B|Ecourts: The End of Affirmative Action in SCOTUS. Ending Child Labor in AL. Shutting Down Armed Right-Wing Groups in NM.
Unpacking what's happening in federal, state & local court cases of interest - because those decisions could affect you, too
Supreme Court rejects Lindsey Graham’s request to block Georgia grand jury subpoena - The Supreme Court declined [last] Tuesday to block a subpoena for Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham to testify in front of an Atlanta special grand jury investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina - Whether the Supreme Court should overrule Grutter v. Bollinger and hold that institutions of higher education cannot use race as a factor in admissions; and (2) whether a university can reject a race-neutral alternative because it would change the composition of the student body, without proving that the alternative would cause a dramatic sacrifice in academic quality or the educational benefits of overall student-body diversity.
Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College - Whether the Supreme Court should overrule Grutter v. Bollinger and hold that institutions of higher education cannot use race as a factor in admissions; and (2) whether Harvard College is violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by penalizing Asian American applicants, engaging in racial balancing, overemphasizing race and rejecting workable race-neutral alternatives.
Percoco v. U.S. - Whether a private citizen who holds no elected office or government employment, but has informal political or other influence over governmental decision making, owes a fiduciary duty to the general public such that he can be convicted of honest-services fraud.
Moore v. Harper - Whether a state’s judicial branch may nullify the regulations governing the “Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives ... prescribed ... by the Legislature thereof,” and replace them with regulations of the state courts’ own devising, based on vague state constitutional provisions purportedly vesting the state judiciary with power to prescribe whatever rules it deems appropriate to ensure a “fair” or “free” election.
Twitter v. Taamneh - Whether a defendant that provides generic, widely available services to all its numerous users and “regularly” works to detect and prevent terrorists from using those services “knowingly” provided substantial assistance under 18 U.S.C. § 2333 merely because it allegedly could have taken more “meaningful” or “aggressive” action to prevent such use; and (2) whether a defendant whose generic, widely available services were not used in connection with the specific “act of international terrorism” that injured the plaintiff may be liable for aiding and abetting under Section 2333.
3rd Circuit (7 Republican Appointed Judges. Of these, 4 were Trump Appointees. 6 Democrat Appointed Judges)
Third Circuit to Consider Validity of J&J’s Use of Bankruptcy to Handle Asbestos Claims - … [A] panel of three judges for the Third Circuit heard oral argument in In re LTL Management LLC, Case No. 22-2003. Before the Court is Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) use of Chapter 11 to resolve asbestos-related litigation. The appeal to the Third Circuit follows a ruling by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey in February 2022, in which Judge Michael Kaplan declined to dismiss the bankruptcy case on bad faith grounds.
5th Circuit (12 Republican Appointed Judges. Of these, 6 were Trump Appointees. 4 Democrat Appointed Judges)
Full Fifth Circuit to Rehear Case Challenging Its ‘Ultimate Employment Decisions’ Rule - The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will rehear a case to decide whether its standard for proving workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act improperly screens out legitimate discrimination Title VII complaints.
5th Circuit Court of Appeals Declares Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Funding Structure Unconstitutional as Violative of Separation of Powers Doctrine and Appropriations Clause - … [T]he 5th Circuit determined that the CFPB funding structure inherently violates the separation of powers doctrine by violating the Appropriations Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The decision has sparked considerable debate across the consumer finance industry and Constitutional scholars, but more pragmatically represents another blow to the CFPB’s day-to-day activities that implied in the 5th Circuit’s decision are being performed via unconstitutional funding and, therefore, are void.
9th Circuit (13 Republican Appointed Judges. Of these, 10 were Trump Appointees. 16 Democrat Appointed Judges)
9th Circuit Finds Time Booting Up Computers May Be Compensable For Call Center Workers - The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth…held on October 24 in a unanimous published opinion that because call center workers need a functioning computer to perform their jobs, time spent booting up or waking up their computers may be compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
10th Circuit (5 Republican Appointed Judges. Of these, 2 were Trump Appointees. 6 Democrat Appointed Judges)
10th Circuit Rules That Capital Prisoners Do Not Have a Right to Have Counsel Present Throughout Their Execution - On October 19th, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled against Oklahoma death-row prisoners who had argued that they should be allowed to have their attorney present throughout their execution so that counsel could intervene and file for emergency relief if a problem arose during the execution. The prisoners presented evidence of a rash of botched executions in Oklahoma since 2014. Five of the eight executions performed in Oklahoma since April 2014 have involved significant problems, including failure to properly set an IV line and administration of incorrect drugs. Despite those failures, the Court of Appeals determined that the 28 petitioners failed to demonstrate that the pattern of malpractice is likely to continue in their individual executions. The court wrote, ‘Oklahoma’s earlier problems in the execution chamber are not enough to show that future similar problems are imminent, much less problems rising to an Eighth Amendment violation.
