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August 2013 Archives

ACLU FOIA Request Denied: FBI Maps of Ethnic Groups Stays Secret

The FBI's Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DOIG) allows it to use race and ethnic identity to map out "locations of concentrated ethnic minorities" for purposes of investigating and analyzing "potential threats and vulnerabilities" (think anti-terrorism).

The ACLU, meanwhile, is concerned that the FBI is engaging in ethnic and racial profiling, and would like to see copies of the data gathered by the FBI, courtesy of the Freedom of Information Act. The FBI responded to the ACLU's request by identifying over 1,500 documents that were relevant, yet only turned over 356 pages, some of which were redacted, citing an exception related to ongoing criminal investigations.

Court Sides with Cleveland Indians in Insurance Negligence Case

CSI dropped the ball. The insurance brokerage company knows it made a mistake, it admits it, and in all likelihood, it'll be held accountable for it. But the question is: will that accountability come via the tort of negligence or for breach of contract?

When National Pastime, a company that runs promotions for Major League Baseball teams, contacted CSI about a series of Kids Nights at the Cleveland Indians baseball park, they explicitly stated that an inflatable slide would be used. CSI instead procured a policy that didn't cover inflatables, and when the slide collapsed onto two nearby people (killing one), the team was left without coverage.

6th Desperately Needs En Banc Clarification in Wack Crack Cases

Three cases. Three panels. Three conflicting results. In one case, three opinions from a three-person panel. All of this comes in just a wee bit more than three months' time.

And all of it demonstrates the desperate need for the Sixth Circuit's planned en banc reconsideration of United States v. Blewett, where the court found that the Fair Sentencing Act was retroactive because Equal Protection demanded it -- a conclusion that was vacated shortly thereafter.

All three cases also should have been controlled by a fourth case, from earlier this year, United States v. Hammond.

Begging Ban is Unconstitutional Restriction on Free Speech

Just in time to save the hordes of recently-graduated and likely-unemployed law graduates, the Sixth Circuit last week joined the Second, Fourth, Eleventh, and Seventh Circuits in holding that begging is a form of solicitation protected by the First Amendment.

The plaintiffs in this case, James Speet and Ernest Sims, were both arrested and prosecuted for begging in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Speet was actually arrested twice, in January and June 2011. The first arrest resulted in a $198 fine, which due to nonpayment, became four days in jail. The second charge was dismissed once Speet received pro bono counsel. Sims was not initially arrested due to the officer's sympathy for a veteran on the Fourth of July, but he later was issued a $100 fine.

Anthony Sowell Civil Lawsuit Appealed to 6th Circuit

The families of Tonia Carmichael and Nancy Cobb -- two of convicted serial killer Anthony Sowell's 11 victims -- announced Tuesday that they are appealing a federal court's dismissal of their civil lawsuit filed against the City of Cleveland over potentially shoddy police work in the case.

Central to the lawsuit are allegations that the Cleveland and Warrensville Heights police refused to take the families' missing persons reports seriously.

The lawsuit, first filed in May 2012, was dismissed as frivolous. But the families have now appealed to the Sixth Circuit.

Judge Boyce Martin Retiring From 6th Circuit This Week

To say Judge Boyce Martin of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals loathes the death penalty process is a gross understatement. The court's vociferous liberal lion may be retiring, but he did anything but mince his words in Nicholas v. Heidle, his final capital case.

Martin, 77, who often sported a bow tie in his more than three decades on the bench, concurred with the majority denying a death-row inmate's habeas claim. But Martin said he would "continue to condemn the use of the death penalty as an arbitrary, biased, and broken criminal justice tool."

Something Stinks in Pampers Diaper Rash Settlement

Make no mistake about it: this judge, much like the Pampers at issue, is pissed.

Pampers made a special line of diapers called DryMax. Consumers alleged that the ultra-absorbent product caused frequent diaper rashes. Government agencies investigated and found no proof of the defect. Nonetheless, twelve class-action lawsuits were filed.

After "hard-fought" negotiations, and "strenuous" litigation (which included no depositions, no discovery, and no response to Proctor & Gamble's motion to dismiss), a settlement was reached: the named plaintiffs would get $1,000 per affected child, the lawyers would get $2.73 million, and the class members would get refunds (if, five years later, they kept their receipts and UPC codes), warning labels, and a few paragraphs on a website.