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FastcaseLogoStandardA heads up that our friends at FastCase are about to launch the “Bad Law Bot” – or as they refer to it, their newest team member! No, this isn’t some evil case law robot sent to do us all harm from the future, but rather a cool enhancement to FastCase’s authority check feature. The Bad Law Bot algorithmically checks text within opinions for terms which connote a negative treatment (e.g., reversed, overruled) of an opinion and flags the corresponding citation for the user to view. The Bad Law Bot is a great new companion tool to use when cite checking. Great work FastCase!

You can check out more about the Bad Law Bot here:

Press Release

Abdouch v. Lopez, Nebraska Supreme Court (4/19/13)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Injury Law

952313_gavelPlaintiff was a resident of Nebraska. In 1963, Plaintiff received a copy of the book “Revolutionary Road,” which was inscribed to her by the late author Richard Yates. Plaintiff’s inscribed copy of the book was later stolen. Ken Lopez and his company, Ken Lopez Bookseller (KLB), bought the book in 2009 from a seller in Georgia and sold it to a customer not in Nebraska. Plaintiff later learned that Lopez had used the inscription in the book for advertising purposes on his website. Plaintiff brought suit against Lopez and KLB for violating her right to privacy. The district court dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s complaint failed to plead facts to demonstrate that Lopez and KLB had sufficient minimum contacts with the state of Nebraska, as (1) the contacts created by the website were unrelated to Plaintiff’s cause of action, and (2) under the Calder v. Jones foreseeable effects test, the pleadings failed to establish that Lopez and KLB expressly aimed their tortious conduct at the state of Nebraska.

Read More:  ‘Revolutionary Road’ ruling seen as victory for Internet businesses

Missouri v McNeely, United States Supreme Court (4/17/13)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

McNeely, stopped for speeding and crossing the centerline, declined to take a breath test to measure his blood alcohol concentration (BAC). He was arrested and taken to a hospital. The officer never attempted to secure a search warrant. McNeely refused to consent, but the officer directed a lab technician to take a sample. McNeely’s BAC tested above the legal limit, and he was charged with driving while intoxicated. The trial court suppressed the test result, concluding that the exigency exception to the warrant requirement did not apply because, apart from the fact that McNeely’s blood alcohol was dissipating, no circumstances suggested that the officer faced an emergency. The Missouri Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court affirmed. The Court looked to the “totality of circumstances,” declining to announce a per se rule. When officers in drunk-driving investigations can reasonably obtain a warrant before having a blood sample drawn without significantly undermining the efficacy of the search, the Fourth Amendment mandates that they do so. Circumstances may make obtaining a warrant impractical such that dissipation will support an exigency, but that is a reason to decide each case on its facts. Blood testing is different in critical respects from other destruction-of-evidence cases; BAC evidence naturally dissipates in a gradual and relatively predictable manner. Because an officer must typically obtain a trained medical professional’s assistance before having a blood test conducted, some delay between the time of the arrest and time of the test is inevitable regardless of whether a warrant is obtained.

Read More: Supreme Court Backs Warrants For Blood Tests In DUI Cases

 

Rios-Pineiro v. United States, US 1st Cir. (4/15/13)
Contracts, Government & Administration Law, Injury Law, Labor & Employment Law

The United States Postal Services (USPS) terminated Plaintiff’s employment contract after discovering, through a sting operation, that Plaintiff had stolen mail containing money. The Postal Service Board of Contract Appeals (PSBCA) convened an evidentiary hearing and determined that Plaintiff’s breach of his employment contract justified the decision to terminate his contract. Plaintiff did not appeal this decision. Meanwhile, Plaintiff initiated a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) suit against the United States for the actions of USPS employees on the date of the sting, alleging six torts. The district court dismissed three of the claims and granted summary judgment to the government on the remaining claims. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court as to all claims, holding (1) the district court correctly concluded that the PSCBA’s findings precluded re-litigation of the factual issues in Plaintiff’s FTCA suit; and (2) summary judgment was properly granted as to Plaintiff’s FTCA claims for negligent supervision, malicious prosecution, and invasion of privacy by postal inspectors.

