Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Eighth Circuit
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My home state is burning and it is a disturbing sight to behold. Protestors, mad about the death of an unarmed teenager, are tearing down their own neighborhood. Police officers, defending one of their own, are hiding the officer's identify and responding in a militaristic fashion against unarmed citizens and reporters.

Let's be very clear here, we're not taking a side, but with so many videos and accounts of seemingly unconstitutional acts by local law enforcement, lawyers may be wondering along with us: how would one defend some of these violations?

Missouri doesn't use the two-drug protocol that left a man in Ohio gasping and convulsing during his execution, and stretched an Arizona man's execution to nearly two hours. And it doesn't use propofol, the drug that killed Michael Jackson, though it tried. (The drug manufacturer threatened to stop selling it stateside before Missouri backed down.)

Since October, the Show-Me State uses only one drug, pentobarbital, which it obtains from a compound pharmacy at $11,000 a hit. And so far, it works: seven executions this year so far, which according to Time, is a record-setting pace for the state.

Qualified immunity is the boon of government entities facing civil rights lawsuits under 42 USC § 1983. The hallmark of qualified immunity is that it "provides ample protection to all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law." It's designed to shield the government -- which usually ends up meaning "police officers" -- when government agents make honest mistakes about unsettled legal issues.

Now you can add this to the canon of acceptable police practice: Dropping off a questionably drunk man in the middle of the night in freezing weather and hoping everything goes swell.

Spoiler alert: The man died of hypothermia.

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Politics. We can't seem to respect each other's differences when it comes to politics. Some of us are also having a hard time drawing a line between politics and religion. As these issues come up constantly in the news, two cases in the Eighth Circuit bring up these issues.

And in less divisive news, the Eighth Circuit recently upheld a trade dress verdict for Hallmark Cards. Should we send the company a congratulatory card?

The controversy stirred up by the botched execution of Clayton D. Lockett in Oklahoma has left states asking -- in my humble opinion -- the wrong question. Rather than reexamining the moral implications of a society that allows the death penalty to exist as a legal means of punishment, states are trying to figure out how to kill people.

Some states are going back to the electric chair, while others ponder the firing squad, reports The Associated Press. So Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is proposing something new -- something akin to a very popular show on AMC about a chemistry teacher who becomes a drug dealer, which will remain nameless.

Russell Bucklew was on death row and his execution was scheduled for Wednesday, but because of last minute legal maneuvers, was put off.

After a stay was granted, lifted and put back into place, a full Supreme Court decided to grant a stay pending further appeals. Here's a detailed look at the situation.

One week ago, Arkansas became the 22nd state in the United States to give the green light to same sex marriage, says Bloomberg. On Monday, same sex couples waited in line outside county court houses to obtain marriage licenses. But, some counties didn't issue licenses citing confusion.

As parties on both sides of the issue scramble for clarity, one question now remains: will the court's decision be stayed?

Vouching for Your Clients -- A $900,000 Mistake

This month, in the case of Gilster v. Primebank, the Eighth Circuit upheld the long-standing rule that lawyers cannot vouch for their clients.

The Facts

This was a sexual harassment case. Plaintiff claimed that Joseph Strub, her supervisor at Primebank in Sioux City, Iowa, made comments about her legs, placed his arm on her shoulders, told her that they should hook up, pressed his pelvis against her backside, massaged her shoulders, and told her to bend over and show more bra to bring in more customers. Defense admitted that when the plaintiff inquired about a bonus in front of colleagues at a meeting, Strubs told her to take out her teeth (she wears dentures), come to his office and close the door.

Constitutional precedent is clear. The Roe v. Wade Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause provides a qualified right to women to terminate a pregnancy. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court reiterated that before viability (generally understood to be 24 weeks), a State's "interests are not strong enough to support an abortion prohibition or the imposition of substantial obstacles to the woman's effective right to elect the procedure."

Nonetheless, many states continue to pass legislation that appears to be facially unconstitutional. Arkansas is one of them.

Quite a few cases making the rounds in the Eighth Circuit are making headlines and deal with everything from Wizard of Oz merchandise, to kosher hot dogs. Here's a breakdown in the latest news out of the Eighth Circuit.

Iowa Campaign Finance Ban

In 2013, the Eighth Circuit upheld an Iowa law that "allow[s] for independent expenditures by corporations and unions but ... ban[s] ... direct contributions to candidates and committees by corporations," reports Reuters. An anti-abortion group challenged the ban, and petitioned for writ of certiorari, which the Supreme Court denied on Monday. This is highly interesting light of the Court's ruling last week in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission; it shows the Court has said all that it wants to for now on campaign finance.