January 2011 Court Decisions: Decided
Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

January 2011 Archives

Rahm Emmanuel is In: Former Chief of Staff Gets Swift Justice

Well, that was quick. We frequently write about the fact that the wheels of justice turn very, very slowly.

But in the case of former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel, a decision was practically made at the speed of light.

Rahm Emanuel's Name Must be on Chicago Mayor Ballot, Court Rules

After a last minute emergency appeal, Rahm Emanuel's name will appear on the Chicago Mayoral ballot. The Illinois Supreme Court issued a stay of the Illinois Appellate Court's previous ruling. The Appellate Court had ruled that former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel cannot run for mayor of Chicago.

In the now-stayed previous decision, the three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that Emanuel does not meet the residency requirements necessary to appeal on the ballot. Emanuel quickly appealed the decision. 

The stay means that the case remains up in the air, with only a month to go before the election. The candidacy of Chicago's front runner for mayor remains in question, although the decision indicates that the state high court will likely take the case.

Woman Guards Strip Searching Male Inmates Unconstitutional

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that cross-gender strip searches of inmates are unconstitutional in an en banc panel of 11 judges, the ABA Journal reports. Inmate Charles Byrd alleges that he was strip searched by a female cadet in 2004 in a Maricopa County jail in Arizona. He was only a pretrial detainee at the time of the search. Approximately 90 inmates were searched for possible weapons and contraband during the incident.

During the strip search, he was wearing only state issued pink boxer shorts. Charles Byrd claims that the female cadet squeezed and kneaded both his genitals and buttocks during the one minute search, according to CNN.

Gay Divorce Can't be Stopped After Granted, Texas Court Rules

A gay divorce has been upheld in Texas, but not because of all gay Texans are entitled to a divorce.

The 3rd Texas Court of Appeals in Austin ruled that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott intervened too late in a lesbian divorce.

The case of a gay divorce granted by Travis County District Judge Scott Jenkins to a lesbian couple, the Dallas Voice reports. The court ruled that Texas AG Greg Abbott lacked the standing to appeal the case between Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly because the state was not a party of record in the divorce case, according to the Washington Post.

San Diego's Mt. Soledad Cross Ruled Unconstitutional

The Mt. Soledad cross in San Diego violates the U.S. constitutional ban on government endorsement of religion, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 3-0 decision. The decision, which reversed a lower court ruling, marks the latest twist in a legal dispute dating back to the 1980s, Reuters reports. The case could eventually wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case was brought on behalf of Jewish war veterans who challenged the legality of the 43-foot-tall Mt. Soledad cross that sits on a hilltop overlooking San Diego and the Pacific Ocean. The court stopped short of saying that the cross must be immediately removed, saying that it might be possible to redesign the memorial in a way that would "pass constitutional muster."

Judge Tosses Lawsuit By DEA Agent Who Shot Himself

The DEA agent who shot himself during a gun safety demonstration  to Orlando kids had his lawsuit dismissed, according to the Smoking Gun. In the lawsuit, DEA agent Lee Paige claims that the leaked DEA agent video showing him shooting himself in the leg amounted to a violation of his privacy rights.

The DEA agent video shows Lee Paige holding a gun and saying, "I am the only one in the room professional enough, that I know of, to carry this Glock 40." Ironically, he proceeds to accidentally shoot himself in the leg immediately after. After the video was leaked on the internet, Paige claims that he became the "target of jokes, derision, ridicule, and disparaging comments" everywhere he went.

'Dr. Phil's' Nude Man Lawsuit Can Go Forward

A California appeals court has ruled against the "Dr. Phil" show in a strange and convoluted legal matter involving a naked man on Dr. Phil. The court found that the plaintiffs have a probability of prevailing on their claim, and therefore have a right to proceed. That means that the case may head to trial. It appeared initially that CBS might win the case by arguing that its conduct was protected free speech. However, the 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed a significant portion of that decision, allowing the case to proceed.

However the court did throw out the negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims due to the releases they signed before appearing on the show. "Dr. Phil" McGraw and producers, including CBS, were sued by several women who allege that they were falsely imprisoned and forced to remain in a room with a naked man. It was part of a 2007 episode of "The Dr. Phil House," a sort of spinoff of the "Dr. Phil" show.

Ohio Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Banning Assault Weapons

Gun rights advocates continue to celebrate.

In a move that strengthens the stance of gun rights, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled to uphold a 2006 law that prevents cities and other local municipalities from enforcing stricter gun laws than the state. In particular, the city of Cleveland's stricter gun laws were found to be in violation of this law.

The main issue was whether Cleveland's more restrictive gun laws can be overridden by Ohio's less restrictive gun laws.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the Ohio State Supreme Court ruled that the statewide gun laws were needed in order to spare gun owners from "a confusing patchwork of licensing requirements, possession restrictions and criminal penalties as they travel from one jurisdiction to another."

California Supreme Court Allows Warrantless Cellphone Searches

The California Supreme Court has ruled that police can conduct a cell phone search on a suspect's cellphone without a warrant. The Court held that police in the Golden State have the authority to look at text messages on a cell phone that is found on the person of a criminal suspect.

The case dealt with whether police needed a warrant to conduct a cell phone search of suspect Gregory Diaz. Diaz was arrested in 2007 on suspicion of selling the drug Ecstasy to an informant in the backseat of his car. When police conducted a search on his cell phone, one of the texts that police found read: "6 4 80." The text possibly refers to a sale price of $80 for 6 pills.

New York Gets $10 Million in Pension Fund Kickback Settlement

The New York Attorney General's office and former Obama "auto czar" Steven Rattner have settled their case for a $10 million fine. Rattner allegedly participated in a quid pro quo pension fund kickback scheme with officials who directed money from the state's pension to Quadrangel, according to CNN Money. In addition to the fine, Rattner has also been banned from appearing in front of another pension fund for a period of five years.

Steven Rattner had stepped down from Quadrangle early last year after Obama brought him in to oversee the reorganization of the struggling U.S. auto industry. However, Rattner's time with the government was short lived, as he stepped down from the position after word got out regarding his alleged participation in the pension fund kickback scheme.

Exonerated Man Wrongfully Imprisoned 23 Years Gets $25,000

How much would you expect to be paid if you were wrongly incarcerated on a murder conviction for 23 years? A million dollars? Five million? Twenty million?

What about $25,000? That's the sum that the newly exonerated man, Robert Lee Stinson, has received. That figure works out to about $90 a month. The Wisconsin Claims Board, which handles such decisions, has filed a request for an additional $90,000, The Wisconsin State Journal reports. They noted that the award was inadequate, but their hands were tied by the law.