Archive for the ‘case summaries’ Category

a_002

WHAT HAPPENED:  To help convey this generally procedural issue, let’s treat this like a professional wrestling event.

(Best Jim Ross Impersonation)

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!  IN THIS CORNER, PLAINTIFF LAROE!  A MAN WHO WANTS TO DEVELOP HIS PROPERTY AND IS BEING STYMED BY GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS!  WHAT AN UNDERDOG! THIS FANCIES TO BE A REAL SLOBBERKNOCKER!

AND IN THIS CORNER!  TOWN OF CHESTER!  A MUNICIPALITY THAT DOESN’T LIKE LAROE AND HAS PASSED ZONING REGULATIONS TO GET IN HIS WAY!  WHAT AN EVIL CHAMPION THAT LOOKS TO RETAIN ITS DOMINANCE OVER LAND USE!  THE CROWD REALLY HATES THEM!

THE MATCH HAS STARTED AND WE ARE READY TO……WHAT A MINUTE, WHATS THAT SOUND???  THAT’S LAROE ESTATE’S MUSIC!  WHAT ARE THEY DOING HERE?!?  LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE A THREE-WAY BATTLE!

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  In legal speak, Laroe Estates wants to intervene in a lawsuit between the landowner and the township, which procedurally means you want to get involved in a case that is ongoing because you have an interest at stake.  Laroe was denied intervention because the Court held that Laroe lacked “standing”, which is the requirement that you are harmed in the underlying litigation and that the litigation will be able to solve that harm.  This is a weird ruling, because standing is usually presumed if you can meet the other requirements of intervention.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  Although one could argue that this case could help shape the requirements for intervention going forward, it seems more likely that the Court is just going to remand this decision back to the Lower Court so that they can come up with a clearer way to deny intervention that doesn’t require the Court to address a weird loophole in the rules.  Ultimately, this is not that common of a problem, as most people who meet the elements of intervention inherently have standing, so although this seems like a big deal, my guess is the Court will just be asking the Lower Court to use the elements to deny intervention, if denial is that important.

ROOT FOR TOWN OF CHESTER IF:  WE NEED TO SETTLE THIS CASE IN A STEEL CAGE, BROTHER!!

ROOT FOR LAROE ESTATES IF:  AND HERE COMES THE STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT!  LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE A ROYAL RUMBLE!!

PREDICTION:  Laroe Estates 7-1

 

 

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a_002

WHAT HAPPENED:  Defendant, who is a legal immigrant, was charged with burglaries, which warranted mandatory removal under the Federal Immigration State as a “violent felony”.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  The defendant did not contest the underlying charges, but more whether or not the “violent felony” language, which includes any “felony that is likely to result in violence to persons or property”, was unconstitutionally vague.  Under the Due Process clause, criminal statutes can be invalidated if they do not give citizens fair notice of what is being punished, which came up two years ago in a case, Johnson v. U.S..  In Johnson, the Court held that the term “violent felony” was vague as it applied to the Armed Career Criminals Act, so the question here is whether the same applies to the Immigration Act.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  Should the Lower Court’s decision invalidating the Act hold, the procedure for removing violent felons would need to be re-written to either (a) articulate what a violent felony is more specifically, or (b) just make all felonies grounds for removal.  Since Congress doesn’t like MORE work on the table and panicking about dangerous immigrants is all the rage these days, my guess is that Supreme Court isn’t in a hurry to be on the front page of FOX NEWS for the next year.

ROOT FOR SESSIONS IF: You’re scared of violent immigrants.

ROOT FOR DIMAYA IF:  you are more interested in fostering conservative panic more that you are afraid of violent immigrants.

PREDICTION:  Sessions 6-3

a_002

WHAT HAPPENED – Plaintiff was injured at work and sued the Defendant employer for damages under a Federal Workman’s Comp statute in the State of Montana.  Seems easy, right?

