Oh Say Can You Pro Se? Justia Weekly Writers’ Picks – October 3, 2014

Zavodnik v. Harper, Indiana Supreme Court (9/30/14)
Civil Procedure

contractPlaintiff was an abusive litigant. In this case, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant, which the trial court dismissed for failure to prosecute or comply with applicable rules under Ind. Trial Rule 41(E). The court of appeals dismissed Plaintiff’s appeal with prejudice for Plaintiff’s failure to file a timely brief and appendix. The Supreme Court denied Plaintiff’s petition to transfer jurisdiction and refrained from imposing sanctions or restrictions. This per curiam opinion also gave guidance to the state’s courts on options when confronted with abusive and vexatious litigation practices.

Read more: Inspired by man who filed more than 120 lawsuits, Indiana Supreme Court sets pro se limits

Duke v. State of North Carolina, US 4th Cir. (10/1/14)
Election Law

After the Supreme Court lifted certain Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973c, restrictions that prevented jurisdictions like North Carolina from passing laws that would deny minorities equal access, North Carolina began pursuing sweeping voting reform with House Bill 589. Plaintiffs and the federal government filed suit against North Carolina, alleging that House Bill 589 violates equal protection provisions of the United States Constitution and the Voting Rights Act and seeking a preliminary injunction. The court concluded that the district court abused its discretion in denying plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction and not preventing certain provisions of House Bill 589 from taking effect. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s denial of the preliminary injunction as to House Bill 589’s elimination of same-day registration and prohibition on counting out-of-precinct ballots. The court affirmed the district court’s denial of plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction with respect to the following House Bill 589 provisions: the reduction of early-voting days; the expansion of allowable voter challenges; the elimination of the discretion of county boards of elections to keep the pools open an additional hour on Election Day in “extraordinary circumstances”; the elimination of pre-registration of sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds who will not be eighteen years old by the next general election; and the soft roll-out of voter identification requirements to go into effect in 2016.

Read more: Divided appellate court strikes part of North Carolina’s controversial voting law

PRMA v. County of Alameda, US 9th Cir. (9/30/14)
Constitutional Law, Drugs & Biotech, Government & Administrative Law

Plaintiffs, non-profit organizations representing the manufacturers and distributors of pharmaceutical products, filed suit challenging the Alameda County Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance, which requires that prescription drug manufacturers, who either sell, offer for sale, or distribute “Covered Drugs” in Alameda, operate and finance a “Product Stewardship Program.” The court concluded that the Ordinance, both on its face and in effect, does not discriminate because it applies to all manufacturers that make their drugs available in Alameda County – without respect to the geographic location of the manufacturer; the Ordinance does not directly regulate interstate commerce where it does not control conduct beyond the boundaries of the county; under the balancing test in Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc., the court concluded that, without any evidence that the Ordinance will affect the interstate flow of goods, the Ordinance does not substantially burden interstate commerce; and therefore, the Ordinance does not violate the dormant Commerce Clause. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to defendants.

Read more: Judges uphold Alameda County drug disposal law

Delay v. Texas, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (10/1/14)
Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Appellant Thomas Delay was convicted of: (1) money laundering (a first-degree felony at the time); and (2) conspiracy to commit money laundering (then a second degree felony).  At the time he allegedly committed these offenses, appellant was the Republican Majority Whip of the United States House of Representatives. The trial court sentenced appellant to five years’ confinement for first-degree laundering, though that sentence was suspended and he was placed on community supervision for ten years. The trial court sentenced the appellant to three years’ confinement for the conspiracy offense and did not suspend that sentence. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed both convictions and rendered a judgment of acquittal with respect to each, having determined that the evidence was legally insufficient to support them. The State appealed, arguing that the appellate court failed to consider all of the evidence and failed to view the evidence it did consider with the proper respect for the jury’s fact-finding function. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the appellate court’s judgment.

Read more: Reversal of Tom DeLay’s Conviction Upheld by Texas Court