U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

February 2012 Archives

Eighth Circuit Reverses Anthrax Scare Restitution Order

You know how it's super-funny when one of your clients sends someone an envelope full of fake anthrax spores, except that it's not actually funny because it's illegal?

Today's Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals appellant clearly did not get that memo, but still found a way to prevail before the court.

No Qualified Immunity for Sweep Kicking Cop

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that a police officer who used a leg sweep to interrupt a child custody argument was not entitled to qualified immunity from an excessive force lawsuit.

Police officers in Flandreau, South Dakota intervened in two child custody arguments between Shaylene Montoya and her ex-boyfriend. The first police visit ended calmly, with a warning that someone would be arrested if the police had to return. The second argument concluded with Officer Justin Hooper breaking Montoya’s leg and arresting her on the way to the hospital.

Reasonable Compensation? John Edwards Tax Shelter Strikes Again

If you follow tax law, you’ve probably heard of the John Edwards tax shelter. Former vice-presidential candidate Edwards saved a bundle in payroll taxes - around $600,000 - by forming an S-Corporation, paying himself a relatively modest salary through the S-Corp, and taking the rest of his pay in dividends.

This week, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the IRS properly assessed an Iowa accountant — who implemented a similar tax shelter plan — for additional payroll taxes because the accountant had not paid himself “reasonable compensation.”

Eighth Circuit Revives Inmate's Free Speech Suit from Legal Death

Overturning a lower court’s ruling, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals brought back to life a former prison inmate’s free speech lawsuit.

While an inmate in federal prison, Arkansas resident Rodney E. Bradley was disciplined after a letter he wrote complaining about his institutional parole officer was discovered. Bradley was found to have violated a prison rule against insulting behavior and received a reprimand and an activity restriction, which he argued violated his First Amendment freedom of speech rights. However, a lower court judge dismissed his suit against a variety of state Department of Correction employees.

More Players Join Battle Between File Sharer and Record Company

More players have entered the appellate ring in the first individual file-sharing case to go to trial.

A coalition of libraries, public interest groups, and online privacy advocates filed a joint amicus brief in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting a reduced damage award against file-sharer Jammie Thomas-Rasset.

The Minnesota mom of four was originally sued by Capital Records in 2006 for copyright infringement. She was accused of posting 24 popular songs on the peer-to-peer file-sharing program Kazaa. After the initial trial and two re-trials, the jury ultimately awarded Capital Records with $1.5 million in damages. The judge, however, called the verdict “so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportionate to the offense and obviously unreasonable” and slashed the award to $54,000.

Eighth Circuit Hears Appeal for Doctor Bombing in Special Session

During a special session of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held at the University of Arkansas’ law school, the court heard arguments in an appeal from a doctor accused of a 2009 bombing.

Randeep Mann was sentenced to life in prison in 2010 for the bombing that nearly killed Dr. Trent Pierce, the head of the Arkansas State Medical Board. Mann allegedly planted the bomb because the board had suspended his license following his patients’ deaths from drug overdoses.

Corrections Can Charge Prisoners to 'Reach Out and Touch Someone'

Maintaining a human connection with people is a natural need that doesn’t end when you’re in prison. However, the need to “reach out and touch someone” isn’t a constitutionally-protected right that you get for free.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held on Thursday that the First Amendment does not prohibit the Department of Corrections from charging prisoners for telephone communications with the outside world.

The lawsuit was filed by Arkansas prison inmate Winston Holloway, who complained that his right of free speech was being violated because high prison phone charges prevented him from calling his family more often. Telephone company Global Tel*Link (GTL) exclusively provides the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) inmates with telephone service in exchange for giving 45 percent of its revenue to ADC.

'Boys Don't Cry' John Lotter Asks Supreme Court to Review Case

Nebraska death row inmate John Lotter, one of the infamous inspirations to the 1999 Oscar-winning movie "Boys Don't Cry," is seeking review of his case from the nation's highest court.

Lotter was sentenced to death for his role in murdering Teena Brandon, Lisa Lambert and Philip DeVine in Humboldt in 1993. Brandon was a 21-year-old woman who lived briefly as a man, while the two other victims were witnesses to the killing. Their deaths brought outrage against the convicted killers and Richardson County authorities for their role in the case. Days before his murder, Brandon had reported being raped by Lotter and co-defendant Thomas Nissen.

Political Discrimination Case Reinstated; Higher Ed Too Liberal?

As legal practitioners, we have had to endure - on average - seven years of higher education to become attorneys. During those years, we’ve come across hundreds of teachers of all different backgrounds, genders and ethnicities. But were the majority of them liberal and purposely so?

One University of Iowa College of Law part-time employee, Teresa Wagner, believes she, at least, was discriminated against and refused a full-time position because of her conservative background. Wagner is a registered Republican who “actively advocated for socially conservative causes.”