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT – The Employer argues that since the accident did not occur in Montana, and since the Employer is not based out of Montana, the case should have been filed elsewhere, which in legal speak is saying that the forum for the lawsuit does not have personal jurisdiction over the Employer.  Personal jurisdiction requires that any lawsuit against a party be filed in a State that is inherently “fair” for the defendant.  This commonly considers the defendant’s contacts with the State and the interests of the State in hearing the case.  This may all seem easy, but hold on to you butts because here comes the weird part.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – A few years ago the Supreme Court heard a case determining whether a car manufacturer could be sued in California for participating in wide-spread Argentinian government-sponsored torture (Actually downplaying this, not exaggerating).  Within that case, Ginsburg and Sotomayor had a judge fight (exchanging doomsday scenarios based on the other’s reasoning), in which the Court made a rule saying that a corporation had to “be at home” to be sued somewhere.  The issue here is whether or not (a) this Corporation is “at home” in the forum, and (b) whether or not a Federal Statute could override this contentious rule, which again was loosely based on the plot of a James Bond movie.

ROOT FOR BNSF RAILWAY IF: Fairness to corporations is high on your priorities list.

ROOT FOR TYRELL IF: You’re still mad about Hobby Lobby and want to screw all corporations.

PREDICTION:  Tyrell 8-1

a_002

WHAT HAPPENED: Defendant is this case is probably the least-lucky person on Earth.  Defendant is charged with a sex crime for being slightly over 18 years old and having sex with someone who is a three year age difference.  This is a crime in the State of California, but it is legal in a strong majority of States.    After being convicted, Defendant moves to Michigan, where Defendant’s conduct would not have been a State crime.  Unfortunately, removal proceedings are brought against him, and even though he would not have been subject to removal in California, the same rules do not apply in Michigan.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPRME COURT:  In an effort to make this generally unfair case more legal, Defendant is arguing that the immigration board’s ruling in favor of removal should be overturned, since Defendant’s crime should not subject him to removal as a “sex abuse” crime.  The State argues that even if this case is unfair, the immigration board’s ruling should stand since agencies are entitled to deference enforcing their own rules.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  One of the hot-button talking points of Trump’s new appointment is the possibility that the Court will overrule the Chevron doctrine, which is the above-referenced policy that agencies should be given deference for enforcing their own rules.  Presumably, this is the kind of case where you could make an argument that the unreasonableness of the doctrine is on display, since the different State rules and precedent have created a generally unfair proposition.  Unfortunately for this Defendant, the Conservative push for overruling agency authority is probably not going to come in a case involving immigration and sex crimes.

ROOT FOR ESQUIVEL-QUINTANA IF: you want to overrule Chevron, and don’t care about the underlying facts in what will likely be a landmark decision going forward.

ROOT FOR SESSIONS IF:  you want to overrule Chevron, but you’d rather wait until it’s an EPA decision that prevents a company owned by your right friend Doug from polluting a river.

PREDICTION:  SESSIONS 7-2

a_002

WHAT HAPPENED: Tam is a member of THE SLANTS, an Asian-American rock band who sound like your friend’s band who you always get invited to see live but never want to see live because they are not very good.  Tam sought to trademark the band’s name, but was denied by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (“the PTO”) for being an antiquated racial slur.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  The PTO has a policy in place that denies trademark protection for offensive words, which is the basis under which the PTO denied Tam’s request.  The issue in this case is not whether the term THE SLANTS is offensive, but more broadly whether or not the PTO can constitutionally ban trademark terms based on their subjective standard for obscenity.  The lower court ruled in favor of THE SLANTS and held that the PTO’s policy is void as a matter of law.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – It may seem obnoxious to point out that this only benefits rock bands with offensive names, but it is worth noting that there are more offensive band names than you may realize.  I have a friend who works for a very popular death metal record label, and his email signature would promote bands like DYING FETUS and album names like SULFUR AND SEMEN, so if you’re a hairy, stocky white dude who claims to worship Satan, this case could be for your benefit.  More generally, this case speaks to what the First Amendment actually gives you from the government.  On one hand, this is a government agency who is censoring private speech,; but more specifically, the government is not imprisoning THE SLANTS, but just not granting them additional commercial protection, which is an important distinction.  Most likely, that will be what this case turns on.

