U.S. Second Circuit - FindLaw

U.S. Second Circuit - The FindLaw 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog


The year was 2004. Paul Giamatti shined in "Sideways," a dramedy that would win the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Usher's "Yeah!," featuring rapper Ludacris and producer Lil Jon was tearing up the Billboard charts. And Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland was headed to prison after pleading guilty to accepting inappropriate gifts from individuals with contracts with the state.

Ten years later, I finally got around to watching "Sideways." (Dark, depressing, and hilarious.) And the former governor? He's headed back to prison after being convicted of another corrupt political deal -- a campaign finance violation for a losing congressional race. And while last time, Gov. Rowland only served 10 months, this time he faces up to 57 years, reports The New York Times.

Hey, we all do it, right? We reuse old legal documents to save time and money, typically clients' money. And once in a while, you'll forget to change a name or a gender-based pronoun somewhere around page 12. It happens.

But this goes a bit further than that: The Second Circuit has been copying and pasting what is arguably a misstatement of an immigration standard -- social visibility -- in a long series of unpublished opinions. After a law professor pointed this out in 2012, the court stopped. But recently, someone taking the copy-and-paste shortcut brought the snippet back from the grave, using it in three more cases this year.

Thirteen years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, some lawyers have certainly benefitted from a bevy of lawsuits, on issues ranging from negligence to freedom of religion to whether Saudi Arabia was partially responsible.

Here are some highlights from 13 years of lawsuits in the Second Circuit:

The Cross at Ground Zero

In the wreckage of the World Trade Center towers, crews found two steel beams that had formed the shape of a Latin cross. They called it "the cross at Ground Zero" and it eventually got placed in the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. An atheist group sued to get the cross removed from the museum, but the Second Circuit held that keeping the cross there didn't offend the Establishment Clause.

So, there's these Russians, right? And they had this ... defrauding the government thing. They'd sell medical equipment to the government at ridiculously inflated prices -- home whirlpools that cost about $30 were listed as costing $380 -- and they'd pocket the difference between the real cost and the fake cost, split it amongst co-conspirators, etc.

Hilariously, Vadim Yuzovitskiy and Grigory Groysman had been here before. They ran the same scam previously, Yuzovitskiy got caught, snitched on Groysman, and he snitched on everybody else. They testified that immediately after the case was closed, they opened a new office and went back to business as usual. When the sequel was inevitably discovered, the FBI went with their usual snitches and prosecuted the defendant, Lyubov Groysman, a woman who argues that she was simply a clerk, unaware of any scam or illegal activity.

Legally, that's all we know right now, because her conviction for being one of the main participants was just reversed for obvious, plain, ridiculous error. And the Second Circuit, mindful that not all cases will be this easy in the future, sent a little warning to prosecutors in the circuit.

Mohammed al-Qahtani was alleged to be the "20th hijacker" of the September 11, 2001 hijackings. He's been held at the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since 2002. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has attempted to use the Freedom of Information Act to get "certain videos and photographs" of al-Qahtani -- ostensibly images of him being tortured, which CCR claimed has been happening for the last 13 years.

Today, the Second Circuit affirmed a district court ruling denying CCR access to those documents on the ground that it could compromise national security.

Recent in events in Ferguson, Missouri have prompted questions about the militarization of police: why do SWAT teams need to be armed like they're going into Kandahar? Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals criticized this militant response in an appeal over police conduct during a drug raid -- although "drug raid" is a loose term.

In order to serve a search warrant on Ronald Terebesi, who was alleged to possess a small quantity of crack cocaine, "police planned to smash Terebesi's windows, detonate at least three stun grenades (or "flash bangs") inside the home, break down the front door with a battering ram, and storm the house with weapons drawn."

Ah, a bar association which doesn't take divisive stances that are likely to irk its members.

Connecticut lawmakers passed some pretty strict gun laws after the Newton tragedy. In Shew v. Malloy, a federal district court upheld the constitutionality of these new gun laws, and an appeal is working its way through the Second Circuit.

Connecticut's bar association initially voted to join the defense of the laws, but after a wee bit of backlash and a referendum, that's not happening any longer.

A class action lawsuit against the City of New York can proceed, the Second Circuit ruled today. The lawsuit began when hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1, 2011. Halfway across the bridge, they were trapped and arrested by police.

Police claimed the protesters were arrested for impeding traffic, but the protesters claimed that they were lured onto the bridge by police, who they say escorted them onto the bridge, only to arrest them once they were there. Though the police were actually announcing over a megaphone that protesters who entered the roadway would be arrested, the plaintiffs in this claim that they couldn't hear them.

Question: How do you know when you've been blogging way too long?

Answer: When the topic of rabbis providing orally assisted circumcisions crosses your desk twice -- first as a deceased baby case, then as a Second Circuit case addressing a New York City regulation passed in the wake of the tragedy.

The practice at issue is called metzizah b'peh, which involves removing blood from the circumcision wound with the rabbi's mouth. The ritual continues to be widespread in Orthodox communities in New York City, despite previous cases of babies contracting or dying from herpes after the ritual, including three cases tied to a single rabbi who has since been banned from performing the procedure.

It's a rare occasion indeed when a federal court upholds a state prisoner's federal habeas corpus claim. The procedural bar to getting relief -- showing that a state court's decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" -- is quite high.

But Shawn Jackson made it over the hurdle.

In 2000, police arrested Jackson after they received a 911 call from three women at his home -- including his 14-year-old daughter -- alleging that he raped them several times that night. Once arrested, Jackson invoked Miranda and clammed up. Then, Kathy Bonisteel, a Child Protective Services worker, came by to investigate the child abuse charges. Instead of staying silent again, he willingly talked to her, essentially giving the prosecution everything it could have hoped for during the interview.