Recently in Civil Suits Category

Although Hall v. Florida got most of the attention yesterday, the Supreme Court also decided two cases in favor of the police, both unanimous at least in part.

Plumhoff v. Rickard involves the police's use of deadly force against someone who led them on a high-speed chase over 100 miles an hour and continued trying to escape even after the police had him cornered.  There are several holdings worth noting.
Paige Sutherland reports for AP:

Michelle Kosilek, born Robert Kosilek, has been in a heated legal battle to get the surgery, which she [sic] says is required to relieve the emotional stress caused by the disorder. Kosilek is currently serving a life sentence for killing spouse Cheryl Kosilek in 1990.

In 2012, a federal judge ruled that the department must give Kosilek the surgery.

In January, that decision was reaffirmed by a three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said it is a constitutional right to receive medically necessary treatment "even if that treatment strikes some as odd or unorthodox."

The prisons department appealed and won a rehearing before the full appeals court. Five appeals court judges heard arguments on the matter Thursday and could take months to issue a decision.

See also this prior post.

SCOTUS Wednesday

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Today, the US Supreme Court decided United States v. Castleman, No. 12-1371, a case involving the interpretation of the federal statute restricting gun ownership by a person convicted of "a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence," 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(9).  The Court holds unanimously that this includes a state conviction for "having 'intentionally or knowingly cause[d] bodily injury to' the mother of his child," reversing the Sixth Circuit.  There is some disagreement on how much further the statute reaches.

What about the Second Amendment?

Finally, Castleman suggests--in a single paragraph--that we should read §922(g)(9) narrowly because it implicates his constitutional right to keep and bear arms. But Castleman has not challenged the constitutionality of §922(g)(9), either on its face or as applied to him, and the meaning of the statute is sufficiently clear that we need not indulge Castleman's cursory nod to constitutional avoidance concerns.
Now there's a public spanking for an inadequate argument, but no precedent on the Second Amendment question.

For today's oral argument session, the Court is hearing Wood v. Moss.  Aside from its interesting name (placing it in a category with the famous Plough v. Fields and Silver v. Gold) the case is about qualified immunity for Secret Service agents who were sued for thinking that demonstrators against the President just might pose a greater threat than demonstrators for him and acting accordingly.

Update:  Adam Liptak has this article in the NYT on the argument, noting that some of the justices urged the lawyer for the government to take a bolder position than the one he was taking.

The Long Arm Gets A Little Shorter

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Walden v. Fiore is a law-enforcement-related civil case decided yesterday by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Does a police officer conducting a seizure in one state subject himself to civil suit in another state (in this case, on the other side of the country) merely because the seizure will have a foreseeable effect in that other state due to the property owner's residence there?  No, said the Supreme Court unanimously.  Assertion of jurisdiction on such a tenuous basis denies the sued officer due process of law.

The Brew Made Me Do It

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Sheri Qualters reports for the National Law Journal (registration required):

A pro se federal lawsuit by a group of prisoners blaming eight brewers for their life of crime was the most ridiculous lawsuit of 2013, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform.

The list was based on votes cast throughout the year via a dedicated web site, FacesOfLawsuitAbuse.org. The cases were filed in state and federal courts, some pro se and others by lawyers.
The Idaho Statesman had this story on the suit when it was filed almost a year ago.

Keith Allen Brown shot a man to death in Priest Lake five years ago, leading to a 15-year prison sentence. But the 52-year-old says his problems started long before that, when he was just a boy and tasted alcohol for the first time.

Brown and four other inmates at Idaho's Kuna facility are suing major beer companies, blaming their crimes on alcoholism and claiming that the companies are responsible because they don't warn consumers that their products are addictive.

SCOTUS Takes Qualified Immunity Case

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The U.S. Supreme Court took up four civil cases today.  The crime-related case is Wood v. Moss, No. 13-115. The Questions Presented, as framed by the Solicitor General, are:

1.  Whether the court of appeals erred in denying qualified immunity to Secret Service agents protecting the President by evaluating the claim of viewpoint discrimination at a high level of generality and concluding that pro- and anti-Bush demonstrators needed to be positioned an equal distance from the President while he was dining on the outdoor patio and then while he was travelling by motorcade.

2.  Whether respondents have adequately pleaded viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment when no factual allegations support their claim of discriminatory motive and there was an obvious security-based rationale for moving the nearby anti-Bush group and not the farther-away pro-Bush group.
All the press coverage will be on the birth-control insurance cases.

Update: Not quite all.  Robert Barnes has this story in the WaPo.

As the Justices were prepping for the conference, the heavy news coverage was of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy.  All but Justice Kagan are old enough to remember that day.

Foie Gras and the Eleventh Amendment

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The Ninth Circuit today upheld California's foie gras ban in Assoc. des Eleveurs de Canards v. Harris, No. 12-56822.  The relevant part for this blog is when a Governor or Attorney General has Eleventh Amendment immunity against a claim based on their duty to enforce a challenged law.

