Court Rules News - U.S. First Circuit
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When it rains, it pours. The First Circuit is not usually a very busy circuit to report on, but it happens to have a lot going on right now. Rather than focusing on once case, we thought we'd give you the scoop on the biggest headlines in the First Circuit.

Sex Changes Hearing En Banc

Just a month ago we reported that the First Circuit affirmed a district court's ruling that an inmate's gender reassignment surgery is medically necessary. Now, the court has granted a motion for rehearing en banc with the full panel of the First Circuit, and a new hearing is scheduled for May 8, 2014, reports The Boston Globe.

1st Cir. Judge Bruce Selya Speaks About FISA Court

Curiosity and controversy continues to mount over the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.

Bruce Selya, senior federal judge on the First Circuit, gave a talk this week on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, explaining the inner workings of the secret court.

The lecture, entitled "The View from Inside the FISA Courts," was the first in a series of security seminars sponsored by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University as part of its ongoing expansion and redesign.

Rhode Island Judge Streamlines Massive Foreclosure Mediation Docket

U.S. District Judge John J. McConnell Jr. issued an order to streamline the handling of his massive foreclosure mediation docket involving hundreds of cases. The order came after the First Circuit Court of Appeals ordered specific limits on the amount of court time and money that can be spent on handling the mediation process.

Each case will get one bite at the mediation apple -- and many oranges parties won't even get that.

December is not known for ground-breaking legal decisions, especially in light of the very few precedential decisions issued lately. So, in honor of end-of-the-year clean up, and general "keeping yourself busy," we're giving you the run down on some changes to rules and fees.

Courts are creatures of habit. They like to stick to precedent, and have a hard time changing course. Last week, the First Circuit had to give the district courts in the circuit some guidance on the new "plausibility" standards in federal civil pleadings.

SCOTUS to Hear 1st Cir. Case on Attorneys' Fees and Filing Appeals

A First Circuit Court of Appeals case headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, Ray Haluch Gravel v. Central Pension Fund, raises the question of whether a federal district court's ruling on the merits that leaves unresolved a request for contractual attorneys' fees is a final decision -- and thus appealable under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 -- or whether the decision is not appealable until the court has ruled on contractual attorneys' fees.

The parties: a Massachusetts landscaping company and a union. The amount in question: $350,000 in alleged unpaid union contributions and attorney fees. How did this modest dispute manage to get plucked from certiorari obscurity and wind up on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 docket?

Class Action Residuals Civ Pro Rule Change: Your Input Is Wanted

The Supreme Judicial Court's Rules Committee would like you to weigh in on proposed amendments to Rule 23(e) of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure.

The proposed amendments would require that at least fifty percent (50%) of class action residual funds be given to the Massachusetts IOLTA Committee to "support activities and programs that promote access to the civil justice system" for low income Massachusetts residents, according to the notice.

Airport Body Scanner Lawsuit Moot After Software Upgrade: 1st Cir.

In the realm of airport body scanner lawsuits, pro se plaintiff-appellants Jeffrey H. Redfern and Anant N. Pradhan filed a constitutional claim against the TSA’s use of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) body scanners and enhanced pat-downs.

But the case has been tossed as moot by the First Circuit Court of Appeals because of a software upgrade.

Due to the upgrade, the AIT scanners used at passenger screening checkpoints no longer generate the TMI images of passengers’ bodies that spawned this lawsuit; instead, they have been displaying a generic outline of a person for all passengers.

Political patronage is a dirty word to many. It is one of the principles of the American Idea that in this land of opportunity, we'll choose the best person for the job, no matter their political affiliation. For about a century after our modern Constitutional government was formed, patronage was the name of the game and each change in administration meant a massive civil service turnover, and of course, corrupt bargains and payoffs for positions.

The Feds fixed the issue in 1883 with the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. Puerto Rico had its own remedy, the Public Service Human Resources Administration Act of Puerto Pico, which espoused "merit principles" over patronage.

No Comment: Local Rule 35.0 Becomes Effective

You probably grew up hearing the saying, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” (We’ve always preferred the Alice Roosevelt variation, “If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me,” but the advantages of that theory are a discussion for another time.)

Today, we’re considering if the converse of the “don’t say anything at all” adage is true in the context of federal court rules: If people don’t say anything, does it mean that they didn’t have anything nice to say? If so, then no one had anything nice to say about the amendments to the First Circuit Court of Appeals’ Local Rule 35.0. Despite a request in June for public comments on proposed amendments to the En Banc Determination rule, the public failed to respond with opinions about the changes.

Maybe it’s because the changes were non-substantive.