Brady violations, dual enrollments, and a West Coast conviction.

John Ross · December 29, 2023

New case! Last year, a SWAT team tore up Amy Hadley’s home in South Bend, Ind., searching for a fugitive who was not there, never had been, and had no connection to her family. Officials have refused to pay for the damage. An uncompensated taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment or Article 1, Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution? Or a violation of Article 1, Section 12, which provides that “every person, for injury done to him in his person, property, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law”? No doubt all three. Click here to learn more.

  • Transgender woman is serving a 75-year prison term for murder, assault, and burglary. A prison guard repeatedly presses her into giving sexual favors in 2011. He is then convicted. In 2018—after the statute of limitations has lapsed—she files a civil rights suit. Prisoner: Equitable tolling due to the abuse and fear of retaliation. District court: Let’s hold an evidentiary hearing! And denied. Second Circuit (over a dissent): The hearing did not violate the prisoner’s Seventh Amendment rights. And equitable tolling doesn’t apply.
  • Two men were convicted for their roles in a New Orleans armed robbery of an armored truck that left a guard dead. But the feds failed to disclose key info about a cooperating, testifying witness until after trial began—and even then didn’t disclose everything. Fifth Circuit: That later info undermines confidence in the verdict of one of the men, who might be able to get another trial. (Doesn’t help the other.)
  • Power company says it can’t make a living these days under a federally mandated price cap. It petitions FERC for relief, which is granted. While the matter is on appeal, the new Chair requests a voluntary remand without asking for permission from the other commissioners. Meanwhile, the Commission’s composition changes and it then nixes the price cap relief. Did the Chair have unilateral power to ask for a remand? Sixth Circuit: The statute says “business” requires a quorum of commissioners and a remand request is “business.” Partial dissent: This aggression cannot stand. The milquetoast partial vacatur of the majority ain’t enough.
  • Thanks to the work of enterprising chemists, methamphetamine has gotten more potent, which—this Michigan criminal defendant suggests—wrongly results in low-level dealers being treated like kingpins. Sixth Circuit: Too bad he waived that argument, or at least invited error by not pressing it more forcefully at sentencing. Concurrence: The government waived waiver (but this guy loses anyway).
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act gives federal funds to school districts that provide a “free appropriate public education” to all children with disabilities. But the requirement does not extend to post-secondary education. What to do, then, with dual-credit, dual-enrollment courses at state universities or junior colleges? The Sixth Circuit, in dual rulings, holds they aren’t covered.
  • Kansas City, Mo. police search a tow yard, where they seize business records, recover 16 stolen vehicles, and shoot the owner’s dog. Two months later, an officer asks the tow yard owner to do him a solid and release a car owned by a relative; when the owner refuses, the officer says “it’s game on.” When a recording of the call is released to local media, prosecutors decide to drop the 31 counts of forgery stemming from the search. The owner sues, and the district court rejects all 17 state and federal claims. Eighth Circuit: No error here.
  • Midwesterners love to debate what is in the Midwest, including whether and which Plains states are Midwestern. While Midwest purists and maximalists may disagree about where Nebraska fits, they would all agree that the Cornhusker State is definitely not on the West Coast. So why is this former Nebraska congressman—convicted for lying to the FBI in Lincoln and D.C.—appealing in the Ninth Circuit? The judges are as flummoxed as we are. Conviction vacated for violating the Constitution’s Venue and Vicinage Clauses.

Friends, if you donate to one nonprofit, public interest law firm this year, make it IJ. We will use your money to sue the government, right wrongs, and put bullies in their place—including arguing two potentially landmark cases at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2024. We will also use your money to continue producing this sensible newsletter.