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Alternative Title: Expectation of Privacy Doesn't Apply to Pocket-Dials

An expectation of privacy doesn't apply to your accidental pocket-dials, the Sixth Circuit ruled on Tuesday. Someone who pocket-dials, butt-dials, purse-dials, or otherwise unintentionally calls another party doesn't have a reasonable expectation of privacy, the court ruled, and whoever is on the receiving end of the call is free to eavesdrop -- even to record your conversations.

The case came after an executive accidentally pocket-dialed a colleague's secretary. That secretary listened in, for over an hour and a half as plans for firing her boss were discussed. When she revealed them, the executive sued, claiming that her eavesdropping was an unlawful interception of private communications. Not so, the Sixth Circuit ruled.

A federal judge who undermined and insulted defense counsel in front of the jury and provided off-the-cuff, erroneous jury instructions has won the attorney's client a new trial. The Sixth Circuit ruled last week that a judge for the Eastern District of Michigan demonstrated such "outright bias and belittling of counsel" that the defendant was denied an impartial trial.

When counsel for Reginald Daniels, accused of being a felon in possession of a firearm, attempted to show that Daniels had not been in possession of a gun and that police had searched his home without a warrant, he was continuously and repeatedly interrupted by the judge, who accused him of distracting jurors, lying, and needing to "shut up." According to the Sixth Circuit, the judge's behavior was so unfair that Daniels' conviction had to be overturned.

Lawyers Collecting State Debts Not 'Officers'; Subject to FDCPA

Allowing debt collectors to use state prosecutors' letterhead is a controversial practice. It nets counties money (debt collectors essentially rent out the letterhead), but the ABA and other legal organizations say it's deceptive because a county prosecutor isn't actually charging the debtor with a crime.

To that end, the Sixth Circuit addressed two kinks in the issue: Whether the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) applies to law firms tasked with collecting state debts, and whether their use of the Ohio Attorney General's letterhead violated the FDCPA.

When is an opinion that turns out to be wrong an untrue statement of fact? Only when it is not sincerely held, the Supreme Court ruled last week in a securities fraud case. The Court's decision in Omnicare v. Laborers District Council Construct Industry Pension Fund, overturned a recent Sixth Circuit holding and reconciled a split between the Sixth and other circuits.

Omnicare had been sued for securities fraud stemming from a statement that it believed it was complying with the law. The Sixth Circuit had ruled that plaintiffs did not have to allege that the belief was not sincerely held; that it was false was good enough. That didn't work for the Supreme Court, which chided the circuit for failing to sufficiently distinguish between fact and opinion.

6th Cir. Year in Review: Top 10 Blog Posts of 2014

Let's play a word association game. I say "Sixth Circuit." You say ...

First circuit to rule against gay marriage since Windsor. A circuit that battles the Ninth Circuit for the title of "most reversed" A circuit that is somewhere in the Midwest.

Let's see how this year fit into our mental schematic, shall we? Here are the 10 most popular Sixth Circuit blog posts for 2014:

Gay Marriage at the 6th Cir.: Countdown to Aug. 6 Oral Arguments

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.

There's a lot happening in the Sixth Circuit. With the status of Michigan's same sex marriage status up in the air, a new lawsuit has been filed by the ACLU. What will the fate of the couples married in the small window of time when same sex marriage was legal in the state?

We also remember a former Sixth Circuit judge who broke boundaries and look at what influences federal judges.

Was Boyce Martin a Victim of 6th Cir. Judicial Infighting?

By now, many have heard of Judge Boyce F. Martin's ignominious departure from the Sixth Circuit bench. The former chief was forced into retirement after a travel expenses reimbursement scandal, one that ended with him agreeing to retire quietly and pay back all of his travel expenses, even those that were undisputed. Nonetheless, Chief Judge Alice Batchelder referred the case to the Justice Department, which decided against bringing charges.

It's been a dark end to a long and notable legal career. In his time on the bench, Martin wrote more than 1,500 opinions, including the first opinion upholding Obamacare, and more notably, the Sixth Circuit's take on Grutter v. Bollinger, an opinion that fractured the court and publicized the infighting in a series of concurrences and appendices.

The Sixth Circuit's New Chief and Ageist Rules of Succession

Word on the street is, this August, Judge R. Guy Cole, Jr. will succeed current-Chief Judge Alice Batchelder.

Why? The Sixth Circuit Appellate Blog doesn't provide a reason, but we suspect that it has something to do with the ageist rules of succession for chief judges of circuit courts, set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 45.

Nifty. Sixth's Site Has CJA, Appellate Advocacy Training Videos

Appellate advocacy. Many of us do mock trial in school, and if we're lucky enough, are trained by experienced advocates in practice. Some, however aren't so lucky, get bad advice, or need a refresher course after years stuck in state trial courts.

The Sixth Circuit has a series of videos, produced by the Federal Defenders Office, aimed at training Criminal Justice Act appointed counsel on the finer points of effective written and oral advocacy, training on electronic case filing, tips for dealing with clients, and advice on avoiding billing mistakes. (Hat Tip to Squire Sanders.)