All Creatures Great & Small – Justia Weekly Writers’ Picks April 18, 2014


State v. DeMarco, Connecticut Supreme Court (4/22/14)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Upon following up on complaints from Defendant’s neighbor relating to Defendant’s keeping of animals in his residence, a police officer concluded that a “welfare check” was necessary and made a warrantless entry into Defendant’s home. Defendant subsequently entered a plea of nolo contendere to two counts of cruelty to animals. Defendant appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress on the ground that the warrantless entry was justified under the emergency exception to the warrant requirement. The appellate court reversed, concluding that the evidence did not permit a finding that the police reasonably believed that a warrantless entry was necessary to help a person inside the dwelling who was in immediate need of assistance. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court properly concluded that, under the totality of the circumstances present in this case, a police officer reasonably would have believed that an emergency existed inside Defendant’s home.

Read more: Court Backs Cops In Fourth Amendment Cases

Commonwealth v. Duncan, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (4/11/14)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

After receiving a telephone call from Defendant’s neighbor, police entered Defendant’s front yard without a warrant and seized three dogs, two of which appeared to be dead, that had been left outside in severely inclement winter weather. Defendant was subsequently charged with three counts of animal cruelty. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the warrantless search. The superior court granted the motion but reported the question of law to the Supreme Judicial Court of whether the ‘pure emergency’ exception to the warrant requirement extends to animals. The Court answered the question in the affirmative, holding that the emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement extends to police action undertaken to render emergency assistance to animals. Remanded.

Read More: Backers hail SJC’s animal rescue ruling

Nat’l Assoc. of Manufacturers, et al. v. SEC, et al., USDC (4/14/14)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law, Securities Law

In response to the Congo war, Congress created Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. 78m(p), which requires the SEC to issue regulations requiring firms using “conflict minerals” to investigate and disclose the origin of those minerals. The Association challenged the SEC’s final rule implementing the Act, raising claims under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq.; the Securities Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. 78a et seq.; and the First Amendment. The district court rejected all of the Association’s claims and granted summary judgment for the Commission and intervenor Amnesty International. The court concluded that the Commission did not act arbitrarily and capriciously by choosing not to include a de minimus exception for use of conflict materials; the Commission could use its delegated authority to fill in gaps where the statute was silent with respect to both a threshold for conducting due diligence and the obligations of uncertain issuers; the court rejected the Association’s argument that the Commission’s due diligence threshold was arbitrary and capricious; the Commission did not act arbitrarily and capriciously and its interpretation of sections 78m(p)(2) and 78m(p)(1)(A)(i) was reasonable because it reconciled these provisions in an expansive fashion, applying the final rule not only to issuers that manufacture their own products, but also to those that only contract to manufacture; and the court rejected the Association’s challenge to the final rule’s temporary phase-in period, which allowed issuers to describe certain products as “DRC conflict undeterminable.” The court also concluded that it did not see any problems with the Commission’s cost-side analysis. The Commission determined that Congress intended the rule to achieve “compelling social benefits,” but it was “unable to readily quantify” those benefits because it lacked data about the rule’s effects. The court determined that this benefit-side analysis was reasonable. The court held that section 15 U.S.C. § 78m(p)(1)(A)(ii) & (E), and the Commission’s final rule violated the First Amendment to the extent the statute and rule required regulated entities to report to the Commission and to state on their website that any of their products have “not been found to be ‘DRC conflict free.'” The label “conflict free” is a metaphor that conveys moral responsibility for the Congo war. By compelling an issuer to confess blood on its hands, the statute interferes with the exercise of the freedom of speech under the First Amendment. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings.

Read More: SEC conflict mineral rule violates freedom of speech, U.S. court says

American Tradition Inst. v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va., Virginia Supreme Court (4/17/14)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law

The American Tradition Institute and Robert Marshall (collectively, “ATI”) sent a request to the University of Virginia (“UVA”), seeking all documents that Dr. Michael Mann, a climate scientist and former professor, had produced and/or received while working for UVA. When ATI failed to receive the documents, it filed a petition for mandamus and injunctive relief in the trial court. The trial court conducted an in camera review of some of the documents UVA designated as exempt from disclosure, and subsequently entered an order finding UVA carried its burden of proof that the records withheld under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act met each of the requirements for exclusion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err by denying the request for disclosure of the documents at issue; and (2) the trial court did not err in allowing UVA to demand a reasonable fee for the cost of reviewing the documents sought under the statutory exclusions.

Read more: Climate scientist’s emails are shielded from disclosure, Virginia Supreme Court says