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

September 2014 Archives

Ohio Early Voting Blocked by U.S. Supreme Court

After a district court blocked Ohio's attempts to limit early voting opportunities, and after the Sixth Circuit refused to issue a stay pending appeal, the state was down to a Hail Mary petition in the last few minutes of the game.

With early voting set to commence, including the "Golden Week," which allows voters to register and vote on the same day (and is a logistical headache for the state, which has to verify those registrations on the spot), the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in Monday morning and voted 5-4 to issue a stay in the case, all but guaranteeing that the state will get its way this election, and early voting opportunities will be limited. (H/T to SCOTUSblog)

Ponzi Schemer Gets Credit for Refunds Despite Ignoble Intentions

Is a good deed any less good if it was done with less-than-noble intentions?

Maybe so. But the Ponzi scheme guidelines don't care about motive -- they care about money. And Jason Snelling, in the end, only stole $5.3 million, returning the other $3.6 million to his investors in order to lure them into "investing" more money into his Ponzi scheme.

The district court declined to credit Snelling for the returned funds, but the Sixth Circuit reversed the sentence as procedurally unreasonable.

City Workers Who Seized Neglected Pets Get Some Qualified Immunity

From Tennessee comes a pretty serious case of animal neglect on the part of United Pet Supply, which operates pet stores. After receiving complaints about animal neglect, Chattanooga animal welfare workers visited the store, observing lots of neglected animals in pretty bad conditions. (See pages 5-6 of the opinion for more of the details.)

City workers seized the animals, revoked Pet Supply's license to sell animals on the spot, and cited the company for various violations. Pet Supply commenced a suit in federal court against the animal welfare workers, alleging due process and Fourth Amendment violations. The district court granted the city workers qualified immunity on some claims, but denied summary judgment on other claims, finding there were factual disputes.

Stay Denied, Ohio Files Merits Brief in Early Voting Limits Appeal

It has been a rough month for Ohio's election laws. First, a district court blocked the state's attempt to pull back early voting days, including the state's "Golden Week," where individuals could register and vote on the same day. Then, the state's stupid law that criminalized making false statements in elections predictably fell at the hands of the Sixth Circuit.

On Friday, the Sixth Circuit denied a stay pending appeal in the Golden Week case and today, the state filed its merits brief in its appeal, arguing that judges shouldn't order last minute changes in the way elections are run.

Court Strikes Ohio Election Speech Law, Quotes Frank Underwood

This was a stupid law from the start. Now, it is a stupid, dead law.

Ohio banned making false statements in elections. In 2010, the Susan B. Anthony List erected billboards stating that former Cincinnati Congressman Steve Driehaus had voted for "taxpayer-funded abortion" by backing Obamacare, The Plain Dealer recounts. The group was charged with violating the law, but the complaint was dropped after Driehaus lost the election.

After two lower courts held that the Susan B. Anthony List lacked standing to challenge the law's constitutionality, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed earlier this year, holding that the threat of future prosecution could chill speech and was sufficient to show an injury for Article III purposes.

Finally, four years after the battle began, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black, with a bit of pop culture flair, held that the law was unconstitutional and permanently blocked it.

ACCA Gets Man 15 Years for Possessing 7 Shotgun Shells

The Armed Career Criminal Act provides sentence enhancements for convicted felons who commit firearms crimes. Commit two or more violent crimes or drug trafficking crimes and your third gets you 15 years, minimum.

Edward Young was helping his neighbor sell her late husband's possessions when he found seven shotgun shells in a box. He put them in a drawer for safekeeping. Unbeknownst to him, he wasn't allowed to possess ammunition because he had been convicted of burglary-type crimes 20 years earlier.

Police came calling to investigate burglaries at an auto repair shop nearby. Young consented to a search, and of course they found the shotgun shells. For that, he received 15 years in prison.

Ohio's Early Voting Limitations Blocked by District Judge

Following the woes Ohio experienced in the 2004 election, the state legislature established "no fault" absentee voting and early, in-person (EIP) voting. In 2013, Ohio passed a statute decreasing the number of EIP days to 28, down from 35. The decrease in EIP days was an attempt to close a loophole: EIP voting and the voting registration deadline overlapped during a period subsequently called "Golden Week," meaning voters could register and vote at the same time. Election officials claimed that the reduction in EIP days, and the closing of this gap, was necessary to verify the identities of new voters, as state law requires that a voter's identity be confirmed before his or her ballot can be counted.

The NAACP, League of Women Voters, and several African American churches filed an equal protection challenge and a request for an injunction after the changes were made. The lawsuit also challenged the lack of statewide standards for EIP voting times: Not only was there no standard for how long EIP polling places could be open, but there was no standard for when they were open; for non-presidential elections, there were no evening hours at all and only one Sunday available. Particularly concerning was the fact that many African-Americans organized outings to polling places after church the Sunday before Election Day, but not every EIP polling place was open on Sundays.

Irritable Bowel Telecommuting Case Granted Rehearing En Banc

Back in April, we covered EEOC v. Ford, in which an employee with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) alleged that Ford failed to make reasonable accommodations for her disability. A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit found that telecommuting was a reasonable accommodation, so Ford had to make that accommodation.

Last week, the Sixth Circuit granted a petition for rehearing en banc. The panel decision will be vacated and the case will be reheard in front of all 13 of the Sixth Circuit's active judges.

6th Cir. Reverses Amish Hate Crime Conviction

Last year, a federal court convicted sixteen members of an Ohio Amish group of hate crimes. They cut the hair and shaved the beards of members of their sect who they believed weren't "Amish enough."

Though no one disputes that the defendants did, in fact, commit these assaults, on appeal to the Sixth Circuit, the question was whether the prosecution proved that the defendants committed the assaults because of the victims' religion under a federal hate crimes statute. Reversing the hate crime convictions in United States v. Miller, the Sixth Circuit said, "nope."