People and Events News - U.S. Eleventh Circuit
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It's been a slow week in the Eleventh Circuit. Last week, though, was a doozey. A Florida judge ruled the state's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Alabama's Supreme Court said that injured consumers could go after brand-name pharmaceutical companies for problems caused by generics (provoking no small amount of controversy).

With high courts in each state in the Eleventh remaining quiet, this week we have some (alleged) Chinese hackers and a class action lawsuit.

Hot on the heels of a similar ruling in Mississippi last week, a federal judge in Alabama has also declared part of the state's abortion law unconstitutional.

As in Mississippi, the issue in Alabama was the constitutionality of a state law requiring doctors administering abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. (Laws requiring admitting privileges are being used to try to eliminate access to abortions in several states, mainly in the South.)

Judge Myron Thompson's 172-page opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Strange found that the Alabama's Women's Health and Safety Act of 2013 is an "impermissible undue burden" that would "have the striking result of closing three of Alabama's five abortion clinics, clinics which perform only early abortions, long before viability."

In a 2-1 decision, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Florida statute prohibiting doctors from asking about patients' gun ownership. The Eleventh Circuit's opinion reverses a controversial District Court decision -- known in the media as "Docs v. Glocks" -- that found the law unconstitutional.

The Firearm Owners Privacy Act, passed in 2011, prevents a physician from inquiring into a patient's firearm ownership unless that ownership is relevant to the patient's medical care. Violation of the law could lead to a physician's license being suspended or revoked, along with a $10,000 fine.

The statute followed an American Medical Association policy enactment encouraging doctors to talk to patients about firearms in homes with children, according to The Christian Science Monitor. Almost immediately after the law's passage, several doctors and medical organizations sued the state of Florida, alleging that the law infringed on their First Amendment free speech rights.

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We've been following this story for way too long, since the "West Wing-like deal" rumors started swirling back in September.

With as many as four vacancies to fill on the Eleventh Circuit bench (out of twelve seats total), and with his nominee of choice to a three-years-vacant seat, Jill Pryor, blocked by two Georgia Republican senators, President Barack Obama reached across the aisle and forged a bipartisan compromise: two Democratic choices for three Republican choices.

The rumored deal and nominations went through, but confirmation is a whole different issue, and it's not looking good for one of the district court appointees: Judge Michael Boggs of the Georgia Court of Appeals.

This is not a distinction worth bragging about.

The Center for Public Integrity recently reviewed three years' worth of judicial financial disclosures to determine how often, if ever, judges heard cases despite a conflict of interest. While some might argue that any conflicts are too many conflicts, the results weren't completely damning of our federal appeals court system: 26 missed conflicts over three years, out of how many cases? Tens of thousands?

Still, the Eleventh Circuit in particular had a rough time, with a nation-leading seven missed conflicts, four from Judge James Hill alone, plus one shining example of how a judge should deal with such a mistake.

Scenario #1: You took a DUI defense case for a fixed fee. She's a first time offender, no record, barely over the limit, but the case is strong. It's probably going to plead out, right? This case should not take a lot of time, except someone needs to spend hours answering every single one of her questions. You know this type of client -- the freaked out emails/phone calls/texts come every hour.

Scenario #2: There are fourteen courthouses in Miami, Florida, some state, some federal. Your client has both a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge, and a child custody dispute. Somehow, he ended up at the federal courthouse. How do you get him where he needs to go?

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The seat was Judge William Thomas's, until it wasn't. He was approved by both Florida senators, vetted, and appeared set for the nomination to replace now-Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Adalberto Jordan. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) had a change of heart and blue-slip blocked the nomination, allegedly due to Judge Thomas's "judicial temperament" and doubt about his ability to hand out fair sentences.

Many believe the move was political, and due to Judge Thomas's sexual orientation.

There won't be a change of heart, it seems, as the district court seat is now set to be filled by Judge Robin Rosenberg (not to be confused with Judge Robin Rosenbaum, who was recently nominated to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals bench after a few years with the district court). She comes to the federal court from the state court bench.

We've been over and over the deal between the Obama Administration and Georgia Republicans that will place three of the latter's picks on the district court, and one on the Circuit Court of Appeals, in exchange for two Obama appointments to the Circuit Court and one to the district court.

Diversity proponents were immediately outraged by the Republicans' nominations, but one nominee in particular has drawn groups' ire for his actions as a state legislator: Judge Michael Boggs.

AG Strange Inducted Into ALF Fellows Program by 11th Cir. Judge Bill Pryor

Attorney General Luther Strange was recently inducted into the Fellows program of the Alabama Law Foundation.

Strange was nominated by former Attorney General William Holcombe Pryor, who now serves as a judge for the Eleventh Circuit. Yes, he's the same Judge Pryor embroiled in a nude photo scandal.

But what is the Fellows program and, more importantly, why aren't you a member?

We knew that the rumored deal had been struck, and that the bipartisan nominees were pending, and we heard some rumblings about diversity concerns a few months back.

Even still, the latest out of Georgia came as a bit of a surprise. On Monday, civil rights leaders called for President Barack Obama to withdraw his nominees for judicial vacancies in the Eleventh Circuit, particularly two nominees in for Georgia-based federal district courts, citing one candidate's approval of a Confederate battle emblem on the state flag, and another candidate's support of a controversial state voter ID law.