Libel Suit By Convicted Murderer

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Zoe Tillman has this post at BLT:

Yorie Von Kahl was convicted of second degree murder in the 1983 fatal shooting of two deputy U.S. marshals in North Dakota. Kahl was sentenced to life in prison, but he scored a recent win from a Washington federal judge who found that Kahl could proceed with a libel suit against The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (BNA) over a summary of his case published by the company.
BNA's summary of the case said Kahl "showed no hint of contrition."  That turned out to be a prosecutor's argument rather than the judge's ruling, but Kahl himself may be partly responsible for the confusion.
The US Supreme Court decided one law-enforcement related civil case today.  In Millbrook v. United States, No. 11-10362, the high court held that a suit by a federal prisoner against the government for an alleged sexual assault by correctional officers can go forward under the Federal Tort Claims Act.  It comes within an exception to an exception to the FTCA's exception to sovereign immunity, if you pick your way through the statutes.

Justice Thomas wrote the opinion for a unanimous court.  The case was argued a little over a month ago, making this one of the more rapid decisions.
Next Monday, the D.C. Circuit will hear argument in Cook v. FDA, No. 12-5176.  In that case (formerly Beaty v. FDA), the District Court held that the FDA had acted illegally in allowing importation of sodium thiopental for executions.  The court went on to order the FDA to inform the states that use of their existing stocks of thiopental is illegal and to take steps to recover it.  In issuing the latter part of the injunction, the court was untroubled by the fact that not a single word of the briefing or the court's opinion provided a legal basis for the order.  It was also untroubled by the facts that the states with a powerful interest involved were not parties to the action, the plaintiffs had not taken any steps to make them parties, and the plaintiffs had not shown any reason for an exception to the general rule against adjudicating the rights of nonparties in their absence.

In the Court of Appeals, CJLF appeared as amicus pointing out these problems.  The nonparty problem is the subject of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19.  The plaintiffs largely ignored the brief, just dropping one footnote about the general rule of not considering issues raised only by amici.  That rule has exceptions that the plaintiffs simply ignored.  Some issues must be considered whether a party raises them or not.  Subject matter jurisdiction is one, and Rule 19 is another.

Today the court issued the following order:

It is ORDERED, on the court's own motion, that the parties be prepared to address at oral argument on March 25, 2013, (1) the standing of the appellees to bring this case, with particular reference to the requirement of redressability; and the (2) Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19 and remedial issues raised in the brief of the amicus curiae Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.
A prior post with links to multiple earlier posts on this case is here.  CJLF's summary of argument and a link to the full brief are in this post.

Personal Jurisdiction

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As noted this morning, the US Supreme Court took up one civil case for full briefing and argument, Walden v. Fiore, 12-574.  The case is a Bivens action against a DEA agent.  The specific issue before the Court is the jurisdiction of a federal court in Nevada over a Georgia officer for events happening in Georgia.  The only connection to Nevada is the officers' knowledge that the plaintiffs lived there. The plaintiffs were professional gamblers traveling with a large stash of cash.  The Ninth Circuit majority opinion concludes:
Zoe Tillman has this post at BLT on something I would like to see more often -- attorneys' fees paid by the plaintiff to a prevailing defendant in a civil case.  This case is not crime-related (it is ASPCA against Barnum & Bailey), but issues of attorneys' fee awards often come up in suits against law enforcement officers and agencies.
A follow up to Bill's post -- Michael Mayko reports in the Stamford Advocate:

Just days after filing a $100 million lawsuit claiming the state failed to adequately protect the students at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a New Haven lawyer has withdrawn it.

But that doesn't preclude a future filing, Irving Pinsky said.

"I received new evidence on security at the school, which I need to evaluate," Pinsky said Monday.

Once that happens, Pinsky said he may re-submit the paperwork to J. Paul Vance Jr., who as the state's claims commissioner has the authority to determine if a claim is justified and requires hearings. Vance must approve any claim before a state agency can be sued.
CJLF has filed an amicus brief in the D.C. Circuit in the case of Cook v. FDA.  This is the case where convicted murderers got an injunction against the FDA allowing any more imports of thiopental, and the judge also order the FDA to "notify" the states that their continued possession and use of the previously imported thiopental is illegal.  The latter holding is remarkable in that it was issued without a single sentence in the opinion to support it and in a case where the entities most affected were not parties.  The Summary of Argument is after the jump.
The Ninth Circuit decided an interesting case today of a card counter versus a casino, Tsao v. Desert Palace, No. 09-16233.

The case does not (and does not need to) resolve whether counting cards in blackjack is a crime.  A casino can, however, declare a person persona non grata, after which that person's entry into the casino is a trespass.  [I got thrown out of a casino on that ground once myself, many years ago.]  The case actually involves the options available to casino security guards, who are not police officers but do have a kind of citation authority, along with citizen's arrest.  It's complicated.  Anyhow, the Ninth resolves the federal questions in favor of the casino and remands to district court to decide if it still wants to exercise pendent jurisdiction over the state-law claims.

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