Well, it hasn’t been a good week for the reputation of the legal profession.
By now, you’ve heard that the 9th Circuit ruled on Padilla v. Yoo, finding that plaintiffs do not have a cause of action against the former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C. Yoo for injuries suffered as a result of Mr. Yoo’s “torture memos.” The Court found that Yoo was entitled to qualified immunity under Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, because regardless of the legality of plaintiff’s detention and the wisdom of Yoo’s judgments, at the time he acted the law was not “sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have understood that what he [wa]s doing violated[d]” plaintiff’s rights.
Here are some of the more interesting opinions issued this week, collected by our Daily Summary writers.
In State v. Eli, the Hawaii Supreme Court found that a police practice of asking an arrestee to tell his or her “side of the story” prior to offering Miranda warnings violates the defendant’s constitutional right against self-incrimination and right to due process. In this case, the “pre-interview” statements were thrown out, and the case remanded for a new trial.
The 9th Circuit issued an opinion on intellectual property and the Superman comic. In Pacific Pictures Corp. et al v. USCD-CALA, the Court refused to protect documents included in a subpoena under attorney client privilege. In this case, an attorney absconded with his client’s intellectual property, and the US Attorney was called to investigate. The US Attorney’s office issued a subpoena for copies of the stolen property, and promised that if the complainant complied with the request, they would not provide the documents to non-governmental third parties. The Court found that since Congress has declined to extend attorney client privilege to such materials, the Court was not in the position to do it here.
Our daily summary writers chose some interesting cases to share this week.
The 4th Circuit issued an opinion remanding the Rosetta Stone v. Google trademark case back to the district court for further proceedings. Rosetta Stone complained that Google AdWords infringed on their trademarks and caused likely and actual confusion for consumers. As Eric Goldman notes — “how 2005.” Professor Goldman has an excellent and detailed post on this case and its ramifications for trademark actions against Google. Go there for details.
Our summary writers have highlighted some interesting cases this week — all from state supreme courts.
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled on an assault weapons ban, remanding it back to the trial court to determine whether the law comports with the Second Amendment. In Wilson v. Cook County, the court found that given the early stage of the litigation, it cannot be said conclusively whether “assault weapons” as defined by the ordinance fall within the scope of rights protected by the Second Amendment. The question requires an empirical inquiry, beyond the scope of both the record and judicial notice. The county has not had an opportunity to establish a nexus between the ordinance and the protected governmental interest.
In Colorado, the Supreme Court issued Air Wisconsin Airlines v. Hoeper, which found an airline was not immune from a defamation claim by an employee under the Aviation Transportation Safety Act. In that case, the employee was authorized to carry a firearem on the planes he flew, but was reported by a trainer to be “disgruntled” and that he posed a threat with a gun. The Colorado Supreme Court upheld the defamation victory, adding that the airline was not immune from suit or defamation under the ATSA and that the record supported the jury’s finding of clear and convincing evidence of actual malice.
I’m from Chicago, where everyone knows someone who knows someone in the mob. That’s why I loved this case, U.S. v Ambrose, sent to me by Laurel. It’s chock full of good mafia stories and lingo involving a crooked Deputy U.S. Marshal and a made guy in the “Chicago outfit” who turned state’s evidence.
In other criminal law cases, a defendant in the 10th Circuit was convicted of selling drugs at his apartment and for selling them within 1000 feet of a playground. Defendant challenged the definition of playground, which the court did not find convincing, holding that even if there was “one apparatus…intended for recreation of children,” then the place was a playground under the statutes. US v. West. In other words, “that’s nice.”
This was kind of a slow week for our Daily Summary writers, but we did have a blockbuster from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals: Perry v. Brown. This case involved Proposition 8, which amended the California state constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. The 9th Cir. chose to address the constitutionality of Prop. 8 and declined to address the broader question of whether same-sex couples had the right to marry. As a preliminary matter, the 9th Cir. held that proponents of the ballot measure had standing. The 9th Cir. held that Prop. 8 was unconstitutional because it violated the Equal Protection Clause by targeting a minority group and withdrawing a right that the group possessed without a legitimate reason for doing so. The court also affirmed the denial of a motion to vacate former Chief Judge Walker on the basis of his purported interest in being allowed to marry his same-sex partner.
The mainstream media extensively covered this case — for more information, check out the New York Times article.
US v. Strandhof, US Ct. App. 10th Cir., 1/27/12
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Stolen Valor Act (18 U.S.C. 704(b)) which makes it illegal to falsely claim to have received a military award or honor. The district court found that appellant’s false claims to a Purple Heart, Silver Star, and rank of Marine Corps captain were protected by the First Amendment, but the 10th Circuit relied on SCOTUS precedent to overturn that ruling.
From the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, we have In Re FEMA Trailers Formaldehyde Products Liability Litigation (1/23/12). This case is about the “toxic trailers” issued by FEMA in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Plaintiffs sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act for injuries related to their exposure to formaldehyde in the trailers, but the Court held that the voluntary, cost-free provision of the trailers to disaster victims was immunized conduct under the FTCA, and affirmed the district court’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
From the U.S. Court of Appeal for the 10th Circuit comes SECSYS, LLC v. Vigil (1/23/12). This corruption case involves government officials in New Mexico. In it, the plaintiff sued for discrimination because they were denied a bid-rigged contract, since they would not pay the full “allegedly extortionate demand.” The Court in this case affirmed the district court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s case.
Today Cicely and I are pleased to announce Justia’s newest free law offering: FREE Daily Opinion Summaries of all Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal and select State Supreme Courts!
Our Daily Opinion Summaries deliver clear, concise summaries of breaking court opinions right to your in-box. The summaries are tagged by practice area so that readers can quickly identify which opinions are relevant to their practice. This is a powerful tool for attorneys, journalists, and others looking to keep up with latest developments in the law. All summaries are written by licensed attorneys.
How to subscribe
To subscribe, visit the Justia Subscriptions Page at Daily.Justia.com. If you already have a Justia account, sign in to subscribe right away. If you are not yet registered, it’s fast and free! Once registered, simply choose the jurisdictions and practice areas of interest to you.