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

October 2011 Archives

USD Law School to Host Eighth Circuit Oral Arguments on Oct. 26

The Ninth Circuit isn’t the only appellate court to take its show on the road. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on October 26, at the University of South Dakota School of Law.

The three-judge panel doing the honors is Chief Judge William Riley, Judge Roger Wollman, and Judge Arlen Beam, reports the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan.

The panel will hear oral arguments in three cases:

Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Hangs by Eleventh Amendment Thread

Judges are usually deciding outcomes in the wrongful termination cases we review; but today, we have a judge who is the defendant in a federal wrongful termination lawsuit.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals will soon determine if the lawsuit is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.

Lynn Helbing worked as the secretary for the presiding judge of the Tenth Judicial Circuit for the State of Missouri for over 20 years without incident or discipline; when Circuit Judge Rachel Bringer was appointed as presiding judge, that changed.

Westboro Baptist Church Wins One Court, Loses One in Life

Another week, another Westboro Baptist Church case. This week, Shirley Phelps-Roper won an injunction in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to halt enforcement of the Nebraska Funeral Picketing Law (NFPL).

The NFPL restricts picketing at a funeral from one hour before the funeral until two hours afterward. Picketing is defined as "protest activities ... within three hundred feet of a cemetery, mortuary, church or other place of worship during a funeral." The NFPL does not apply to "funeral processions on public streets or highways." The law, passed in 2006, was likely promulgated with Westboro Baptist Church protests in mind.

Eighth Circuit Permits Downward Variance Absent Fast Track Program

Fast Track programs, which offer shorter sentences in exchange for expedited plea and sentencing procedures, became popular in the ’90s when U.S. Attorneys began implementing the programs to help manage an exploding volume of immigration-related cases.

Eastern Missouri, however, does not have a Fast Track program, which raises an interesting question: Should defendants in regions that lack Fast Track programs automatically receive harsher sentences than their law-breaking counterparts in Fast Track regions?

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a change of heart, ruled this week that courts should not categorically deny a defendant a downward variance based on the unavailability of Fast Track programs.

Prison Guard Loses Unreasonable Search Claim in Eighth Circuit

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a Fourth Amendment unreasonable search claim from a fired Nebraska prison guard this week, finding that the district court’s decision did not warrant further review.

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) employed the guard, Brian True at the Lincoln Correction Center (LCC) from 1995 until 2007.

True was advised when he was hired that DCS conducts unannounced searches of employees’ vehicles in its parking lots to prevent contraband from entering the prison. The DCS employee handbook, which True received and agreed to read, states that “vehicles parked on state property are subject to search at any time,” and that refusal “to submit to a search may constitute grounds for disciplinary action and/or suspension.”

Lethal Injection Changes Don't Violate Ex Post Facto Clause

We're pretty wimpy when faced with anything that might be slightly uncomfortable, so we tend to be fierce advocates of anesthesia and pain killers. The Arkansas Department of Corrections (DOC), by contrast, takes a more relaxed approach to pain.

Last week, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Arkansas prisoners ex post facto clause appeal and upheld an Arkansas law granting the DOC Director discretion in state's lethal injection procedures.

Westboro Baptist Church Protests Win Again

Westboro Baptist Church protests can continue in Manchester, Missouri.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that Manchester cannot enforce a local ordinance banning protests near funerals.

Manchester adopted the ordinance in response to Westboro Baptist Church protests. The group, mainly comprised of members of the Phelps-Roper family, protests at soldiers' funerals with signs containing messages like "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "Thank God for 9/11," reports the AP.

Probation Violation Punishment Can Exceed Guidelines Range

Is a five-year prison sentence that exceeds the federal sentencing guidelines range excessive punishment for aiding and abetting tax return and Pell grant fraud?

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals says that it is not.

A district court sentenced Ronald Shepard to five years of probation in February 2009 after he pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the filing of a false tax return and Pell Grant fraud. Shepard's probation officer subsequently notified the court that Shepard had violated three conditions of his probation: (1) that he not be "employed in any capacity in which he would act in a fiduciary capacity"; (2) that he not commit a federal, state, or local crime; and (3) that he answer truthfully all inquiries of his probation officer.