Federal District Courts
Iowa must permit school districts to require masks in some cases, federal court rules - Iowa school districts must consider medically sensitive students' requests to require mask wearing of those around them, notwithstanding a state law that banned school mask mandates, a federal judge ruled.
Federal judge limits ballot drop box monitors' activities in Arizona - U.S. District Judge Michael Liburdi granted an emergency order from the bench Tuesday that bans Arizona's ballot drop box monitors affiliated with conservative group Clean Elections USA from taking photos of voters while they are within 75 feet of a ballot box. The order also prohibits observers associated with the group, which has organized at least some of the drop box surveillance in the Phoenix area, from posting identifying images or information about voters online and making false statements about election law from now to the end of the voting period.
Federal Court Orders Hyundau, Kia Auto Parts Manufacturer to Stop Employing Minors Illegally, End ‘Oppressive’ Child Labor Law Violations - The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a federal court order to stop an Alexander City manufacturer of Hyundai and Kia auto parts from employing 13-, 14- and 15-year-old workers illegally, and to prevent the company from shipping or delivering any goods produced in violation of federal child labor laws.
Pennsylvania's state Supreme Court is deadlocked on whether or not to count ballots that were incorrectly dated - Pennsylvania's state Supreme Court is currently ordering officials to not count ballots with dates omitted or that were incorrectly dated by voters.
Appeals court upholds New York state’s new absentee ballot law - A New York appeals court on Tuesday upheld a new state law allowing absentee ballots to be reviewed before Election Day, saying it would would be “extremely disruptive” to change the rules with absentee voting already underway.
Testimony begins in lawsuit challenging Ga. abortion law in state court - A Fulton County judge on Monday began hearing arguments on the constitutionality of Georgia’s new abortion law, which took effect earlier this year. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney told the attorneys involved that he did not expect to issue a decision until after the Nov. 8 election.
Retiree, Latino organizations sue group, alleging voter intimidation in Arizona - The Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino filed a 64-page complaint and motion Monday seeking a restraining order in U.S. District Court for Arizona. It accuses a grassroots group called Clean Elections USA and its founder, Melody Jennings, of intimidating voters "at least five times last week" as they have dropped off their ballots in Maricopa County.
Court issues injunction against New Mexico Civil Guard - A New Mexico court has granted an injunction against an armed paramilitary group that drew attention to itself in 2020 for its armed presence at demonstrations against police violence and colonialist monuments around the state, claiming they were acting as a volunteer peacekeeping force. In an order issued Oct. 17, 2nd District Judge Elaine Lujan barred the New Mexico Civil Guard from organizing or operating in public as a military unit outside the authority of New Mexico or "assuming law-enforcement functions by using or projecting the ability to use organized force at protests, demonstrations, or public gatherings." The judge also ordered the NMCG to pay court costs, including attorney's fees.
Wayne County, Michigan
Detroit Evening Report: GOP candidate Kristina Karamo files lawsuit targeting Detroit’s absentee ballots - Karamo is asking the Wayne County Circuit Court to require Detroit voters to vote in person or be required to show identification to obtain an absentee ballot.
Washington County, Oregon
Oregon State Hospital Tossed Out a Schizophrenic Man With a History of Violence. In a Bellwether Case, a Court Decided His Fate - But on Oct. 25, Thouen was thrown out of the state hospital. Doctors there say he no longer needs to be hospitalized. But the county disagrees, and now, thanks to an August judicial order to cut down the hospital’s waitlist, the county can no longer send him back. On Oct. 27, two days after the hospital kicked him out, Thouen was back in a Washington County courtroom to resolve the criminal charges stemming from the attack on the Forester. According to court observers, it was the first hearing of its kind—the first time a judge had to decide what to do with a dangerously mentally ill Oregonian since a federal court eliminated the state hospital as a de facto holding cell.
San Francisco County, California
Judge Pretty Much Shoots Down YIMBY Lawsuit Against SF Over Rejected High-Rise at Nordstrom Parking Lot - Last Wednesday was the one-year anniversary of a somewhat notorious San Francisco Board of Supervisors vote in favor of an an appeal that denied plans for a 27-story residential high-rise at 469 Stevenson Street (at Sixth Street) in what is currently just a Nordstrom’s parking lot. So on the anniversary, there was a rally at City Hall (complete with gravestones commemorating the development), which the SF Standard described as “Happy One-Year Anniversary to SF’s Peak NIMBY Moment.” But this was not an organic protest, it was more of a campaign stunt handled by the Yes on Prop D campaign. But also last week, something far more significant happened with the fate of that particular project. The pro-development group SF YIMBY brought a lawsuit against the city in January over the denial, arguing the denial violated that state’s California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Housing Accountability Act (HAA). But last week, it was revealed as reported by the San Francisco Business Times that a San Francisco Superior Court judge pretty much threw out the entire lawsuit.