The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Please enjoy the latest edition of Short Circuit, a weekly feature from the Institute for Justice.
- NYC forbids individuals licensed to possess handguns in their homes from taking them outside the city, which means plaintiffs, who would like to practice and compete at firing ranges outside city limits, must borrow or rent other firearms. A Second Amendment violation? The Second Circuit says no. Also, one plaintiff, who would like to take his handgun to his second home upstate, can just apply for a separate license from the authorities there.
- Your sentence for insider trading depends in part on the total gains from the illegal trades, but that doesn't include trades made by third parties you didn't know about, says this Third Circuit panel.
- Friends, if you are not wearing a wetsuit, you should take special care not to fall off the back of a jet ski. Please take our word on this, but if you find you cannot we refer you to this Fourth Circuit decision.
- Hancock County, W.V. officer is convicted, sentenced to 18 months in prison for beating up drunk motorist who displayed insufficient respect. Officer: The trial court erred by letting the jury know about those other times I beat up people who failed to respect my authority. Fourth Circuit: We're OK with it.
- There's no need to reconsider the conviction of a white supremacist sentenced to die for his role in the murder of a black man, says the Fifth Circuit. The victim, who was chained to the back of a pickup truck and dragged to his death, is memorialized in both state and federal hate crimes legislation.
- Officer declines to intervene as subordinates beat a handcuffed, compliant inmate in New Iberia, La. jail chapel (where there are no cameras). The officer leaves the chapel as a subordinate is forcing his baton into the inmate's mouth, choking him, simulating oral sex. Fifth Circuit: No need to reconsider the officer's four-and-a-half-year sentence.
- A tale of a merger gone bad! Company 1: Company 2's officers tricked us into assuming $60 mil debt to Company 3, which we had to settle for $18 mil! We're suing Company 2's officers to get our money back. Company 2's officers: Give us all the documents about the litigation between Company 1 and 3, even communications between Company 1 and its lawyers. Magistrate judge: Hand 'em over. Company 1 waived attorney-client privilege by filing a lawsuit where privileged communications might be relevant. Fifth Circuit: Whoa there. This ruling is so clearly wrong we will grant the rare mandamus petition blocking the magistrate judge's discovery order.
- To obtain a permit to become an alcohol retailer in Tennessee, one must first reside in the state for two years. Which discriminates against out-of-state retailers in violation of the dormant Commerce Clause, says two-thirds of a Sixth Circuit panel.
- Letter conveys good news—lender agrees to waive a debt!—but fails to disclose that it is a "communication from a debt collector" as required by Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Recipients sue for statutory damages. Sixth Circuit: Because the recipients of the letter were not injured, they do not have standing to sue. Congress cannot turn a benefit into an injury just by saying it is so.
- Responding to a call about a dispute between neighbors in Milwaukee, very bad police officer sexually assaults the caller, is subsequently convicted and sentenced to 24 years in prison. Seventh Circuit: But his very bad lawyers provided ineffective counsel, so try him again.
- State mistakenly sends prisoner to federal prison for approximately seven months. Later, state sentence complete, the prisoner is sent to federal prison for real. Ninth Circuit: The prisoner is not entitled to credit for the time he mistakenly served in federal prison, as he was still serving his state sentence. Dissent: He was in a federal prison, so he was serving his federal sentence.
- Man pays for parking; his printed receipt displays his credit card expiration date. Man: Which creates an imminent risk of identity theft and credit card fraud. Ninth Circuit: It does not.
- Judge declines to revoke woman's pretrial release, so Yamhill County, Ore. court officer asks another judge—a golfing buddy who wasn't then assigned to handle criminal cases—to do it, and he obliges. The woman spends two days in jail on the defective warrant. Ninth Circuit: She can sue the officer. Dissent: Unconscionable but absolute immunity should apply.
- If the DEA has a confidential informant take your truck to use in illegal drug drop-offs, is that a Fifth Amendment taking or just "the government's inherent police power"? The Court of Federal Claims says taking the truck might be a taking.
Dr. Lee Birchansky wants to open an outpatient surgery center next to his ophthalmology practice in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. But state officials have repeatedly denied him the necessary permits—not out of concern for public safety but because the two hospitals where all such surgeries in the area are currently performed do not want additional competition. Which might be unconstitutional, says a federal district court that recently allowed Dr. Birchansky's suit to proceed. Read more here.