DC Circuit - The FindLaw DC Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

October 2012 Archives

D.C. Circuit Considers Qualified Immunity in Grand Juror Lawsuit

Most people employ creative excuses to avoid jury duty. Peter Atherton has spent eight years arguing that he was improperly removed from a grand jury.

In 2009, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the officials who removed Atherton were not entitled to absolute immunity for their decision. Now, the appellate court is reviewing the case once more to decide if the officials should receive qualified immunity.

Courts Have Discretion in Sentencing Guidelines Deviations

The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines are just that. Guidelines. Suggestions. They're non-binding. In the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, they're not even presumptively reasonable.

Judges are permitted to deviate from the Guidelines when sentencing criminal defendants, and an appellate court will typically uphold a lesser sentence as long as the judge explains her reasoning for deviating from the Guidelines.

Court Asks for Supplemental Briefing in Marijuana Appeal

On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments regarding whether marijuana should be removed from the Schedule I drug list.

Perhaps arguments didn’t give the judges quite enough to think about. Hours after arguments concluded, the appellate court ordered supplemental briefing on whether plaintiff Michael Krawitz has individual standing to challenge the classification.

D.C. Circuit Overturns al Qaeda Driver Hamdan's Conviction

The D.C. Circuit has overturned Osama bin Laden's driver's conviction for material support of terrorism.

The appellate court announced on Tuesday that material support of terrorism — a terrorism-related charge in civilian courts — is not a war crime under international law, Politico reports. That means that federal courts can convict a defendant on a material support charge, but military commissions cannot.

Colleges Bring Birth Control Mandate Challenge to DC Circuit

Will the Department of Health and Human Services be forced to carve out an Affordable Care Act exemption for religious institutions that are opposed to paying for health insurance that includes contraception?

There's a regulatory mandate under the Affordable Care Act which requires employers to include contraception coverage in their employer health plans. Some religious organizations are exempt from the regulation. The appellants, Bellmont Abbey College and Wheaton College, are not.

American for Safe Access to Argue Medical Marijuana Appeal Oct. 16

Is marijuana as dangerous as heroin? Our research -- based entirely on Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream -- would suggest no, but the government needs facts and figures and non-dramatized evidence to make that call.

And that's where the federal courts come in.

Next Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will consider whether marijuana has therapeutic value or whether it should remain a useless Schedule I drug.

Obama and the D.C. Circuit: Three Vacancies, No Confirmations

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is frequently referred to as the nation's second-highest court. Even in the burgeoning realm of federal court fiction, the D.C. Circuit is considered to be the "most prestigious and arguably most powerful federal appeals court."

With so much power at stake, presidents are typically itching for an opportunity to make judicial nominations for the D.C. Circuit, but that doesn't mean that they can deliver a confirmation. Case in point: At the end of his first term, it's unlikely that President Obama will have added a single judge to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Reuter reports. While there are three vacancies on the bench, Obama is about to become the first president in at least half a century to finish a full term without an appointment to the circuit.

So why is this particular appellate court such a big deal?

Defendant Must Assert Right to Speedy Trial Before Actual Trial

Tyrone Hines was convicted of one count of bank robbery and two counts of attempted bank robbery. He challenged his conviction on the grounds that the district court erred in extending the 30-day deadline for indictment following arrest under the Speedy Trial Act (STA).

Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Hines' conviction.