ROOT FOR LEE IF:  you don’t need to curse in your albums to sell records.

ROOT FOR TAM IF: you do, so f*** Will Smith, and f*** you too.

PREDICTION:  Tam 5-3

 

a_002

WHAT HAPPENED: Appellant was convicted of a criminal offense and filed an appeal.  Subsequent to that filing, the Court imposed $4,500.00 in fines.  Appellant did not amend their Notice of Appeal, but assumed that the original notice would have encapsulated all issues present in the case.  The government argues that the notice had to be amended to include the monetary penalties.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Stop me if you’ve heard this before in these case reviews.  A very strict application of the rules favors the government, but a very strict application of the rules would require you to bury your head in the sand and ignore the many ways that the rules are unfair and stupid.  Although the Appellant here did not follow the rules, it also does not hurt the government at all to allow the notice to include all applicable issues.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – The worst part about the law is the way that Court rules set arbitrary deadlines and then strictly apply those deadlines independent of reason or mercy.  If Appellant wins, the system would make it easier for criminal defendants with either overwhelmed or bad lawyers on their side to appeal all aspects of their case, but that result is mostly likely going to make bad lawyers lazier.  Once again, the question here is whether it worth the Court’s time and energy to find a way to bend the rules, or if it is easier to let this defendant’s judgment stand to keep the rules clear and unassailable.

ROOT FOR MANRIQUE IF: you are a bad and/or overwhelmed lawyer.

ROOT FOR COLORADO IF: you are Government lawyer who likes having less work based on technicalities.

PREDICTION:  U.S. 8-0

a_002

WHAT HAPPENED: Appellant was convicted of selling meth in order to pay off treatment of cancer because apparently selling meth is lucrative.  Appellant was accused of being in a conspiracy with a former student of his with clever catch-phrases with a relative of his who kept all the money they made.  After getting caught, Appellant murdered his brother in law, went into hiding, and returned only to exact revenge on a collection of side characters and murder a warehouse full of Neo-Nazi’s was hit with a $75,0000.00 restitution order that he could not afford, because he never received any of the money that was earned in the conspiracy.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Joint and several liability is a legal doctrine that states if more than one person is liable for a monetary amount, than each of those people are liable for the amount owed in full.   In other words, if three people are liable for $100K, then each of them could be liable for the full amount, and it does not have to be split in thirds.  Appellant here argues that it is unfair to be joint and severally liable for the restitution order because he did not actually receive the money he is liable for.  The background of the law is that conspiracy defendants are always joint and severally liable, but a weird case out of D.C. has cast doubt on whether that applies universally or if there are exceptions.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – It is unlikely that the Court is going to strike down all joint and several liability, but more likely that the Court is going to clarify the weird D.C. Court case stated above.  That case in question dealt with millions of dollars in a vast drug dealing conspiracy, so it is both factually and legally distinguishable from the present issue.  Also, the government has argued that removing joint and several liability would make recouping conspiracy funds impossible, since people could just say “I don’t have it”, and give that money to someone else.  For those reasons, should the defendant win somehow, it is more likely to be on a factual nuance in this case, rather than a substantial change in the law.

ROOT FOR HONEYCUTT IF: you feel this case is pretty lame as far as Breaking Bad fan-fiction goes.

ROOT FOR U.S. IF: you know you can’t get blood from a stone, but still like to give it a squeeze.

