluded that a convicted rapist has a due process right to run new DNA tests on the forensic evidence used to convict him...


Fifth Circuit Reverses Conviction Due To Prosecutorial Misconduct

Posted on April 01, 2008
U.S. v. Gracia, 07-40245 (5th Cir., March 31, 2008) If this decision had come a day later, it might have been mistaken for an elaborate April Fool?s hoax. A unanimous panel of the Fifth Circuit has reversed a criminal conviction on the ground that the prosecutor used his closing argument to improperly bolster the credibility of [...


Sixth Circuit Won?t Rehear ?Modern Day Scarlet Letter? Decision

Posted on March 31, 2008
Doe v. Bredesen, 06-6393 (6th Cir., March 31, 2008) Last November, a divided panel of the Sixth Circuit upheld a Tennessee law that requires certain sex offenders to wear a prominent global positioning device so that law enforcement can monitor their whereabouts at all times...


Please Update Your DotD Bookmarks and Links!

Posted on March 28, 2008
The good folks at eNotes are making some changes to their blog empire.  The URL for Decision of the Day has changed to http://www.enotes.com/blogs/decision-blog/.  The old URL will still work for a week or two, but eventually you will need to use this new link...


D.C. Circuit Addresses Scientific Questions About Bipolar Disorder

Posted on March 28, 2008
Fitts v. Unum Life Insurance, 07-7097 (D.C. Cir., March 28, 2008) Like insurance coverage disputes, employee benefits cases are usually too dull for words. But this employee benefits case highlights an interesting scientific question: is bipolar disorder a physical or mental illness? Jane Fitts was a lawyer for Fannie Mae until her bipolar disorder made it impossible [...


Procedural SNAFU Sets Murderer Free, For Now

Posted on March 27, 2008
Harvest v. Castro, 05-16879 (9th Cir., March 27, 2008) When courts decide that a constitutional error requires a new trial for a convicted criminal, they typically issue a conditional writ of habeas corpus. The conditional writ gives prosecutors a limited time frame in which to retry the defendant; otherwise, the defendant goes free...


Ninth Upholds Hollywood-Inspired Ten Commandments Monument

Posted on March 26, 2008
Card v. City of Everett, 05-35996 (9th Cir., March 26, 2008) In a big church-state decision, the Ninth Circuit has given the constitutional green light to a Ten Commandments monument that stands at the entrance of the Old City Hall in Everett, Washington...


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