Civil Rights Law News - DC Circuit
DC Circuit - The FindLaw DC Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recently in Civil Rights Law Category

A warrantless airport seizure of a man's laptop, followed by extensive searches of its contents, can't be justified as a routine border search, the District Court of D.C. ruled last week. Contrary to government arguments, a computer isn't just a container agents can pop open and look in to, as they might a suitcase or backpack.

In 2012, DHS agents seized a foreign citizen's computer as he was boarding a flight to Korea, after suspecting he was involved in illegal trading with Iran. They shipped the computer to San Diego, copied it, searched it, and burned the information onto a DVD -- all before bothering with a warrant. That's not the type of border search that's allowed, the circuit ruled, finding that the evidence from that search must be suppressed.

One half of a duo of allegedly drug dealing brothers may have a shot at overturning his conviction after the D.C. Circuit remanded his claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Since the D.C. Circuit allows that claim to be raised on appeal, but district courts are better suited for hearing it, almost any claim which asserts sufficient facts is entitled to remand -- though the court promises this isn't reflexive!

At trial, Maurice Williams was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute. His brother, Ronald, faced similar charges, but the jury was hung on each of his counts. After a mistrial was declared, Ronald was retried and found guilty. On appeal he alleged, successfully enough for now, that his counsel failed to provide effective assistance, as required by the Sixth Amendment.

A former University of Virginia undergrad who was allegedly sexually assaulted while a student has lost her suit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education for mishandling her complaints against the University.

The plaintiff, suing as Jane Doe, had complained to the agencies that UVA's failure to take action regarding severe sexual harassment and misconduct against her violated Title IX. The departments took no significant action on her complaints, Doe alleged, leading to her lawsuit.

D.C. Cir. Cancels Obamacare Subsidies Arguments Thanks to SCOTUS

Big shocker: A lower court decided not to hear a case because a higher court is going to decide the issue for them! Yeah, we saw this coming too once the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in the Fourth Circuit's Obamacare subsidies case: The D.C. Circuit pressed pause on its own en banc consideration of the issue.

Meantime, also in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, a three-judge panel upheld the Obama administration's newest workaround for religious exemption to the birth control mandate.

Obamacare litigation never ends, does it?

On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments in Klayman v. Obama, a case that has the potential to alter the Fourth Amendment -- if the court will let it.

Back in December, District Judge Richard Leon granted a preliminary injunction to block the NSA's "metadata" surveillance. Though Leon wasn't ruling on the constitutionality of the program (because likelihood of success on the merits is one element of issuing an injunction), he said the program was very likely unconstitutional.

The Independence Institute, a Colorado nonprofit, wanted to run a radio advertisement before the November 4 election. The ad urges the two U.S. senators from Colorado to support the Justice Safety Valve Act. Not really a problem, except that Independence Institute didn't want to have to disclose the contributors to the communication, as required by (what's left of) the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA).

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia was having none of it and ruled against Independence Institute.

Back in 2010, Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning was arrested for supplying WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents; he claimed his actions were rooted in the public's right to be aware of what the government was doing abroad.

Manning was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Shortly thereafter, Manning came out as transgender and wanted to be known as "Chelsea Manning," a request most news outlets have been happy to abide by.

Though Manning has repeatedly requested a treatment plan to accommodate her gender dysphoria, the Army has stalled. As a result, Manning -- through the ACLU -- filed a complaint Tuesday in the D.C. District Court alleging deliberate indifference to a serious medical need.

NSA Cell Phone Metadata Case Set for Nov. 4; Won't Be Televised

We were wondering when we'd hear more on the D.C. Circuit's NSA cell phone metadata case, especially after the Second Circuit allowed C-SPAN to livestream oral arguments in a parallel case earlier this month.

The answer? On November 4, unlike its sister circuit to the north, the D.C. Circuit will not be televising the revolution, reports Politico. Audio recordings are typically posted on the D.C. Circuit's website after oral arguments, however.

Here's a recap of the lower court's anti-NSA opinion and what's at stake in this case:

Feds Release Two Detainees -- A Move to Circumvent Cert.?

After years of fighting for their freedom in U.S. courts, Fadi al-Maqaleh and Amin al-Bakri, who had been detained at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan for at least a decade, were repatriated to Yemen earlier this week.

The timing of the release was curious: not only is al-Bakri is suffering from leukemia, but both al-Maqaleh and al-Bakri were named parties seeking certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court in an appeal of the D.C. Circuit's holding that the district court correctly determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to review their habeas petitions. Though U.S. officials refused to comment on al-Bakri's condition, sources told The Washington Post that he was in "bad shape."

It was like the worst DMV visit ever. Except that Aaron Schnitzler wasn't trying to renew his drivers license; he was trying to renounce his U.S. citizenship. And instead of the DMV, he was going to the U.S. State Department. And instead of being a driver on the open road, he was a state prisoner in South Dakota.

Schnitzler wanted to renounce his U.S. citizenship "[f]or reasons we do not understand," the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals explains. OK, fine. So he wrote to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but they replied that he had to talk to the State Department. Then he wrote to the State Department. But they said that, in order to renounce his citizenship, he had to appear before a diplomat or consular official at a U.S. embassy. He tried the Department of Justice. No dice. He then filed a lawsuit against all three of those departments, telling them he didn't want to be a U.S. citizen anymore.