U.S. First Circuit

U.S. First Circuit - The FindLaw 1st Circuit Court of Appeals News and Information Blog


Back in October, a federal judge in Puerto Rico bucked the same-sex marriage trend by declaring that the island wouldn't be going the way of almost every other court in holding same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional.

Last Friday, though, Judge Perez-Gimenez's decision became a lot less relevant. Puerto Rico announced that it would no longer enforce its same-sex marriage ban.

Following an en banc reversal of fortune, Michelle Kosilek was denied the ability to have a sex-change operation paid for by the Massachusetts Department of Correction. Both a federal district court and a three-judge panel of the First Circuit agreed that the state should pay, but the en banc court reversed.

Now, Kosilek is taking her case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"[T]he district court's definition just won't fly," Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson wrote in not even the first of several puns in a case about making a false report of a bomb threat on an airplane.

In a 2-1 split, a First Circuit panel reversed a former flight attendant's conviction for making false threats, finding the federal district court erred when it defined "malice" for the jury as not requiring an "evil purpose."

Three times, attorneys for alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal district court in Boston to change the venue for the trial, arguing that he couldn't get a fair shake in the city where the bombing took place in 2013. The district court denied his request, which meant the ball ended up in the First Circuit's court.

On February 27, a split panel denied Tsarnaev's petition for a writ of mandamus -- again -- acknowledging that "any high-profile case will receive significant media attention" but nevertheless concluding that Tsarnaev didn't meet the criteria for showing "clear and indisputable, irreparable harm."

Jury selection begins today in the most talked-about trial of the year, the murder trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who stands accused of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured more than 260.

Rarely has just the jury selection of a case brought with it such media attention -- but then again, this is the Boston bombing case. To fuel your desire for news about what's going on, here are five fast and interesting facts as jury selection gets underway:

1st Cir. Year in Review: Top 10 Stories of 2014

The First Circuit. It's one of my personal favorites because of the judges themselves -- from the logoleptic Senior Judge Bruce Selya to the talented storytelling Judge Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson.

What were the year's most exciting stories from the First Circuit? From sex changes to strip clubs to Fidelity's fiduciary duties, these were the 10 most popular posts, in terms of traffic, for 2014:

No Sexual Reassignment Surgery for Inmate: En Banc 1st Cir.

Michelle Kosilek, born as Robert, is a transgender individual who identifies as female and who wishes for her physical sex to match her gender. The problem is, she murdered her wife in 1990.

The Massachusetts Department of Correction does not wish to pay for sexual reassignment surgery. Kosilek argues that not doing so amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. She has twice previously attempted suicide and self-castration (all while awaiting trial for murder) and lesser treatments (hormones and psychotherapy) have not relieved her mental anguish over her gender identity disorder.

In 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf ordered the state to pay for the surgery. Earlier this year, a split First Circuit panel upheld that decision, 2-1. But today, an en banc court reversed in an opinion penned by the original panel's dissenter, while the two majority judges from the prior panel decision penned dissents.

Lawsuit Against Anti-Gay Pastor Over Ugandan Activism May Proceed

Scott Lively has traveled the world speaking up against the "gay agenda." He has given speeches everywhere from Oregon, to Moscow, to Kampala. But it was his speeches in Uganda that had the greatest impact.

After giving a series of lectures on how homosexuals supposedly prey on children, Ugandan officials passed an extremely harsh anti-gay law that makes homosexuality a crime punishable by life in prison in some instances (earlier drafts included death as a penalty). After the bill was passed, waves of vigilante violence swept the country against suspected gay individuals.

Now, he'll face a crimes-against-humanity lawsuit over his contribution to the fervor after the First Circuit denied his request for a writ of mandamus to dismiss the lawsuit, reports The Republican.

When Joca-Roca Real Estate and Robert Brennan entered into a contract back in 2005, the contract contained an arbitration clause. No biggie: Arbitration clauses are everywhere, especially now that we know they trump state contract law in some important ways.

But what else do they trump? Do they trump the common law doctrine of waiver? No, they don't, said the First Circuit Court of Appeal in a case decided Monday.

In response to a series of violent crimes, Puerto Rico enacted a law allowing municipalities to erect gates enclosing public streets. The gates were manned by security guards, and those that weren't staffed by humans required a resident key to enter.

So, who's claiming that these gates infringe on their right to evangelize door-to-door? Drum roll, please ... it's Jehovah's Witnesses!