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

April 2015 Archives

Michael Patterson ran a small psychiatric practice in Memphis, Tennessee, with a fairly large side business in selling prescriptions for Percocet, Vicodin, and Adderall , among other drugs. The law eventually caught up to Patterson and he was charged with 38 counts of improperly distributing controlled substances and pleaded guilty to three of those.

Patterson contested his sentence on appeal, arguing that the district court had improperly assumed that his prescriptions weren't medically justified and unjustly categorized him as an organizer or leader of the drug dealing scheme. In a reminder of the deference afforded to finders of fact, the Sixth Circuit quickly and without much difficultly rejected each of Patterson's claims.

6th Cir: Ky. 300-Foot Polling Place Buffer Zone Unconstitutional

Kentucky law prohibits electioneering signs within 300 feet of a polling place -- or, at least, it did until October, when a federal judge held the law unconstitutional, finding that the 300-foot restriction was much larger than necessary to combat the evils of voter coercion and intimidation.

Today, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's ruling, finding the statute facially invalid under the First Amendment for prohibiting way more speech than was necessary.

6th Cir. Upholds Former Sheriff's Witness Tampering Conviction

Witness tampering? That's old and busted, run-of-the-mill, hardly worthy of news. How about when the person doing the tampering is a police officer? Yeah, suddenly you're interested.

Christopher Eaton, the (former, at this point) sheriff of Barren County, Kentucky, was convicted of witness tampering for ordering officers under his command to make false statements in an FBI investigation into excessive use of force on a suspect named Billy Stinnett.

Mich. City's Ban on Outdoor Donation Bins Unconstitutional

The city of St. Johns, Michigan passed an ordinance banning unattended outdoor charitable donation bins. Planet Aid is a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable food production and healthy lifestyles. Part of its business involves the use of such outdoor bins to get donations of clothes and shoes.

Of course you know where this is going, right? In January 2013, St. Johns directed Planet Aid to remove its donation bins, claiming the bins attracted "boxes and other refuse." Planet Aid refused and the city removed them. A year later, the city council passed an ordinance banning such bins, leading to this lawsuit.

Court Strikes Parts of Mich. Sex Offender Law for Vagueness

Courts are continuing the trend toward striking down Draconian laws targeting sex offenders. Last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal disapproved of California's requirement that sex offenders hand over all their Internet usernames to the state attorney general. Last month, the California Supreme Court overturned a state law categorically banning sex offenders from living in certain areas.

At the end of March, a federal district judge in Michigan similarly struck parts of that state's Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA).

Just like the verse-chorus-verse structure of classic pop music, federal litigation follows a predictable formula, one that courts don't like litigants rearranging. This point was highlighted in a recent kerfuffle between two karaoke companies, Slep-Tone and Karaoke Kandy Store.

Not only were these two out of pitch with each other -- Slep-Tone accused Karaoke Kandy Store of trademark violations -- they could not get into beat with the courts, as the Sixth Circuit was forced to stay Slep-Tone's appeal for coming in before its cue.

A man stopped for speeding and arrested for possessing a kilo of heroin did not have his Fourth Amendment rights violated when police detained him so that a dog could sniff his car, the Sixth Circuit ruled on Tuesday. Sniffing out a car isn't a search under the Fourth, the court held, and does not implicate a citizen's reasonable expectation of privacy.

The case, United States v. Winters, challenged the further detention of Patrick Winters after he was pulled over and issued a speeding ticket and the use of the dog to sniff his car without a warrant.