Justia’s Daily Summary Weekly Writer’s Picks

The selections from our Daily Opinion Summary writers are pretty varied this week covering a World of Warcraft game gone bad, a tug of war between two District Courts over Park Service limits of snowmobilers, a suit alleging negligence in the prescription of medications which led to murder, and the rights of part-owners of a dairy located in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

First up, we have Laurel’s pick, which she aptly labeled, “every mother’s nightmare.”

U.S. v. Lucas
US 7th Cir (Filed 2/29/12)
While playing World of Warcraft online, defendant requested sexual pictures of CG, a minor. CG blocked him, but reinstated him in exchange for online “currency.” Defendant again sent sexual messages; CG again blocked him. Defendant, on release following arrest for possession of large-capacity firearms, paid to obtain CG’s address, told others he planned to kill CG, dug holes in his yard, and removed the release latch from his trunk. He amassed weapons, drove 20 hours to CG’s home, and impersonated an officer to lure CG out of the house and kidnap him.  CG’s mother refused to allow defendant into the house. He pointed a handgun at her face, but she slammed the door and called police.  He was arrested and pled guilty to brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c). The district court sentenced him to 210 months’ imprisonment.  The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A district court may consider a wide range of conduct at sentencing, including acquitted conduct and dismissed offenses, and the sentencing ranges for those offenses. The court rejected arguments that the court treated defendant’s psychological conditions as an aggravating factor or impermissibly considered rehabilitation.

Laura picked the following opinion involving prescription drugs, which she found interesting because “I’m not sure how clear the standard is here, as who knows what medications or what combination of medications is going to cause someone to go on a murderous rampage?”

Jeffs v. West
Utah Supreme Court (Filed 2/28/12)
Patient received medical treatment from a nurse at a medical clinic. Nurse prescribed patient at least six medications. With all of these drugs in his system, patient shot and killed his wife. Patient subsequently pled guilty to aggravated murder. Patient’s children (plaintiffs) filed suit through their conservator against the nurse, her consulting physician, and the medical clinic (collectively defendants), alleging negligence in the prescription of the medications that caused patient’s violent outburst and his wife’s death. The district court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding that the nurse owed no duty of care to plaintiffs because no patient-health care provider relationship existed at the time of the underlying events between plaintiffs and defendants. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that healthcare providers owe nonpatients a duty to exercise reasonable care in the affirmative act of prescribing medications that pose a risk of injury to third parties.

From Leslie comes the tug of war between two District Courts over the limits of the numbers of snowmobiles allowed in our National Parks (including Grand Teton and Yellowstone). The two courts kept invalidating each other’s holdings before taking the matter to the Tenth Circuit.

Wyoming v. NPCA, et al
US 10th Cir (Filed 2/29/12)
In 1997, environmental and recreational groups began seeking to limit the daily number of snowmobiles permitted in Wyoming national parks. In several consolidated cases, the State of Wyoming and Park County, Wyoming petitioned for a review of agency action, challenging the 2009 rules governing snowmobile use in the parks. The district court dismissed the petitions for review, holding that petitioners lacked standing to pursue their claims. Snowmobile proponents filed suit in a Wyoming district court to challenge a 2001 National Park Service (NPS) rule limiting snowmobiles in the parks. That suit was settled, but ultimately the resolution of the suit brought the promulgation of another rule (the 2003 rule) that set limits on snowmobiles allowed in the parks. A Washington, D.C. district court invalidated the 2003 rule and reinstated the 2001 rule. Another lawsuit was filed in Wyoming district court, the result of which invalidated the D.C. court’s ruling. NPS then promulgated a series of rules which contained “sunset clauses” set to expire at end of each subsequent winter season. “Unsurprisingly,” the proponents and opponents filed simultaneous challenges in both Wyoming and D.C. to challenge the rules. While the two courts fought on jurisdiction, NPS formulated another new rule (2009 rule). Upon review, the Tenth Circuit found that petitioners’ argument was moot: “Even if [the Court] were to conclude Petitioners had standing to challenge the procedure and analysis used to adopt the 2009 rule, and if the district court then found NPS had violated NEPA or the APA in promulgating that rule, [the Court’s] decision would still have no effect. [The Court] reach[ed] this conclusion because the analytical and procedural aspects of the 2009 rule have been superseded by the new analysis and procedure underlying the new one-year rule. Because the procedural challenge in this case[was] to the analysis underlying the 2009 temporary rule and that analysis has been redone, [the Court held] that the procedural challenge to the 2009 temporary rule [was] moot.”

Our last pick, from Loan, takes us all the way from Wyoming to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

McKesson Corp. v. Islamic Republic of Iran
US DC Cir (Filed 02/28/2012)
McKesson, a United States company, claimed that after the Islamic Revolution, the government of Iran expropriated McKesson’s interest in an Iranian dairy (Pak Dairy) and withheld its dividend payments. McKesson filed its complaint in 1982, the case reached the court on five prior occasions, and was remanded by the court for numerous trials by the district court. At issue was whether the court had jurisdiction over McKesson’s claim and whether any recognized body of law provided McKesson with a private right of action against Iran. The court affirmed the district court’s holding that the act of state doctrine did not apply in this case. While the court reversed the district court’s holding that McKesson could base its claim on customary international law, the court affirmed the district court’s alternative holding that the Treaty of Amity, construed as Iranian law, provided McKesson with a private right of action, and the court further affirmed the district court’s finding that Iran was liable for the expropriation of McKesson’s equity interest in Pak Dairy and the withholding of McKesson’s dividend payments. Finally, the court reversed the district court’s award of compound interest and remanded for calculation of an award consisting of the value of McKesson’s expropriated property and withheld dividends plus simple interest.