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

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Inmate Needs Stuffed Animals to Meditate; 2nd Cir. Allows Religious Claims

It's not nice to make fun of people's religions, and sometimes it's illegal.

Like Christopher Grief, who believes that stuffed animals are necessary to practicing his religion. He wanted some inside his jail cell and sued so he could worship.

A federal judge thought it was nonsense, but an appeals court disagreed. After all, hasn't everybody at least adored a stuffed animal once in their life?

The qui tam action brought against Wells Fargo in 2011 has been brought back to life by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, thanks to a recent ruling of the Supreme Court.

The case alleges, under the False Claims Act, that Wells Fargo, Wachovia, and World Savings banks all falsely certified compliance with banking laws in order to qualify for loans from the Federal Reserve System. The plaintiffs, or realtors, in the action, had their claims dismissed and that dismissal affirmed; however, on appeal again, as the appellate court noted, the standard has now changed, which resulted in a remand to the district court.

A former cadet at West Point Academy, the nation's premiere military academy, had her case, Doe v. USA, dismissed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court explained that a Bivens claim is unavailable for military cadets alleging a violation of their rights connected to their service.

Significantly, the court found that cadets are not just students at their military academy, like West Point. Instead, the student/cadets are service-members in training, and thus, any claims arising from their training and education are deemed to be part of their military service.

Aldo Vera Jr. filed a lawsuit against the nation of Cuba due to the alleged assassination of his father in the late 1970s in Puerto Rico. After receiving a default judgment on his claims in 2008 in a Florida state court, which were presumed to be permissible under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act's terrorism exception, the court awarded him $45 million in damages.

Unfortunately for Mr. Vera, in attempting to enforce the judgment, the Second Circuit Court of Appeal has reversed the district court's decision holding Cuba liable at all. The Second Circuit found that the state court decision that the federal district court based its decision and order on was erroneous, thereby rendering the district court's decision erroneous as well.

The case of Davino Watson vs. the U.S.A. is one that most citizens would probably have preferred losing. The case is one of true bureaucratic incompetence, insurmountable legal hurdles, and precedential tragedy.

Mr. Watson, while incarcerated on a drug charge, was investigated by ICE. The ICE case was mishandled so badly that Mr. Watson, a U.S. citizen, was held for three years after he finished serving his time on the drug charge. After his eventual release, he filed suit to recover for the time he was falsely imprisoned by the federal government due to bureaucratic incompetence. He won at the trial level, but had his damages limited. However, on appeal, the court reluctantly stripped Mr. Watson of that win.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex. That includes discrimination against employees who fail to conform to gender stereotypes. But the Civil Rights Act offers no explicit protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and many courts have refused to allow suits alleging discrimination because of anti-gay bias, even if that bias was born out of gender stereotypical views.

But the Second Circuit opened the door to just such a challenge on Monday, ruling that a gay employee who suffered homophobic harassment could pursue a Title VII lawsuit against his employer.

A male Columbia University student can go forward with his lawsuit accusing the college of gender bias in its sexual assault investigations, the Second Circuit ruled last Friday. "John Doe" alleges that the university demonstrated "sex bias in disciplining him for an alleged sexual assault," in violation of Title IX.

Doe had been disciplined and suspended for a year and a half, for coercing a female student to sleep with him, according to the court. He sued, claiming that Columbia's investigation was biased against him because he was a man. A federal district court initially rejected those claims, but the Second Circuit breathed new life into them last week, finding that Doe had alleged sufficient bias to survive a rule 12(b)(6) motion, even if his allegations are not the most plausible explanation for the university's behavior.

Microsoft Doesn't Have to Turn Over Emails on Foreign Servers

The U.S. government cannot not legally compel Microsoft to hand over customer emails stored in Irish servers under the Stored Communications Act, the Second Circuit ruled yesterday. It's a major win for both tech and for privacy advocates.

It is believed that Microsoft is the first company to challenge a domestic search warrant over data held in another country, according to Reuters.

A lawsuit over the New York Metropolitan Transit Agency's refusal to run anti-Muslim ads has been mooted by the Agency's new advertising standards, the Second Circuit ruled last week. The American Freedom Defense Initiative, famous for insulting billboards and "draw Muhammad" contests, had tried to run the controversial ad on New York City subways and busses. The MTA denied the ad, on the grounds that it incited violence.

AFDI won in court, promoting the MTA to change its advertising policy. The ad was still banned, but now because it was "political," and that was enough to moot the case, the Second Circuit ruled.

NSC Drone Strike Records Are Not Covered by FOIA

The Second Circuit recently decided to stand with the D.C. Circuit in ruling that the National Security Conference was outside of the reach of FOIA.

This means one thing: documents relating to drone strikes and other national security issues are that much more obscured from view.