PREDICTION:  U.S. 8-0

a_002

WHAT HAPPENED: The Plaintiffs are the parents of a Mexican teenager who was shot by a U.S. border guard standing on U.S. soil.  Plaintiffs are suing the Defendant (the guard) for Constitutional claims related to the shooting.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in the United States, and the Defendant has taken every action imaginable to dismiss the case, including arguing that the jurisdiction is wrong for a 4th amendment claim, that the Bivens analysis is incorrect, and that Defendant is immune because there is no precedent saying you can’t shoot non-citizens across the border (which is factually right, but it’s not like shooting people is ever OK).  Defendant has won at the lower level, so the case was dismissed.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – There is a legal axiom that says “bad cases make bad law”.  While it is easy to look at this case and say “you shouldn’t people” (which is most of the Plaintiff’s arguments), if you stretch the borders and the rules for this case, you end up complicating other issues where a strict application of border lines and qualified immunity make sense.  The balance here is whether it is better for the Court to try to craft a rule that best resolves this question, or whether it is better to just make an unfair ruling in this case and keep the rules as is.  Adding complication to this case is the fact that an amicus brief from Border Guards have advocated for liability in this case, as the dangerous environment surrounding the border needs more civil liability to keep things under control.  Not to say that is going to sway things, but it adds context to where the situation is and why the Plaintiffs’ arguments make more sense the more you hear about facts of the case.

ROOT FOR HERNANDEZ IF: shooting people isn’t OK.

ROOT FOR MESA IF: shooting people is OK if you have a bunch of dumb rules in place to protect you.

PREDICTION:  Mesa 6-2

a_002

WHAT HAPPENED: The Appellants were convicted of criminal charges and paid fines.  Appellants subsequently won their appeal and their convictions were overturned.  Appellant asked for their fees back, but Colorado said they had to go to civil court and prove their innocence by clear and convincing evidence to get their money back.

Wait…..

(reads facts again)

HAHAHA that’s so stupid.  OK sure let’s do this.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Colorado argues that once the fines are paid into the Court system, the money becomes the ownership of the State and that it’s the Defendant’s burden to prove that they can get it back.

(reads appellate brief again)

HAHAHAHA seriously Colorado maybe it’s time to ban weed again.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – Ok, seriously this time.  You could argue that this case represents the Court stepping on State’s rights because if Colorado wants to have a stupid rule about keeping your fines, they should be allowed to do whatever they want.  That being said, this clearly violates procedural due process, probably violates substantive due process, and could colorably be classified as a government taking without due process.  Luckily we don’t have anyone from Colorado joining significant parts of the Federal judiciary with life tenure anytime soon.

(reads news)

HAHAHAHAHAHA, never change Colorado.

ROOT FOR NELSON IF: you’re not the one person whose salary is paid by defendants who are motivated enough to appeal their criminal convictions, but not motivated enough to file for the fees returned.

ROOT FOR COLORADO IF: you are Colorado

PREDICTION:  Nelson 6-2 (Alito/Thomas special).

a_002

WHAT HAPPENED: Appellant is an indigent defendant who was convicted of first degree murder.  Appellant sought medical expert to assist with his sentencing and was provided with an expert by the State.  Following some kind of calamity involving timing and delivering the report, Appellant was sentenced to death (by electrocution because this was in 1984).

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  In the 1970s, the Supreme Court (by way of Thurgood Marshall) held that indigent defendants were entitled to medical experts to assist with the insanity defense.  The Court held that the cost to the State was nominal compared to the benefit it would provide in ensuring that justice was served.  This case takes that holding one step further, and asks that not only does the State have to provide a medical expert, but also has to provide someone who is completely independent from the State as to reduce bias.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – This is either (1) a dollars and cents issue, or (2) another way that the Court could create more ways that people on death row can overturn their sentences.  One on hand, hiring an independent expert would cost more, but once again you would have to wonder how much it would really be in light of the purpose behind providing the expert.  If you also believe that experts are mostly just mercenaries who say whatever they are paid to say, the benefit here is pretty high.  On the other hand, a ruling in favor of the Defendant is a pretty far stretch from the original Court’s holding, and finding that an independent expert has been required since 1984 would open the door for past death row inmates to contest their sentences, which would in turn bring more old death row cases before the Court, which would in turn make Clarence Thomas freak out.

ROOT FOR MCWILLIAMS IF: you want to see Clarence Thomas freak out.

ROOT FOR DUNN IF: you think poor Clarence Thomas has been through enough.

PREDICTION:  Dunn 6-2