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8th Circuit to Review American Sniper 'Scruff Face' Award

Jesse Ventura's defamation suit has landed at the doorstep of the 8th Circuit. Although the final decision is potentially months away, legal scholars and big business are already at the sidelines waiting with bated breath.

The lawsuit is a direct result of an account that Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (now deceased) claimed took place in a California bar in 2006. In his book, Kyle claimed that the then anonymous "celebrity" Navy SEAL known only as "Scruff Face" spoke offensively about the SEALs and that Kyle just had to straighten him out. The stakes? Only what must be proven to support a defamation claim and the very limits of what is protected speech in America. Opinion pieces on the legal implications make for stimulating reading.

By the way, "Scruff Face" is Ventura.

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?

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.

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.

The NFL Players Association has submitted its briefs to the Eight Circuit regarding the overturned suspension of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson was suspended by the NFL after he was accused of physically abusing his son. A district court reversed that suspension, finding that the NFL's domestic abuse policy was new and couldn't be retroactively applied to actions Peterson took in the past.

The NFL's appeal of that ruling is now currently pending in the Eight Circuit. In their filings, the Players Association -- essentially a union for NFL athletes -- argues, unsurprisingly, that the district court was correct in throwing out Peterson's suspension.

Judge Myron Bright has sat on the Eighth Circuit longer than many of those reading this have been alive. For 47 years, Bright has served on the court, continuing to hear cases and author opinions to this day. Needless to say, he's the longest-serving judge in the history of the circuit. At 95 years old, he has no plans to retire anytime soon. Instead, he will continue to hear up to 50 cases this year.

Bright's good friend and then-senator, Quentin Burdick, recommended him for a judgeship to President Lyndon Johnson. According to Bright, LBJ chose him over Robert F. Kennedy for the seat. Over his years on the court, Judge Bright has made significant rulings, particularly in the realm of employment discrimination and environmental law.

Family of Michael Brown Sues City of Ferguson, Darren Wilson

As expected, the family of Michael Brown filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Ferguson, Missouri, its former police chief, and former police officer Darren Wilson.

Brown was killed by Wilson in an altercation last year, which began the most recent national conversation about young black men being shot by white police officers. A grand jury declined to indict Wilson for Brown's death, leading to accusations that the prosecution stacked the evidence in Wilson's favor, and then to protests in Ferguson and elsewhere.

Infamous pornographer Larry Flynt may be allowed to intervene in two Missouri death penalty cases and access previously sealed records following a ruling by the Eight Circuit today. The cases challenged the constitutionality of Missouri's execution methods.

Flynt, who gained notoriety as the outspoken founder of Hustler magazine, sought to intervene in the lawsuits as a publisher and death penalty opponent. Intervention could give him access to documents previously sealed by the court, including the identities of participants in the states' executions. Joseph Franklin, who shot and paralyzed Flynt in 1978, was also a party to the suits before he was executed for other crimes in 2013.

Judge Kermit Bye Sets Senior Status Date: April 22, 2015

Arrivederci, Judge Kermit Bye!

On Wednesday, the Eighth Circuit judge's office confirmed that Bye will assume senior status this spring -- April 22, to be exact -- in order to reduce his caseload and spend more time with his family, The Associated Press reports. The move will be on the 15th anniversary of his appointment to the Eighth Circuit bench (April 22, 2000).

Though Judge Bye surely has had a number of significant opinions over the years, his lambasting of the State of Missouri in two recent death penalty cases -- both of which ended in executions before the federal courts could review the inmates' final challenges -- were especially passionate and memorable.

SCOTUS Will Hear At Least 5 Cases From 8th Cir. This Term

Predictably, the Ninth Circuit leads the pack so far in cert. grants with eight, but who's No. 2? If you guessed the Fifth Circuit, you'd be wrong: It's the Eighth!

That many from North Dakota? Iowa? Arkansas? Yup, the Court will hear five cases from the Eighth Circuit this term (at least so far). Here they are: