August 2011 Court Decisions: Decided
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August 2011 Archives

Citizens Have Right to Videotape Police Arrests, 1st Circuit Rules

As stories have surfaced detailing arrests based solely on the recording of law enforcement, there has been some concern over whether or not it is legal to videotape police.

Though a number of states (FL, IL, MA, MD, NH) have used wiretapping and eavesdropping statutes to answer this question in the negative, last week's decision by the First Circuit in Glik v. Cunniffe came to a different conclusion.

Honing in on a group of cases throughout the varying circuits, the court found that there is a "constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public."

Eyewitness ID Evidence Changed by Landmark NJ Supreme Court Decision

The New Jersey Supreme Court handed down State v. Henderson on Wednesday, a landmark decision changing the way its state courts handle eyewitness identifications in criminal trials.

Citing the inherent unreliability of eyewitness IDs, the opportunity for police misconduct, and the inability of jurors to fully understand these issues, the court ordered judges to conduct in-depth pretrial hearings and to provide juries with enhanced instructions.

IL Jury Acquits Woman Facing 15 Years for Recording Talk with Cops

When Tiawanda Moore secretly taped a conversation with two Chicago police officers, she had no idea that she would soon be indicted on criminal charges under an obscure Illinois eavesdropping law.

Prohibiting the recording of public conversations without permission, the statute punishes offenders with up to 15 years in prison when law enforcement is involved.

On Wednesday, a jury acquitted the 20-year-old of all charges.

Michigan Marijuana Law: Sale of Pot Between Patients is Illegal

Brandon McQueen and Matthew Taylor, owners of Compassionate Apothecary, a dispensary in Mount Pleasant, were on the losing end of a state appellate court ruling on Tuesday, which found that Michigan's medical marijuana law does not permit the sale of pot between patients.

As such, the dispensary was found to be in violation of the state's public health code and marijuana drug laws, allowing officials to shut it down as a public nuisance.

NC Must Honor Planned Parenthood Contract Pending Lawsuit

Banned from receiving state and federal funds distributed under the North Carolina budget, a federal judge ordered the state legislature to restore Planned Parenthood funding on Friday while a lawsuit over the issue continues to progress.

Pursuant to an existing contract, North Carolina was set to provide the family planning organization and its affiliates with $212,000 during the 2011-12 fiscal year, but as a result of a June law, the Department of Health and Human Services was prohibited from transferring the funds.

The California Supreme Court has ruled personal injury plaintiffs cannot seek billed medical costs over actual costs paid by their insurers.

The case started when Rebecca Howell, the plaintiff, was injured in an automobile accident. She sued the defendant, Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc., in a personal injury lawsuit seeking damages for her medical expenses.

Howell and her surgeon testified that she had spent $189,978.63 in medical expenses at the time of the trial, according to the court's opinion. Hamilton, however, sought a reduction in damages in the amount of $130,286.90, representing the portion of Howell's medical bills that were either waived or discounted.

Racy Facebook Photos Protected by Constitution, Ind. Court Rules

When a group of teenage girls attending Churubusco High School in Indiana spent a summer sleepover posting racy Facebook photos of themselves interacting with multicolored phallic lollipops, they had no idea that their behavior would soon be the subject of a lawsuit.

But when the school got wind of the photos, the girls were suspended from extracurricular activities for part of the upcoming school year, forcing them to file suit.

And last week, a federal judge in Indiana agreed with the teens, finding that off-campus racy Facebook photos are indeed entitled to First Amendment protection.

Miss. School May Be Liable in 4th Grader's Rape: 5th Cir. Rules

In a potentially important ruling for those seeking to improve school safety, the 5th Circuit has ruled that Covington Elementary School in Mississippi may be held liable for the off-campus sexual assault of a 4th grader known only as Jane Doe.

The school allegedly released the 9-year-old to the unauthorized man on six different occasions, violating its own policy by failing to check his credentials against an approved list provided by Jane's guardians.

Her parents allege that this failure violated the girl's substantive due process rights to personal safety.

Wisc. Transgender Inmates Must Be Given Hormones: 7th Cir.

A group of transgender inmates in Wisconsin will now be entitled to receive hormone replacement therapy as a result of a 7th Circuit ruling striking down a state statute that prohibits the Wisconsin Department of Corrections from providing hormone replacement therapy.

Comparing the denial of such medical treatment to torture, the court concluded that the Wisconsin law violates the 8th Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment, and that the state put forth no rational basis on which to deny the treatment.

Torture Suit Against Rumsfeld Can Go Forward: Fed. Judge

U.S. District Judge James Gwin has given another Rumsfeld torture suit the go ahead, allowing an army veteran and American contractor to sue the former Defense Secretary for torture the plaintiff underwent while being held captive in Iraq.

Reiterating that the Supreme Court has long held that United States citizens are entitled to constitutional protections abroad, the judge blasted the government's arguments against the suit, finding that the plaintiff has no other legal recourse.

HS Suspension for Online Bullying Upheld by 4th Cir.

A federal appeals court has recently upheld a student's suspension for internet bullying. The 4th Circuit's cyberbullying case, concerning a West Virginia student, ruled that the student's First Amendment rights were not violated when school officials punished her for creating a website from home.

The student in question, Kara Kowalski, had created a website called "S.A.S.H." from her home computer in 2005.

She said that the acronym stood for "Students Against Sluts Herpes," and that it was about STD awareness, but classmates said the acronym really stood for "Students Against Shay's Herpes." Shay N. was a student at the high school that Kowalski attended.

Florida's Drug Law Unconstitutional: Lacks Element of Intent

A U.S. District Judge has ruled that the Florida drug law is unconstitutional. Judge Mary Scriven declared that the drug law violates the constitution because the Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act has no intent requirement.

In 2002, the Florida legislature essentially eliminated the "mens rea," or intent requirement of the drug law.

Essentially, the Florida drug law made it so that offenders could be convicted of a drug offense such as possession or distribution regardless of their mental state.