 

United States v. Scruggs, US 5th Cir. (4/12/13)
Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Legal Ethics, Professional Malpractice & Ethics

Defendant, an attorney and the brother-in-law of Trent Lott, appealed from the denial of his 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion challenging one of his two convictions for bribing a judge. Defendant’s conviction stemmed from his bribe of a circuit court judge in a lawsuit involving a fee-sharing dispute with co-counsel (the “Wilson Case”). Defendant offered to recommend the judge to Lott, who at the time was a U.S. Senator, for a district court judgeship in exchange for the judge’s help in winning the Wilson Case. The court concluded that Skilling v. United States, which addressed the constitutionality of the honest-services statute, 18 U.S.C. 1346, had no effect on the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction over defendant’s guilty plea. Defendant had shown neither his actual innocence of post-Skilling honest-services fraud nor that there was cause and prejudice for failing to raise a constitutional-vagueness challenge to section 1346. Therefore, defendant procedurally defaulted on his claim and the district court correctly denied his section 2255 motion. Finally, the court rejected defendant’s First Amendment overbreadth challenge to section 1346. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.

Read More: Ex-lawyer Dickie Scruggs asks to return to prison after losing key appeal

nun_in_poznanMcCarthy v. Fuller, US 7th Cir (4/10/13)
Constitutional Law, Contracts, Non-Profit Organizations

In 1956, Sister Ephrem of the Most Precious Blood, experienced apparitions of the Virgin Mary, during which, Sister Ephrem claimed, she was told: “I am Our Lady of America.” The Archbishop supported a program of devotions to Our Lady of America. In 1965 Pope Paul VI approved creation of a cloister, which lasted until at least 1977, when surviving members left and formed a new congregation, dedicated to devotions to Our Lady of America.  Sister Ephrem directed it until her death in 2000. Sister Therese succeeded Sister Ephrem, who willed to Sister Theres all her property, mostly purchased with donated money. Sister Therese worked with McCarthy, a lawyer, and Langsenkamp until 2007, when Langsenkamp and McCarthy established the Langsenkamp Family Apostolate in the chapel in which the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to Sister Ephrem. They sued Sister Therese, claiming theft of physical and intellectual property, fraud, and defamation. She counterclaimed alleging theft of a statue and of the website and defamation by calling her a “fake nun.”  The district court denied McCarthy’s motion that the court take notice of the Holy See’s rulings on Sister Therese’s status in the Church. The Seventh Circuit reversed, with “a reminder” that courts may not decide (or to allow juries to decide) religious questions.  Determination of the ownership of the property is likely possible without resolving religious questions.

United States v. Grigsby, US 6th Cir. (4/11/13)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Grigsby, a middle-age man who lived in homeless shelters, was charged with three unarmed bank robberies, 18 U.S.C. 2113(a). Psychologists conducted examinations and filed reports that diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia and stated that Grigsby was not competent to stand trial. Neither party objected. The court committed Grigsby to custody (18 U.S.C. 4241(d)(1))  to determine whether he could be restored to competency to stand trial. Forensic evaluators concluded that Grigsby did not understand the seriousness of his legal difficulty; lacked ability to assist his lawyer during trial; and was not capable of waiving his constitutional rights rationally or of testifying on his own behalf. Grigsby refused to take oral medication. Because he was not gravely disabled and did not present a danger to himself, others, or the facility, he did not meet the criteria for involuntary medication. The evaluators requested an order authorizing them to inject Grigsby involuntarily with a first-generation antipsychotic drug, (haloperidol (Haldol) or fluphenazine), or a second-generation antipsychotic drug, risperidone, to restore competency. These medications can cause serious side effects. The district court granted an order under Sell v. U.S. (2003). The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that special circumstances unique to the case indicate that Grigsby’s liberty interest in avoiding involuntary medication outweighs the government’s interest in prosecution.

Krieger v. Educ. Credit Mgmt. Corp., US 7th Cir. (4/10/13)
Bankruptcy, Education Law

Krieger, age 53, cannot pay her debts. She lives with her mother in a rural community; they have only monthly income from governmental programs. She is too poor to move and her car, more than 10 years old, needs repairs. She lacks Internet access.  In her bankruptcy proceeding, Educational Credit moved to exempt her student loans from discharge; 11 U.S.C.523(a)(8) excludes educational loans “unless excepting such debt from discharge under this paragraph would impose an undue hardship on the debtor.”  The district court reversed the bankruptcy court, noting that Krieger, although unable to pay even $1 per year, had not enrolled in a program that offered a 25-year payment schedule. The Seventh Circuit reversed, in favor of Krieger. “Undue hardship” requires showing that the debtor cannot maintain a minimal standard of living if forced to repay; that additional circumstances exist indicating that this situation is likely to persist for a significant portion of the repayment period; and that the debtor has made good faith efforts to repay. The court noted that Krieger incurred the debt to obtain paralegal training at a community college, has made about 200 applications in 10 years, and used a substantial part of her divorce settlement to pay off as much of the educational loan as possible.