U.S. Eighth Circuit

U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Has the Eighth Circuit lost it? Or is it just the one voice of reason in our appellate courts? Why do we ask?

The Eighth Circuit has ruled that Obamacare's contraception opt out -- the part of the Affordable Care Act that allows religious nonprofits to avoid directly providing contraception to their employees -- violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and burdens employers' exercise of religion. In its two rulings issued Thursday, the Eighth stands alone. Similar arguments have been rejected by seven other circuit courts.

Supreme Court here we come!

It was Gay Marriage Day in the Eighth Circuit last Tuesday. No, there wasn't any extra same-sex nuptials, parades, or celebrations. Rather, the circuit court took Tuesday to formally strike down the same-sex marriage bans, following the Supreme Court's ruling nine weeks ago.

As a result of this decision, the same-sex marriage bans in South Dakota, Arkansas, and Nebraska are just about finito. Of course, that doesn't mean the controversial issue is entirely settled. Some county clerks in nearby states are refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, while gay rights advocates are now moving to challenge other discriminatory laws and practices.

In June, the Eighth Circuit struck down an Arkansas law banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. A few weeks later, the circuit tossed a similar law in North Dakota. In both cases, the Eighth Circuit ruled reluctantly, lamenting that it was bound by Supreme Court precedent.

Now, the ridicule has started rolling in, not because of the Court's holding, but because of the opinions themselves. The opinion in the North Dakota case, authored by Judge Bobby Shepherd, has been particularly targeted. Slate described it as "anti-science." The Economist said it read more like "novice high-school debate speech than a ruling by a federal appellate judge." What's all the hubbub about?

Facebook is not your friend or confidant. It does not keep your secrets. So, it's probably a bad idea to broadcast your potential crimes all over the social network. Too many bungling criminals learn this the hard way, whether it's taunting the police online, posting from stolen electronics, or simply contradicting court testimony.

Brandy Lemons was no different. After Lemons was diagnosed with a pain disorder that limited her activities, she began receiving disability payments from the Social Security Administration. Yet, despite her debilitating condition, Lemons' Facebook showed her hunting game with a bow and riding an ATV.

After a Missouri health care worker was subject to several instances of physical and verbal harassment from a patient, she sued her employer. Chavonya Watson argued that Heartland Health Laboratories created a hostile working environment by failing to protect her from the third party harassment.

The Eighth Circuit, however, was unconvinced. the court found that, even if an employer could be held responsible for a third party, the harassment alleged was too fleeting to have created a hostile work environment, having occurred for just moments at a time.

Not everyone can transition between politics and the silver screen as easily as Arnold Schwarzenegger -- or even Al Franken. Former Arkansas governor and perennial presidential candidate Mike Huckabee hasn't had an easy go of it.

In a case of "I Don't Heart Huckabee," the politician is facing a $5 million class action lawsuit alleging that he violated telemarketing laws by sending millions of prerecorded robocalls promoting the 2012 flop "Last Ounce of Courage." Huckabee's not getting any help from the Eighth Circuit, either, as that court just reversed a district court's dismissal and allowed the suit to go forward.

Julian Mitchell appealed his felon-in-possession charge with a classic argument: his mom was too mentally incompetent to consent to the search of her own house. The Eighth Circuit reviewed the appeal with an appropriate amount of sympathy for the poor guy.

The Eighth Circuit became the latest appellate court to strike down a state law banning abortions before viability last week. The court threw out an Arkansas law banning abortions after 12 weeks, reiterating the requirement that states may not unduly burden a woman's right to choose prior to fetal viability.

However, unlike its sister circuit to the west, the Eighth did not emphasis the arbitrary or burdensome nature of those bans. Rather, it lamented the lack of a scientific record in the case which may allow it to move the line of viability forward and, with a heavy wink and nudge to abortion opponents, discussed how scientific developments might reshape abortion law.

Nebraska Abolishes Death Penalty

Big news from Nebraska! The state legislature voted 30-19 to override the veto of Governor Pete Ricketts, thereby abolishing the death penalty in that state.

Nebraska is the first conservative state in 40 years to abolish the death penalty, The New York Times reported, and the vote cut across party lines.

A $42 million settlement between the National Football League and former players can go ahead following the Eighth Circuit's dismissal of a challenge by six dissenting players. The settlement attempted to bring to an end disagreement over the use of former player's likenesses and identities in promotional films.

A handful of players, led by Jim Marshall, objected to the compromise on the grounds that it did not provide direct payouts to former players, instead giving the millions to a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the health and welfare of retired players. The settlement effected over 25,000 class members -- though some of them might not remember to sign up. Loss of memory due to concussion, as well as other serious ailments, remains endemic among former NFL athletes.