U.S. Sixth Circuit - FindLaw

U.S. Sixth Circuit - The FindLaw 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog


The "Heckler's Veto" isn't just a vestige from your constitutional law class. It's alive and well -- so much so that the Sixth Circuit brought it back into the spotlight in a case about unruly mobs, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech.

Dearborn, Michigan boasts a significant Arab-American population. Naturally, it has held a three-day Arab International Festival every year from 1995 to 2012. A Christian group, Bible Believers, came to preach there in 2011. They wandered through the crowd, engaging in "peaceful proselytizing," which "sparked confrontation with bystanders." One Believer was arrested and released without charge.

As the Second Circuit wraps up its Occupy Wall Street case, the Sixth Circuit is just getting started with its own Occupy issues.

On Monday, the court heard oral arguments in Occupy Nashville v. Haslam. While there are no transcripts available yet, the contours of the issues follow established case law that should result in another win for the Occupy Nashville protesters, who previously won at the district court level.

The Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA) provides rights and remedies for children who have various educational disabilities, which can include reimbursement from the state if the child has to pay to attend a non-public school. N.W., the subject of this case out of the Sixth Circuit, was born with autism and diagnosed with apraxia, an inability to say what he wants to say.

N.W. was removed from public school in Boone County, Kentucky, and placed at St. Rita's School for the Deaf in Cincinnati. N.W.'s parents weren't satisfied with St. Rita's and placed him at ABS, another private school in Cincinnati. N.W.'s parents asked for reimbursement from the Boone County School District, but after more than a year of mediation, neither side could agree on a plan for N.W. His parents alleged that the District failed to provide him with a "free, appropriate public education" (FAPE).

In a set of consolidated cases, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted some relief against a county mortuary employee who sexually abused dead bodies at the mortuary over a period of 25 years.

While admittedly under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, Kenneth Douglas sexually abused "an untold number" of dead bodies at the Hamilton County Morgue in Cincinnati between 1982 and when he was finally caught in 2007. The plaintiffs -- relatives of three of the deceased whose bodies Douglas abused -- sued Douglas as well as Hamilton County.

The case against the county therefore centers around what Douglas' supervisors knew or should have known. How much should they have known? Apparently, a lot. Douglas' supervisor knew or should have known about his alcohol use because Douglas drank at work; he also knew that Douglas had sex with live women at the morgue, "something he apparently did with some frequency."

The undefeated streak is over.

Last week, a state judge in Tennessee ruled against gay marriage, becoming the first to do so since the Supreme Court decided United States v. Windsor last year. In a case brought by two men, legally married in Iowa but seeking a divorce in Tennessee, Judge Russell E. Simmons, Jr. held that Tennessee's Anti-Recognition clause, passed directly by the voters, should stand, as "neither the Federal Government nor another state should be allowed to dictate to Tennessee what has traditionally been a state's responsibility."

Suspecting that a particular Chevy Tahoe might be involved in a methamphetamine-trafficking ring, DEA agents radioed the Lexington (Kentucky) Police, telling them that they "didn't know who was in the vehicle, didn't know anything about any weapons but basically the group was involved in meth." Officer Adam Ray, who responded, found the Tahoe and observed the driver, Marcus Adkins, fail to use a turn signal. He also suspected the tint on the windows was too dark.

So he pulled the car over. Ray noticed the passenger, Courtney Noble, was "extremely nervous." Ray administered a field sobriety test on Adkins, which he passed. Ray asked for permission to search the car, which Adkins gave -- but before he searched the car, Ray patted down both Adkins and Noble.

Turns out, Noble had meth and a loaded gun in his possession. This, in turn, led the DEA to a motel room where Dana Brooks was surrounded by meth-selling paraphernalia.

We'll admit it: We were pretty excited for yesterday's marathon oral arguments at the Sixth Circuit. How often does a fundamental civil rights issue get hashed out in court? How often are five cases and four states' laws addressed all at once, marathon-style?

But as unique as these cases are procedurally, the truth is this: Whatever the Sixth Circuit holds in a few weeks or months, it'll likely be irrelevant.

Federal jurisdiction is a great thing -- when you can get it. And all too often, attempts to get it are too clever by half.

From Michigan comes the allegation that making "children cook, clean, and do the laundry," and beating them if they don't, constitutes "forced labor" under 18 USC 1589. The Sixth Circuit ruled Monday in U.S. v. Toviave that state-level child abuse doesn't violate federal law -- or, at least, it's not "forced labor."

What's the primary reason a sentence is imposed: to punish the offender or to deter others?

If it's the former, then a white collar criminal -- who has little to no chance of repeating his crime now that he's tagged with a felony record, likely lost any professional licensure, and spent a ton of his hard-stolen cash on defending himself in court -- shouldn't serve a lengthy sentence. This is why Paul Musgrave was given a one-day sentence, with credit for for the day of processing -- essentially no sentence at all. (h/t to the ever-great Sentencing Law and Policy Blog)

But if you're worried about deterrence, look to the Sixth Circuit's ever widening body of case law that basically demands at least some imprisonment, even if the offender is unlikely to recidivate.

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

On August 6, 2014, the Sixth Circuit will hear oral arguments in five consolidated cases addressing same-sex marriage bans in every state in the circuit -- Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio.

Though the Tenth Circuit (in cases involving Utah and Oklahoma) and Fourth Circuit (in a case involving Virginia) have already issued opinions striking down state gay marriage bans, this is the first set of cases out of the Sixth Circuit. And since all of the cases have been consolidated into one set of mega-arguments, the issue could be settled virtually overnight.

We also have the skinny on the panel, which includes two Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee, as well as information for those who wish to attend the oral arguments in person.

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.